Creating Tools to Build a More Accessible and Disability-Confident Workplace
Presenters: Tzviya Siegman & Christina Volpe, Wiley; Sylvia Izzo Hunter, Inera | An Atypon Company
Joni: All right, welcome to XUG day 2. We’re going to get started with “creating tools to build a more accessible and disability-confident workplace.” We’ve got Sylvia, and Tzviya Siegman, and Christina Volpe doing this presentation.
Let’s see. We learned all about Sylvia yesterday and Christina Volpe is the accessibility solutions lead for Wiley Research. In her current role she creates, drives, and socializes accessibility strategies that influence product and content development teams. Christina has more than a decade experience in digital publishing. Prior to joining Wiley in 2011, Christina held various editorial positions with Hospitality Technology Magazine and Pearson.
And we’ve also got Tzviya Siegman, she’s the information standards principal for Wiley. Tzviya serves as Wiley’s liaison to industry standards groups. She currently works in Wiley’s architecture strategy group, joining her interests in content structure, standards, accessibility and data. Tzviya co-chairs the W3C Publishing Steering Committee, and serves on the W3C advisory board. She has been working on eBook and web accessibility for more than 10 years.
And I’m not sure which one of you is starting first, but let’s take it away.
Tzviya: I think I’m is starting first, thank you. As Joni said, we’re going to talk about creating tools to build a more accessibility and disability confident workplace. We’re going to focus on accessibility maturity models. Christina is running the deck, so here’s our pictures. Feel free to reach out to us, there are email addresses. I think you’ll be getting a copy of the slide deck later on. So let’s talk about what accessibility means. We have this definition from the W3Cs web accessibility initiative, which is a really useful definition for accessibility in general.
“Web accessibility means that websites tools like technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them, more specifically, people can perceive, understand, navigate, interact with, and contribute to the web. Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the web, and it also benefits people without disabilities.”
So let’s just take that apart for a minute. This isn’t just accommodating somebody who has a disability like using a wheelchair or somebody who is blind. It means that people have full access to everything that people without disabilities have access to. That means perceiving, understanding, interacting with, that means for a website, being able to build a website, fully navigate a website, and we’ll talk a little bit more about what types of disabilities exist, although that’s not the content of our talk today, and also contributing to the web. And something that’s also really important to keep in mind is that accessibility also benefits people without disabilities.
Some misperceptions that people have, are that making something accessible, especially digitally accessible, might take away from the beauty perhaps, or the complexity of a website or other digital materials, when in fact it often also benefits people without disabilities. So a quick example of that is that if you build a website with responsive design, usually that also benefits people with disabilities as well, because being able to strip away some of the complexity can benefit people with cognitive disabilities. So let’s move on to the next slide.
It’s important to recognize that there’s a reciprocal accessibility relationship. It’s very important for us to talk to our users, our customers about their needs, which often includes accessibility. If we’re not talking to our customers with disabilities, it means we’re leaving out a large percentage of our customers. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but people with reported disabilities in the US, it’s in the 20%, and there’s a significant number of people with disabilities who don’t report those. And disabilities can be situational or temporary, if you have a migraine, that might count as a temporary disability. I get migraines, when I have a migraine, I can’t really function and I might have to continue working, but I need to look at a screen that’s a little bit more simplified. Employees might have disabilities and they require accessible office places, accessible technology, and many other accommodations as well.
And employees need to talk to customers, customers need to talk to employees, employees need to be enabled to have the communication skills to talk to customers, you have a customer who says, calls your customer care team and says, “I’m having trouble with my screen reader,” your employees need to be able to understand, have the language and the tools to communicate with those customers in the same way that they would be able to answer a question about a broken website. So it’s a reciprocal relationship. We need to give our employees and our customers the tools to talk about accessibility just like they would about anything else.
So let’s talk about how to evaluate conformance progress. We talk about conformance or compliance with accessibility, and these are words that I don’t love, but they’re the best words we have right now. The reason I don’t love those roles is that it sounds like we’re just sticking strictly to legislation or strict guidelines. I like to think about compliance as a floor, we want to reach the ceiling or maybe go above the rooftops with accessibility. So accessibility maturity models are something that enable us to do that. There are a lot of maturity models that exist. The level access digital accessibility maturity model is one that’s been around for a long time. The W3C at the Worldwide Web Consortium is using that as well as other models as input to draft their own accessibility maturity model. These are tools that help us evaluate an organization’s compliance with accessibility for things like, what kind of the web content accessibility guidelines, as well as many other things such as the office space compliance. It helps you identify gaps, develop techniques and best practices, as well as inform roadmaps and project plan development. This is a long view of accessibility. They’re organized around dimensions, which are categories that address organizational needs by specific topics. And then you have proof points, which are evidence-based deliverables for outcomes that help you evaluate the maturity of each dimension.
