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WooCommerce, eCommerce and Accessibility with Amber Hinds

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WooCommerce, eCommerce and Accessibility with Amber Hinds
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In this episode, we take another dive into WooCommerce and accessibility. This time around, we are chatting with Amber Hinds from Equalize Digital. Accessibility is their game and between their services and their “accessibility checker,” Amber brings a lot to the discussion.

She shares tips and insights to keep in mind when building WooCommerce shops, as well as a good overview of the critical points when it comes to eCommerce, even in general terms. If you want to wrap your brain around accessibility even more, this episode is the perfect place to start.

A Chat with Amber

Noëlle and I talk with Amber about:

  • Amber’s journey starting WordPress as a mommy blogger to her present passion, accessibility
  • The basic idea of accessibility and what it means to Amber
  • What the hanging fruits to check for when it comes to accessibility
  • How accessibility and SEO go hand-in-hand
  • The challenges of making clients understand the importance of accessibility when building sites
  • Why some businesses don’t attach importance to accessibility for their customers
  • What unique problems eCommerce and WooCommerce sites have around accessibility
  • Accessibility site audits and her plugin, Accessibility Checker
  • Why a plugin can set builders and shop owners out on the right foot to work out accessibility issues

Connect with Amber


Thanks to our Pod Friends

Nexcess A Liquid Web Brand
BuildWooFunnels

Bob: Hey everyone, BobWP, and we are back with Do the Woo, episode 108. I have Noëlle returning. Yes. It's always a good sign when I have a new co-host and they come back the second time. So this is promising, so it's great to see you, Noëlle.

Noëlle: Hey everyone. Good to see you too, Bob.

Bob: Yeah. And how are things going for you? Are you keeping busy with WooCommerce projects? I heard somebody tell me one time. Boy, Noëlle's just seems to be really busy these days.

Noëlle: Yeah, that's true. I have been working on this WooCommerce site for this fabric store in the UK with advanced filter functionality and so on and so on, and I think we're a couple of weeks away from wrapping up the project and now it goes towards the end of the project that gets intense and you've got to put everything that you've got. You've got to put it into the project but it's awesome. It's probably my favorite build of my eight year career. So super excited.

Bob: Cool. Yeah. I'm thinking fabric. Yeah, that would be quite challenging. Probably lots of different fabric. Well, yeah, maybe sometime we'll just have to talk about that particular one to have you on one of the other events and talk about that because that sounds interesting.

Well before we get into the guests, I'd just to thank our sponsors. We have our community sponsor PayPal. They have their PayPal commerce platform. And one of the things that your clients can be rest assured of fraud protection with seller protection that helps to avoid chargebacks reversals fees and even customer disputes. So that just one benefit, they have everything streamlined in this new commerce platform. So you can go to paypal.com/business/solutions.

And then of course we are adding our pod friends. We have some new pod friends are stepping up to the table.

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So very happy to have them onboard. And I am happy to have our guest. I mean, this is one of those subjects, accessibility. What can you say? It's there, it's important. Everybody talks about it. We had somebody talking about it a few weeks ago, Bet Hannon. Want to dive into a little bit more on WooCommerce and especially around the auditing accessibility for websites. And I'm happy to have Amber Hinds today, welcome Amber.

Amber: Thanks Bob. Happy to be here

Bob: Amber does a lot. From what I understand, she does Do the Woo and that's typically what we have people come on this show because they Do the Woo to some level or other net, maybe building sites with hundreds or thousands of fabrics, but they do it in their own way. So how do you Do the Woo Amber?

Amber: Yeah, so my original starting out and we still do a little bit of it as we're transitioning into exclusively accessibility is we do build WooCommerce websites for clients. Mostly I would say they're small business they're like artists and crafters that we worked with. Although we've dabbled a little bit in the... I've got 30K products range, which is a whole different version of WooCommerce. So we do a little bit of site building, but lately we're doing a lot more on the accessibility auditing side of WooCommerce websites.

Bob: Cool. So how did you get into the WordPress space and WooCommerce? Did it just come naturally or is it something you were driven to do or by osmosis?