And then there are maturity stages, these are ratings for each proof point that demonstrate the effort of each maturity stage. These are inactive, meaning you’ve done nothing to support the proof point, launch, which is just getting started, and integrated, which means you’ve begun to integrate this, you’ve probably done a lot of work to integrate this. The step between launch to integrated is usually a big jump. And then optimize, which means you’ve done everything you’ve set out to do to reach that accessibility stage.
Christina: Thanks Tzviya. Okay, so I want to spend a few minutes talking about, pardon me, the dimensions in a little more detail from a very high level and pull out examples of the proof points and just some questions that you should begin asking yourself as you are developing a compliance strategy.
So the very first dimension that we have is communications, and this relates to all direct internal and external communications. And this could be anything from emails that employees may be receiving from like corporate parts of your organization, such as HR, all the way to marketing materials, as well as activity on social media. So when you’re within this dimension, not only do those communications need to be accessible, but the preconditions for those communications need to exist. And essentially, these are the requirements that allow you to create those communications. So things to consider here are, do you have brand guidelines? Do you have a visual identity? Do you have requirements around the use of inclusive language? And maybe you even go as far as to having templated documents that you have to write to. So for example, if you’re giving a PowerPoint presentation, do you have corporate templates that your employees should be using as you are creating those presentations?
The next dimension is knowledge and skill. And this applies to the ability to obtain and retain accessibility knowledge, but also you need to be able to apply it to your job. And usually when people think about this, they may only think it applies to full-time employees or maybe contingent workers, but this actually applies to all external agencies that you may be using. So sometimes we hire subject-matter experts or vendors to come in and help fill a gap in skill or knowledge. And regardless of who we’re talking about, that person has to have the same level of accessibility knowledge as the rest of the people on your team. And how you do this is very similar to the communications dimension. So you need to have documentation in place that tells the standards for accessibility, so what standard are you following, how do you apply this to web development, how do you apply it to document development, and then finally, how do you apply it to multimedia development? And that type of documentation works best when it’s coupled with training. And there are lots of ways that you can offer training. Sometimes employees may, who are very motivated, may do the training themselves. Sometimes you may have specific pockets of the company that have a very strong focus in this area, so they’re going to give training for their groups. But the best way to do this is to have a robust, mature training strategy where all of your colleagues are getting access to the same training, and that training is incorporated into all onboarding practices.
The next dimension is support. And support has two parallel tracks, there’s the employee track, and then there’s the customer track. So the employee track is all about ensuring that your employees have not only the ability to do their job but that they’re supported. So this means providing them with accommodation requests. So occasionally you will have employees who may require access to a licensed screen reader or a very specific type of hardware to do their jobs. You need to ensure that they get access to those materials. And when we’re looking at things like HR, hiring managers and even employees’ direct managers, they need to have training, and disability awareness and inclusion to understand how to support their colleagues. On the customer side, this is all about support, both technical and non-technical. So for example, are your customer support agents trained in accessibility? Do they understand how to use assistive technologies? Are they aware of disability etiquette and awareness as they’re having those conversations? Do you have an escalation path in track, does it exist essentially? So if lower-level support agents can’t answer questions, it goes up to the higher levels with people who have more formalized training. And this also includes things like having self-service help support, and topics that have very specific accessibility slant. So what I have on screen right here, for example, is a screenshot of a support article for Knewton Alta, which is a Wiley product. And it’s all about how you support customers with disabilities who use this product.
And then finally, any kind of feedback that your support agents are receiving that should be incorporated into your product development lifecycle or your ICT development lifecycle, which is what they call it in this maturity model, which is the next dimension. And this is all about ensuring accessibility is incorporated into that entire product development process from conception all the way to maintenance and obsolescence. So how do you include accessibility requirements in the design, user experience, development, and even the quality review and release stages? So what I have here as an example, is an accessibility guide that we have at Wiley for web development, and it identifies the- This is the TOC by the way. It identifies the criteria for accessibility, the process for validating. So what is the manual requirement, what automated tools you’re going to use once you’ve done reviewing, what is the definition of done, is there a checklist that you need to follow, are there additional resources where you want to direct people should they have any questions?
The next dimension is personnel and this is all about HR. So the first proof point is about targeted recruiting, and this is ensuring that you are bringing diversity to your workplace so that persons with disabilities are directly involved in bringing their insights and lived experiences to decision-making processes that are occurring within your company. It also applies to how those jobs are being advertised. So do you have an accessible job application platform? Are the actual announcements themselves accessible? Do they include inclusive language? And do you include accessibility as a requirement in any of your job openings?
The next dimension, I promise we’re almost done going through them, there’s only this one and one more left, is procurement. And this applies to the sourcing, negotiation and selection of all goods and services. So whenever you hire an external agency that is either providing a solution or a service, you need to understand what their accessibility requirements are, and this begins at the RFP process. So when you are going through an RFP that should have standardized solicitation language, the templates in the form should be accessible for use. And then once you receive responses back, you need a way of evaluating those partners for risk, because ideally, they should be, if not at the same level as your company, very close to the same level as your company. And once you hire someone, you need to have a burden of proof for accessibility in all of your contract requirements to ensure that they are meeting any KPIs or requirements as a result of that partnership.
And the last dimension that I have here is culture. This is the largest one, and it is probably the hardest one to accomplish because it is about changing perception and advocacy for accessibility. And this covers a very wide range of activities, starting first with having executive sponsorship in place for accessibility, so you need someone who’s going to really advocate for you at a very high level, and you can also ensure that you have budgets tied to this so you can accomplish the things that you want to do. You need to have program managers in place who can implement accessibility policies and procedures to ensure that both your colleagues and external partners are following requirements so that your customers can use your products. And it also includes ensuring that accessibility is a part of your DE&I activities, so is it a part of your, do you have an executive statement about the commitment for accessibility? Do you have employee resource groups that are dedicated to accessibility and so on?
So I’m going to turn the deck back over now to Tzviya and she is going to go through examples of how you can get started with developing a maturity model as well as an example of how this can be worked into product development.
Tzviya: Thanks, Christina. So I know this might seem a little bit overwhelming, but you can begin your journey by picking a model. As we mentioned, there are multiple models and customizing it for use within your company. Any model can be scaled up or down, you can make it bigger or smaller, tweak it to adjust to your needs.
You’ll want to start by focusing on a specific product, department, maybe the whole organization, maybe just one or two of these things. You want to review the model and make sure that you use your company’s lingo, your terminology, departments, processes, some people call production management. There are a lot of different terms that work for different companies.
And of course you need to get buy-in from many different people and think about how the audit can be useful. Business analytics visualizations can work really well, we’ve had a lot of success working with people who are on our product team, they’re the people who actually get the work into the hands of our developers. We’ve had some buy-in from legal, we’ve had a lot of buy-in recently from what we call our people organization, that’s an example of the lingo which used to be called HR. And the push at Wiley for DEI, diversity, equity, and inclusion has really given us a lot of support recently.
So you really, it often starts with a handful of people doing a lot of the work, and then there’s a lot of buy-in. We found that this maturity model really supports that, really helps gain support from the business side of the company, whereas the work on things like individual tickets to solve a problem will get you support from the developers.
And of course, testing it as you go to close any gaps before you were ready to use it, so in a recent discussion about this, we found that there was this kind of, the language that we discovered was that we were using the term digital accessibility in some places and accessibility in other places, and that was a little bit confusing. And while that might sound minor, we realized that there was a big gap in whether we were talking about physical accessibility versus digital accessibility, so that’s the kind of thing you might uncover as you’re working on it.
You’ll want to conduct an audit, interview stakeholders, the actual stakeholders, customers with disabilities, as well as employees with disabilities, as well as people without disabilities. And not everybody’s going to identify whether they have a disability and that’s okay, to understand the current state of your product, department and organization, and of course you have to find the gaps, figure out what isn’t working, what is working, what hasn’t been addressed, and where the biggest need is. So you might find that your biggest need is on your business.com website, you might find that your biggest need is on your site that supports your articles, you might find that your biggest need is actually in the HR organization. And of course, you’ll figure that out as you go.
And then you’ll agree on a focus with your key stakeholders. You’ll figure out what you want your biggest priorities to be in, in the coming years. And this is a long-haul effort, you’ll see in the next slide that we’re talking about really a five-year plan. You’ll start out perhaps with the smallest activities, perhaps with the largest activities, and you’ll want to align with business priorities, and slowly introduce new activities every year so that you can improve the maturity levels and scope them across the dimensions. So let’s look at an example with product strategy. This is where kind of the rubber hits the road.
So in the first year you’ll talk about requirements and documentation. I’m not going to read every line of this, but the idea is that you document in the first year exactly what it is that you’re trying to accomplish. You’ll have testing methodologies, user acceptance testing, you’ll identify a process, you’ll figure out how you’ll accomplish a VPAT, a voluntary product accessibility template. And you’ll agree on terms for contracts, possibly that includes writing an RFP, something along those lines, and of course, the KPIs.
In year two, you’ll start with a development workflow and training, you’ll select the partners for working on these things, you’ll identify a strategy, you’ll actually implement the VPAT, that probably means getting the VPAT accomplished, it’s a pretty lengthy process, and you’ll review what happens in year one. So every year you add on a review process as well.
Year three, you implement the workflow, prioritize the corrections based on the VPAT, the VPAT will give you a lot more work to do. You’ll roll out the training and you’ll review years one and two.