Amber: So my very first WordPress site was my own mommy blog a long time ago. I almost don't want to say how many years now. And then... I'm trying to think of what my first WooCommerce website was. So we lived on Nantucket and I built a website for a vacation crib rental business where they rented cribs and baby gear to people. And that was, I think the first WooCommerce website that I ever built.

Bob: Wow.

Amber: So it was mostly I had a client say they needed something and I was trying to figure out what can I do? And of course that was a long time ago that might've been version one or something WooCommerce.

Bob: How did you get to where you are today? What does a journey look like in a nutshell?

Amber: So I started in 2010 blogging on wordpress.com and I was just doing it myself. And then I realized that I wanted more ability to control CSS and HTML and things like that. I didn't even know PHP at that one time. So relatively quickly in 2010, I switched over to self hosted. And then towards the end of 2010, that was when I had a friend say, Hey, can you help me with a site? And that one, the crib rental business was one of the first websites. I'm pretty sure I charged $300 for it because I didn't know what to charge someone.

Noëlle: We've all been there.

Amber: Around 2016, So I sort of freelance kind of part-time was with my kids. And then around 2016, my husband and I were talking about our life goals and we realized that we wanted to travel and do more. And his job, he only got two weeks vacation. And so we said, hey, maybe this website thing can actually be a real business. And so we rebranded and he joins the business. And then we have grown to... Road Warrior Creative is our parent company. And then last year we really decided to focus more on the accessibility. We've been doing accessibility work since 2016. And so we created Equalize Digital as our accessibility brand. And that's really the direction that we're moving in because we really feel drawn to the accessibility side.

Noëlle: So for those who are curious about accessibility, but I'm not too familiar, maybe they've read about it somewhere. Can you in your words describe, the basic concept of what makes a website accessible? What does accessibility mean to you?

Amber: So accessible means a website that can be used by anyone and everyone, regardless of how they interact with a computer or the web. And the short of it is that not everyone uses a traditional mouse and keyboard. So there are people who have visual impairments, they use what are called screen readers, which read out the text to them. And they typically will use a standard keyboard to interact.

But I actually was listening to, there's a really fabulous podcast called Accessibility Rules. And they're doing a series where they just talk with people with disabilities. And it's short little segments, usually they're about 10 minutes or less. And they just say, what is your disability? How do you use the web and what works best for you? And one of the ones that I was listening to just this week, that it was fabulous, was a person talking about how he's blind, but he also is missing several fingers and he has some challenges with his hands. So he actually uses a Darcy keyboard, which uses Morse code. So he taps that out.

Noëlle: I didn't even know that existed.

Amber: Yes, so he does shorts and longs in order to do letters and that's how he types and he moves around and he can also use a space bar. But that's the easiest way for him to move through the web. So you need a website that can work for somebody who may not be using the typical devices that we might think of for interacting with the website. And that's what accessibility is.

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Thanks for PayPal for being a community sponsor at Do the Woo. And now back the conversation.

Noëlle: So for people who now understanding what accessibility is and they want to get started, I mean, for me, it's been on my radar for a while. And I always seem to be super busy with projects and not have a lot of time to just study, but I will soon. And it's one of the things I want to get into deeper. More for the function of having my clients benefit from it and helping make the web a better place for everyone and trying to contribute to that. So what would you say, if people want to take some first steps or some basics like the first basic I learnt for example is contrast, what are some other basics that are not too hard to understand that are maybe low hanging fruit?

Amber: So in addition to color contrast, which is actually the number one error on the top 1 million websites is color contrast. So that is a great one to hit. And it's almost every website has it. I think it's 88% of websites have color contrast issues. Other ones that a lot of people understand is adding alternative text to images and in an e-commerce store. I think one thing that's really important to think about is that you really want to explain. So there's a couple of different kinds of images you can have. You can have a decorative image, which it's correct to not have alternative texts. And that's something like a border or perhaps an icon that doesn't do anything. You can have functional images where they're linked and then you have images. So on your e-commerce store, if you're thinking of your product images, it's not enough to just say like dress.