Year four, you start communicating about what you’ve accomplished, because by then you should actually have accomplished a great deal of work. You start the support FAQs so that your support team can help you train and support your colleagues as well as your customers. And you review years one through three, and you begin planning for what needs to go on for years five and forward. So that’s kind of a snapshot of what might happen in your product team. Is that our last slide, Christina?
Christina: It is.
Tzviya: Okay, we didn’t really have a good closer here, but this hopefully will give you a picture of what you can accomplish with an accessibility maturity model. And we’re hoping you have lots of great questions for us.
Sylvia: Okay, thank you. And we’re going to do questions at the end, I believe. So I am going to now attempt to share my screen, which is always an adventure. Okay, slideshow from beginning.
So I’m Sylvia, as you know, and I am speaking to you today from Toronto, which is on the unceded territory of the Haudenosaunee, Wendat and Mississaugas of the Credit, currently home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island. And I encourage you to visit native-land.ca to learn about the history of human occupation where you live.
I am the marketing manager at Inera but I also work in disability inclusion advocacy, and it’s in that role that I’m talking to you today. I’m going to give you a really fast tour of a resource currently in progress, which is called the Toolkit for Disability Equity in Scholarly Publishing. Hello. There we go. So what is this toolkit and why? So I hope– Whoops, did I go too–? I went too far. I went too far, I’m sorry. There we go.
So I hope you’re familiar with the C4DISC Toolkits for Equity Project, if you’re not, don’t worry, there’s a link at the end and you’ll get the slides. There’s lots of previous toolkits, and most of them exist primarily as static documents. So we wanted ours to be different in several ways, including a different format and approach. So first of all, it’s online and dynamic. The conversation around disability inclusion and equity is a rapidly evolving one, and for a resource like this to actually help people, it also needs to be capable of rapid evolution. It’s also more broadly targeted than previous toolkits because disability is a thing that can happen to you at any point in your life, as well as being a thing that you might be born with. And as we’ll see on the next slide, “people with disabilities” is a really, really big group, which means that over the course of our lives, pretty much all of us will either have a disability or live or work with someone who does, or both.
So why do we need this toolkit? As I just mentioned, “people with disabilities” is a very, very big category. 15% of the global population lives with some type of disability, which is just, like, a lot. In publishing, because we are making things for people to read or interact with, we naturally focus in on solving accessibility problems for people who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled. So one way in which this toolkit project goes beyond a lot of the scholcomms resources that are already available is that it includes resources for all the other types of disability that people can have. And just a quick footnote here, you’ll hear me say both “people with disabilities” and “disabled people,” because within the disability community, people have different opinions about this. And of course, the most important rule is to call people what they specifically want to be called.
So another reason that we need this toolkit is that people with disabilities face significant obstacles to getting and then keeping jobs. So we want to make that easier, both for the employer and the employee because, if you have a disability, hacking your environment is a way of life. And speaking for myself and my toolkit team members, we are valuable colleagues, we want to work and we want to do the best work we can, which doesn’t mean that you’re not valid and valuable if you can’t work or don’t work, but we’re speaking for ourselves.
So this is going to be a real brief history of the toolkit so far, the original idea came from a group called Publishing Enabled, which focuses on advocacy within the publishing industry. We teamed up with C4DISC because the project we wanted to do naturally seemed to fit with their existing toolkit program. And then we took a look at the diversity tax and our existing workloads and said, look, we need a project manager, and C4DISC’s call for volunteers found as a whole team of them, as well as a bigger group of volunteers who form our other committees. C4DISC helps us coordinate and support those volunteers. PubPub is going to host the toolkit when it exists, and has offered to work with us on hosting any new types of content that we come up with, which is awesome. Because remember, this isn’t a journal, it’s a community resource hub.
So we know that previous toolkit teams had benefited from working at the Triangle Scholarly Communications Institute, so we applied to send a team there to work on this project. And if you’re not familiar with Triangle SCI, it is an annual retreat-style event that if your proposal is selected, they pay for your whole team to get together and work on a project for a week, which is basically the dream. What we didn’t fully get before we got there was how valuable it would be, not just to have this time to work together ourselves, but also to use the rest of the participants as a focus group for questions like, “okay, if you had a resource like this, how would you use it and what would you want it to include?”
There is a size limit on teams, we could only bring six people, so we couldn’t bring the entire steering committee, but those of us who did go represented a university library, three publishers, a standards organization, and a technology vendor. And don’t worry, we just took our masks off briefly for that photo, they had great COVID protocols at this event, which was very, very nice and inclusive.
So here’s our mission and goals, we don’t have time to unpack all this, but it is on the slide so that you can read it later. And also as a reminder to me and to everyone that there’s a whole big team of volunteers working on and thinking about this project, not just the little team that went to Triangle SCI. So we came to the Institute with some pretty well developed ideas, developed by the whole team about what the toolkit should look like. We wanted it to be a true toolkit, in other words, containing lots of different tools that different people could pick up and use. We wanted it to be dynamic with clear and easy mechanisms for keeping resources up to date, and with a variety of different entry points and pathways into and through the resources. We wanted it to be for our industry, so including resources that address specific issues in scholcomms. And we wanted to address people with disabilities who work in scholcomms or who would like to, people who hire and manage those people, and who run organizations in this space, and finally, anyone who wants to be a good ally to their disabled coworker or relative or friend.
Oops. Oh dear. So here’s the process that we went through over our week at the Institute. We first figured out what should go in the toolkit, what topics, what kinds of resources, not what resources specifically, because that’s a later stage and a different team. Then identify the minimum viable product, redefine the product workflow because we’re unlikely to get a second chance to do this much concentrated work, so we needed a strong process to move forward. And finally, figure out what we’re going to do next and when and in what order.
So this screenshot of a Miro board is a more organized and systematic version of where we started, which was with Post-it notes on flip chart paper. Our website will have a welcome page called You Are Here that helps visitors get oriented and offers multiple pathways into the content. And what’s the content? Ultimately it’s resources for every stage of the employee life cycle, from writing a job posting, to onboarding, to mentoring and promotion. We’ll address the broad job categories in our industry and different organization types like publishers, libraries, and vendors. And we’ll address both organizational and personal responsibilities. The types of resources will include some basics like, types of disability and a glossary of terms, as well as guidance on inclusive language, best practices and accessibility-related standards. We’ll link to other organizations that are related and helpful, and we very much want the site to include some kind of community functionality, but we’re still working out exactly what that might look like. Another future section we’re really excited about has the working title of “lived experience.” And here we’ll host, for example, scripts for navigating difficult conversations around disability and workplace adjustments, personal stories and case studies, and opinion pieces and that kind of stuff. We’ll have an FAQ with sections for the different stakeholder groups that I mentioned. And we want it to be welcoming and relevant and useful to a wide range of people, and have different starting points and ways in. And of course we’ve got an about section with the who, what, and why, thanks to our sponsors, the limitations, accessibility and privacy policies, how we’ll review new resources, and how to contact us if you have a question or a complaint or a suggestion.
So if you were contemplating all of that and thinking, “Sylvia, that’s a lot,” welcome to the Minimum Viable Product. We asked ourselves what would be absolutely essential for the toolkit to be useful to people and pared it down to this set of materials that we’ll be working to have ready for launch. So from seven sections we’re down to four, and within those four we’ve identified the key elements that we’ll now be working towards finding, curating, and or creating over the next few months. So You Are Here, will include a welcome message that helps visitors find what they’re looking for and it’ll explain the purpose and feature a video message from the team. In the about section, we’ve got just the basics, background, mission, vision and goals, who we are, what the toolkit is and is not, and a thanks for our sponsors. The resources library in the MVP will focus on basics or disability 101, language guidance standards, and suggested reading. There are tons and tons of resources out there, that’s not the problem. The point is to find and provide those that are most relevant and useful to scholarly communications people. And finally, we’ll start our FAQ with the section that’s aimed at people with disabilities who are working or looking for a job in schol comms.
Oh dear, that’s not what I wanted. Here we go.
So here’s where we’ve landed at this point in the project, instead of the research committee feeding the framework committee, which was our original idea, we’ve put together the framework and we’re asking the research and writing committees to find resources that meet the needs we’ve identified for the MVP. That is research will find existing resources and then writing will fill in the gaps. And meanwhile, the website committee will be working with PubPub, and the outreach committee which was formerly known as marketing and has been renamed to acknowledge its community building role we’ll be planning how to spread the word.
This is our timeline for the next year and a half or so, and shout-out to my colleague Erin Osborne-Martin at Wiley for this very lovely graphic. The first milestone is a launch of the MVP site at or before the SSP annual meeting, so cross your fingers that we’ll get our session proposal accepted and that it will be ready to go. By September of next year we’re aiming to have worked out what the toolkit will be going forward, how it will be maintained and updated, what form or forms our community will take and so on. And then in November, we’re hoping to take our roadshow to the Charleston Conference and also launch our community. And this is so important to us because while big organizations like Wiley are likely to have resources for employees with disabilities, someone at a smaller organization may feel really alone and unsupported. And we want the toolkit to be a resource for people in that situation and to provide community support as well as just information. So that’s a big, big task and we’re still figuring out how best to do it. And the plan is that whatever that future state is, that gets figured out over the next year, it’s going to go into effect in 2024.
And I promise I’m almost done. So here are some resources for more information, and everything here is linked, the notes on previous slides are linked. And in about the next 10 minutes, these slides are going to be posted on the website and you can take a look at the ones that interest you. And now let’s do questions.