So let's say you're selling clothing and you have a woman's clothing archive and you have dresses and you can go to this category and see all the dresses on your site. You wouldn't want the image to say dress because a blind or visually impaired person, wouldn't be able to tell the difference between all the dresses that are on that page. And why would they choose dress A versus dress B? So you do actually want to describe in your product description, what that product is or how it's different and in enough detail on the alt for the archive. So this is something some people have said, well, if I just put image of dress, but they can go down to the product detail section and get the information like it's short sleeve, it has a long skirt and it's black, right?

But the problem is, is that most of your customers may not enter onto an individual product page. They're going to enter onto an archive page. And as a result, they need to know when they're on the archive page, why would they go view the individual product page for the first dress versus the second dress? So that's where you really do want to make sure that your alt descriptions are really descriptive of what the product is so that they can know, oh, okay, this one has short sleeves. This one is black. Or this one is a casual dress versus a really formal dress. So those sorts of things. So alt, I feel it's something a lot of people understand from the SEO perspective, but you also want to think about adding those descriptors that would really describe to someone who is shopping and can't see what the product is.

Another thing that people that we see as a common mistake, especially in, unfortunately if you purchase a WordPress theme out of the box and you just install it and you don't change things is the heading order. So heading is not supposed to be used in an outline format, there should only be one heading one on a page. And then below that you would go heading two, heading two. And then if you have sub items under heading two, there'd be heading threes, but we frequently see very especially on homepages. I don't know what it is, but people there'll be rogue heading fives because somebody just wanted to make it smaller.

Noëlle: Yes. I've seen that as well.

Amber: Yeah. So your headings need to be used in correct outline format because people, again, this is a way that people who can not see and are on a screen reader can very quickly jump to the information they need. They could just use a keyboard shortcut to say, so if you're using the NVA screen reader, you could just press two. And it would read out all the heading twos on a page. Well, if you've skipped heading two and you only have heading three or heading four, they might press two. And it will say there are no heading twos. And they'll think there are no headings on this page. And they might not even bother to try three or four. And then they'll have no way of knowing that they could quickly jump to a certain section on the page. So that's another area that can dramatically improve people's ability to navigate a website or to get to different things the product detail section or things like that. Which the headings in WooCommerce on the product pages by default are in the correct order.

But we've seen some really custom WooCommerce websites where someone has rebuilt their product pages in Gutenberg, or they've done something that. Or they've removed, they didn't like the said details in the details tab, right? And so they've removed that heading, but then what happens is there's no way for a visually impaired person to jump there. So I feel those three things are probably some of the easiest to wrap your mind around and to easily fix on your site. And maybe the last one is your links. I don't know how many e-commerce sites necessarily have offsite links or links to other places as much as you might see on different service-based websites, but for sure you want to make sure that the anchor tag is descriptive of where the link is going.

So you don't ever want to say click here. Or because people don't know, you have to make sure that if they only hear the link alone without any surrounding texts, they actually know where that link goes. So you'd want to say, instead of saying, to view our refund policy, click here and linking click here, you just link, view our refund policy as the text that you would link. And then you'd want to make sure on your archive pages, if you are displaying the buy now button or the view product details, or more information that there's typically hidden screen reader text, so that it would say instead of just saying buy now, it would say buy product name now to someone on a screen reader. So they would actually know what that buy now link was in comparison to another buy now link.

Bob: I was just going to say, I've been slapped on the wrist on the links because years ago, I remember somebody came to me and even back then somebody that was in accessibility said, "these click here or links are horrible, Bob." So I started actually just pulling text out instead of go check out the plugin, dah, dah, dah, dah. And I'd highlight that and make the link. Because I thought, well, that kind of says it right there rather than end it and then say, visit it or whatever.

The only other thing, I want, Noëlle to ask you a question, but it's interesting the other two, the alt tags and the headings is something we learned about SEO in WordPress.

And over time, again, I was told, these are played critical parts and accessibility and hopefully some people got trained, obviously from what you said, especially with heading people work, but they were trained kind of to think that way for SEO. So, it's just interesting how they're almost side-by-side those two particular ones. Because those are something that's been pushed and pushed off and on about SEO over the years.