Joni: All right well that was fantastic. Thank you so much, Sylvia. In the chat. In case you missed it in the chat, Jennifer Kemp from Crossref dropped a link to the accessibility proposal for Crossref DOI links, which is an open discussion at the moment. They’re looking for feedback on that if anybody wants to go there and share that.
Tzviya: Does anybody want me to get the ball rolling with questions, I’d like to–
Sylvia: Yeah, go ahead.
Sylvia: And I think it would be interesting also to talk about the cost of not making things accessible because people can’t access it if it’s not accessible, and then- Bruce has a question.
Bruce: Sure, actually I have a few comments. The first is, one of the things that I think people have been learning in recent years, excuse me, is the value of creating something with accessibility in mind, it turns out to be universally usable. So I think a lot of us, particularly those of us who are older like myself, still think of closed captioning as something that’s an accessibility accommodation. I’ve read a number of articles recently that point out that particularly with people under 35, they turn on closed captioning whenever they’re watching something on streaming, why do they do that? Because it’s easier for them to multitask. So here’s something that was designed originally as an accessibility accommodation – for those of you who were at XUG three years ago, you may know the first ever closed caption program was The French Chef from Julia Child in the 1960s. But it’s now become mainstream and very usable on a mainstream basis. So it’s something to keep in mind that while you may look at it as a cost for accessibility, it can become a very, very important functional area for product.
The other thing, excuse me, that I’ve discovered recently is if you have a disability, it can be very tough if a company hasn’t done the right thing to reach someone who can help you out. So I discovered a couple of days ago when I had a power outage that I had to go onto one Zoom call using my iPad rather than my laptop. My laptop I can control with a mouse, my iPad, I’m at this point entirely controlling it with voice control. Well, it turns out there are certain buttons you have to hit in the process of joining a Zoom meeting, like, do I want to dial in or use WIFI for my audio. It’s unconditional, you can’t just, you have to tap on those, the moment you start the Zoom meeting voice control is turned off. So I had to go screaming for a caregiver to essentially tap two buttons to get me into the Zoom meeting. I’ve been on the Zoom website today looking around to see if there’s any way I can reach someone focused on accessibility to see if I can get help, and there’s no contact directly for accessibility needs. There are companies that do have that.
One last comment, I have a friend who lost her voice to ALS a while ago and she was all set up so that she could use a synthesized voice, she’d type things on her computer, they’d be read out. I can’t tell you the number of times she would call a company looking for technical support, they’d hear the computerized voice and instantly hang up because they thought she was a robot or some sort of a spam call. So building these resources to help support people with disabilities is a critically important part of the job.
Joni: Thank you, that is really-
Tzviya: I see a question about EPUB. Let me just, are there accessibility conformance preferences for delivery of long-form text in HTML browser or EPUB? We’ve heard about EPUB 3 being one of the best formats for delivering accessible content for years but is it universally preferable to delivering the same content in an accessibly designed website? So I’ve been involved in EPUB for more than 10 years, the answer is, it depends. HTML can be very accessible. It depends what kind of content you’re delivering. EPUB was never meant to replace HTML. For a scholarly article, I would say stick with your HTML, it’s fantastic. There are people who advocate for delivering birthday cards as EPUB, I’m not one of those people, you can do it in HTML. HTML is fantastic, make use of it, but make sure it’s accessible HTML. I have been involved in ARIA – accessible, rich internet applications, that is the tool that helps make HTML fully accessible. I could talk to you for days about how to make HTML accessible, but it doesn’t actually take days because it’s not actually that complicated. Make sure you’re making your HTML accessible. The same thing with EPUB, not every EPUB is accessible, you have to do it correctly.
If you’d like me to talk to you more about how to make EPUB and HTML accessible, I don’t want to monopolize the conversation, but please feel free to reach out to me. And there are many other people on this call who can talk to you about that as well. I want to address one of the points that Bruce made also, and then I’ll let other people talk. There are so many ways that tools that were originally made for accessibility have been shifted into the mainstream marketplace. Curb cuts made for wheelchairs, we’ve all used suitcases, strollers, whatever. Siri, Speech Recognition Institute, we all make use of that sort of thing on a daily basis also. The point is that, if you make your content platforms accessible, you will be improving the user experience for everybody. And now I’ll let Christina talk.