Amber: I feel those are helpful because it does help SEO. So that's another thing if you're an agency and you're building WooCommerce websites for clients, and you're trying to figure out how to convince them that accessibility is important. A lot of accessibility fixes help SEO, and it's not just because it can help your website rank better, but also because if a website is usable, people are more likely to stay on it and engage. So you'll see a lower bounce rate.

I think I read a study out of the UK that said that people with disabilities or especially blind or visual impairments over 78% said that if they come to a website and they immediately realize there's no skip links present and they can't really navigate it very easily, they just leave. They don't even try and they'll just find a competitor to purchase the product from. And so that's really a strong reason to think about accessibility because it can help, obviously it's the right thing to do, but it can also really have positive impacts for the business.

Noëlle: I've started having conversations with my clients about accessibility. And actually today, I know I sent a link to your website and said, with the redesign, we really need to talk about accessibility. And then of course the first question is what is accessibility? I'm now talking to somebody from the marketing department. So I send a bit of information. But often it's not clear to them why they should kick us because they will say, oh, but those few people that are blind that may visit our website, is it worth all the resources and all the effort, but it's a lot higher than that, right? They think it's a few, but it's actually more.

Amber: It is. So, well, one thing to think about is accessibility. We talk a lot about blind people. But there's a lot of accessibility features that help people that have other disabilities other than blindness. So people who are deaf or hard of hearing, another thing that's really big that we don't maybe think of, but dyslexia. The kind of fonts that you use could make it hard for people to read your content on your website if they are dyslexic. Or another thing too to think about is if you have anyone who is a second language learner, if you want your website to translate better then a lot of accessibility features actually make it more easily translatable. If they're going to use, a browser tool to quickly convert your website to Spanish or something like that.

So it's really a broad spectrum of people. The elderly frequently benefit from accessibility and here in the United States, I know the CDC says that one in four adults are disabled and I don't remember the exact amount, but I feel the last number I saw for disposable income for disabled Americans was $490 billion.

Noëlle: Wow.

Amber: So if your customer wants to make money, and you say, if you could increase your customer base, your target base by 25%, or you can tap into this $490 billion, don't you want to do that? Right. I feel there is definitely a business case and as much as some accessibility professionals might like to say "just do it because it's right." The reality is when you're talking to clients, you have to talk about what the business case is. And there's a very large audience and a very wide range of people. I mean, I benefit from captions on videos, when I'm laying with my 15 month old, trying to get her to go to sleep. I sometimes want to look at my phone, but I can't have sound. So there are a lot of ways that the accessibility features help everyone.

Bob: Yeah, it's interesting because I was just going to comment on that because it is accessibility beyond just disability. I mean, I remember back when I was doing the podcasts before this, and in the early days I had somebody on from accessibility, I can't remember whether they ran a company or they had a nonprofit organization and they kind of, they said, "Oh, we see you don't have transcripts." Because I just didn't have the investment time and resources. And they said, "we'd like to provide the transcripts for ours." And I said, "cool." well, yeah, I mean, from there on end, I just felt I looked at it and I thought I need to do this. I need to figure out either way, so I moved to them from then forward. But I did think through the fact that, okay, how many people are not able to listen to it because of hearing and I didn't really think about the numbers.

I just thought, man, if I'm getting just a few people that kind of isn't bright. I mean, and it's not just a do good thing is just, they should be able to listen. And then of course I thought of the people like me, I don't listen to a lot of podcasts, actually read show notes and skim over more than I do the podcast. And I do it just because it's my learning style and how I'm comfortable with. So that's interesting. And I think it is something that an e-commerce whatever you got to look at, there are people that just it's a roadblock and that's what really made me and why I continue to do captions. I try to do everything I can because it makes it accessible in a lot of different ways.

Amber: I think the thing too, that it was interesting. I had the opportunity to hear someone speak who was working on accessibility on Chrysler's website. And one of the original comments that they got higher up was, well, we sell cars, a blind person doesn't need to buy a car. Why does our website need to be accessible to blind people? Right. But the thing is that yes, the blind person will not be driving the car. However, there are plenty of families where the head of household, or the person who is most interested in cars might be blind and maybe their spouse is driving them around.