Christina: Sure, I’m going to talk about VPATs ’cause I saw Bill mentioned about VPATs. For anyone who doesn’t know what they are, VPAT stands for Voluntary Product Accessibility Template. It’s a form of accessibility conformance report that will tell your customers how accessible or not your product is. Essentially it’s an audit against your product, against the web content accessibility guides, it’s a lot of acronyms, there are 52 of them if you’re following WCAG 2.1 A/AA. You always want to really hire a third party because it’s very time consuming to audit because the audits are going to take into account a variety of methodologies. So you’re testing with an automated tool, yes, but you’re going to be testing with assistive technologies, you’re going to be testing with some manual processes like keyboard navigation, zoom. If you have people internally who are not as familiar or adapted to those types of testings, you are absolutely going to get inaccurate reporting. So you want to hire someone who is specialized in this and there are lots of vendors out there who do this by the way. And the cost will really vary, it’s going to depend on how many screens we’re talking about, and the complexity of your product. I’ve seen some VPATs quoted as low as 7,000 to some as high as like 20, 30,000. It’s really going to depend on what you are reviewing, but yes, absolutely use a third party and go through-
Tzviya: Oh, oh, Christina froze.
Christina: But also from the approach that company takes.
Tzviya: Christina, you dropped for a second. You said go through-
Christina: Oh sorry, go through the rigor. You have to put them through an RFP basically, find the companies that work best for you, not just from a budget standpoint, but also from like a compatibility standpoint, someone who has an approach that you’re happy with.
Sylvia: So I see that Joni has a question for attendees, which nobody has answered yet, which is, “If you publish audio or video clips are you providing transcripts? And if yes, how and where are you doing that? And if no, are you planning to add them in the future?” So I will just say that when we post the videos for this meeting for attendees or registrants to review or see again or view for the first time, we will have transcripts as well as closed captions. And they will be linked from the video description on Vimeo, so that’s how we do it.
Liz: Do you want to talk a little, just to give a quick snapshot of the process of how we do that?
Sylvia: Yeah, so we use a service called Rev. And the way Rev works is you upload, either you link, you post the URL for your video or you upload the video depending where the video currently lives. And either an AI or a human being, depending on how much you want to pay in money versus time goes through the video and creates basically a transcript. But then you say like, do I want, when you put in your order, you say, do I want captions, do I want transcripts, do I want both captions and transcripts, do I want– which caption format do I want? Because the front-end work is the same, but then you can get it exported in different ways. And then there’s an– this online platform allows you to watch the video back, watch the captions scroll by, make any corrections that are needed, and obviously the more a human is involved in the process, the less you need to correct. You can also provide a glossary, like if you have words like Inera and Atypon and eXtyles that will otherwise be incomprehensible to this trained but not jargon-trained person who’s doing the captioning. And then at the end you can download the captions as an SRT or VTT file or both and upload those to Vimeo. You can use a program like Adobe Premiere to burn them into your video if you want to do that. And you can also download a transcript, which you can then post on your website in HTML. And the cost is not zero but it’s really reasonable, for the amount of accessibility, additional accessibility that this provides.
Tzviya: I’ll also add nobody’s mentioned legislation in this discussion. I try to talk more about the carrots than the sticks, but in the United States we have the Americans with Disabilities Act, and section 508, the Rehabilitation Act. We won’t get into exactly what is required and what isn’t required, but I’ll just say that places of public accommodation require accessibility, whatever place of public accommodation means. In Europe, in the EU, we have the European Accessibility Act, which beginning in 2025 will allow for fines. Exactly what those fines will be is not yet set in any country, except Italy’s beginning to come to terms with that. But that’s part of why a lot of us are starting to take accessibility a little bit more seriously now. So if you sell anything in Europe, the European Accessibility Act is absolutely explicit that it includes anything digital, it expressly says eBooks, eBook readers, websites and so on, learning management systems. And then there’s also legislation all around the world, that I’m not going to go into detail about, but Ontario in particular, has some pretty strict legislation.
Joni: We have a few more minutes if there’s any more questions? And full disclosure, so a couple of us here are on the JATS4R accessibility committee, which is part of why I am trying to get everybody to talk to me about transcripts, which is the thing that I want to talk about all the time.
Christina: So I want to ask you a question then, so we’re talking about transcripts, are you doing anything with audio descriptions for video? So if there’s something happening on the screen, but it’s not acknowledged by the narrator, are you hiring people to write the audio descriptions for people who are blind? Who can’t see what’s happening on the screen and need that description of what’s actually happening but it’s not captured in the narration.
Sylvia: Speaking for us, currently no. And that’s kind of the next step I think.
Bruce: I think some of the major studios are doing that. There was an article I read in the Wall Street Journal six months or so ago about Netflix, which is doing that for a lot of their programming now.
Joni: I’ve got a question from Bill.
Bill K.: I guess I’ve got a comment on that, that if you don’t provide audio descriptions and your content is used in education and university, etc, very likely there’s a person in the disability services offices at that university that has to do that. It’s an enormous amount of work, it’s enormously costly, and the university is obligated to provide that accessibility for that resource to that student. So it has to be done. If you don’t do it, somebody else is going to do it, and oftentimes there are many universities remediating the same resource at the same time, it’s a crazy situation.
Sylvia: Yeah, yeah.
Bill K.: So just do it.
Tzviya: Well “just do it” is very easy to say.
Bill K.: Yeah, I know, I know. And audio description is the hardest part, I think.
Tzviya: Well, there are many-
Bill K.: Especially to do it well, to do it well it’s a real art. But just be aware that downstream of you getting your content into the library or into the university classroom, there very likely is still somebody else that’s having to deal with something that’s not sufficiently accessible. They do all kinds of work, they do image descriptions, they fix tables, they do all kinds of crazy stuff, and it’s usually very labor-intensive work. So a lot of people just aren’t aware that that’s happening.
Joni: I’ve got a question from Kevin O’Donovan.
Tzviya: Okay, “how about reducing the length of documents in simplifying sentence and paragraph structure? Is that considered a part of accessibility, readability as accessibility?” I can begin to address that. So, the documentation for cognitive accessibility has just begun to be a part of WCAG, the web content accessibility guidelines, which actually are going to be called the W3C accessibility guidelines because they want to expand it beyond just the web. It’s begun to be documented and it’s not necessarily that you need to do reduce document length or reduce complexity for something like a lot of us are in scholarly publishing, if you’re writing an article about quantitative chemistry, it’s not necessarily possible to reduce the complexity. What is recommended though is to provide a simplified language alternative. And what remains to be seen is how this will play out in areas that are inherently complex. If you give me a minute, if we’re still on, I can find a few samples in the drafts of, I think it WCAG 2.3 where they show how this is done, ’cause standards language is also generally very complicated and they show simplified version of the actual documentation. But like I said, when we’re working in the area of scholarly publications, it’s not necessarily a topic that can be simplified.
Jo: I have a comment, that is both comment and question, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to articulate it. So I’ve found that a lot of people, like in the lower millennial and Gen Z generations, that there’s a lot of undiagnosed, what I’m going to call a mental disability. It’s not actively visible like ADHD or anxiety, but very much does – migraines! – does affect day to day work. And I know that for me, a lot of the, what started out as things for just general accessibility, like closed captions and transcripts has been instrumental in my development and ability to work well. And I’m just curious how these toolkits apply to those types of disabilities and accessibility as well. Because some disabilities are very obvious, like hearing impairment or eyeglasses, but some of those less visible accessibility needs are often not disclosed in a workplace. And so how do you address those if they’re not actively disclosed? I guess is the question. Does that make any sense at all?
Sylvia: I think we have to assume that they exist even when individual people don’t disclose them, that’s kind of step one. But I’m going to let Christina and Tzviya speak to that too.
Christina: I mean, so the model does take into- It’s supposed to take into account the full range of disabilities that exist, not just the visible ones, but also the invisible ones. So that’s why it’s good to look at a model against something else like the W3C requirements because it does really try to marry the two together. And it’s going to come down to again, how you are training people to work with their colleagues, how you are training people to create materials that are going outside of your company. So it’s not so much as, like a separation, it’s looking at it as a way of, including the full range.
Tzviya: I think also that something, adding on to what Christina said, once you’re making materials accessible or accessible for everyone, you don’t have to know that you have a disability to benefit from accessible materials, this goes back to what Bruce said. I don’t have to turn on an accessibility button to benefit from something. This is why you might have seen some websites that have like a little button that gives you access to accessible materials, this is why many people in the community of people who develop accessibility tools are so vehemently opposed to that. I don’t need to say, I need to turn on the tools for people with vision disorders to access that material because I just should benefit from it naturally, because it’s built into the website.
And I could talk more about that also, but somebody keeps mentioning long COVID, I developed an autoimmune disorder after I had COVID in November 2020. This is my TED talk, right? I know all about long COVID. I didn’t know what it was for a long time, I knew that I had all sorts of problems with COVID – that stemmed from COVID – I had fatigue, I had this weird chest pain, I had all sorts of problems. Yes, it’s a huge problem but this is just like all sorts of other disabilities. People don’t necessarily know what it is at the outset, it creates cognitive dysfunction, it creates all sorts of problems, but people will still benefit from this model. We’re building the same resources into our technologies and into our physical workplaces. And it’s not that we have to do something special for somebody with long COVID, versus dyslexia versus blindness, a lot of the tooling overlaps. And so this model embraces everybody, people with vis- visible disabilities, invisible disabilities, temporary disabilities, situational disabilities. Situational might mean I broke a wrist, that’s temporary. I’m in a noisy room and I can’t hear what’s going on, so I turn on captioning. I’m nursing a baby, I can’t use my hands, that sort of thing. So disability doesn’t necessarily mean I have an impairment, it might just mean I can’t use a certain part of my body right now. So I hope that helps answer some of your questions. I do encourage you to look at some of the links and read up on these models. And again, feel free to reach out to me, Christina, Sylvia, hopefully we can help you move forward with these.
Joni: We are out of time, but this was a great conversation. Thank you all so much.