But they're the one who actually cares what the vehicle is and how fuel efficient it is and what all the features are. Right. So they might do all the research and make the buying decision, even if they're not the actual driver of the vehicle. Right. And so that's the thing where you have to think even if you think my product can't be used by this person or they might be buying your product as a gift for someone whether or not they're going to use it themselves. Headphones, a deaf person might still need to buy headphones for someone else in their family.

Noëlle: Yeah, that's a really strong point.

Amber: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Noëlle: So when you compare e-commerce websites with non e-commerce websites, are there specific issues that you see popping up that one versus the other. Does e-commerce WooCommerce have its unique problems when it comes to accessibility?

Amber: I don't know that I would say, I mean, with e-commerce websites, just in general, obviously there's the extra added problem of you have a user journey that involves a customer being able to log in and have a dashboard where they can view their purchases or their interactions. They have to be able to update their credit card information. So there are some special issues that require extra testing. We sometimes see more use of popups on e-commerce websites and these aren't necessarily... Sometimes they're the pop-ups you think of that's like, it pops up, join my email list, get 15% off, that sort of thing. But what I'm thinking more of is interaction user targeted popups. So where you might be able to do a quick view of a product. You're on an archive page, you could either go to that product single page, or you can click on it and it will have a pop-up open that has more product details.

And then the add to cart button or selections on there in order to select product details with the add to cart button. So there's a lot more of that kind of user interaction stuff that can cause more problems or make it harder for people to use. And that's not to say that you can't have those features, but it does require a lot more attention to detail when you're trying to make them accessible. So that kind of stuff tends to happen more on e-commerce sites than on a traditional brochure website where they're just going and reading about services. And there's not as much user interaction. And then of course, as I was mentioning you have to test your account page and your add to cart page. The other thing that is relevant to think about too, is that accessibility does have an impact, or it does correlate a lot with privacy.

And if you are required to be PCI compliant, that means that you have specific regulations with regards to how you store credit card data or accept credit card data. And if your form is not accessible, whether it's the one where they update their credit card or in the final checkout process, if there's a mistake in that or the fields aren't properly labeled, someone could accidentally enter their credit card number in a field that is not actually set. So let's say you're using Stripe. You use the Stripe field, it goes to Stripe. It's not saved in your database. It's all super secure. You don't have to worry about it, but if you've made custom modifications to your WooCommerce checkout page, you might have the Stripe fields, but you also have some other fields. And if they're not properly labeled, somebody could be confused because they can't see. Their screen reader doesn't read them the right information.

They could accidentally enter their credit card number in a field that does save in your database. And now you've got all of their credit card details in your WordPress database. And that's a real problem for liability because if you get hacked and their credit card details are found, then you could be liable for that.

So that's another thing I think that e-commerce stores or anyone who has any sort of privacy or they collect PII that they really need to be aware of, is that accessibility not done well, could impact how private your user's data is kept.

Bob: That's interesting, I never thought of that because of all the custom fields you might put on or additional information and you don't have any parameters around there to say, Oh, this isn't an email or something like that, or the field isn't correctly input. So, wow. That's interesting. Yeah. I never thought of that.

Amber: Yeah. And WooCommerce out of the box. It's not a problem with, but we see that more when people use ad-ons to add their own fields, if they don't fully understand what they're doing. And sometimes it's because the plugin isn't coded well, but sometimes it's also because the user made a decision with how they were going to modify the fields or add the fields in. And so it ends up breaking that or opening up for potential accessibility problems.

Bob: Let's touch a little bit on audits, I know you have a plugin too, and to me it seems like I mean you could go and, but Noëlle talked about, how do the first steps, what you should look at, some of this stuff, you could look at it and you could read about it and you could think about it and your perspective may be wrong because you're thinking, oh, is the contrast good enough? I don't know. I mean, you could have it in your head that, yeah. I need to deal with this. So the importance, especially for probably smaller stores that are just starting, people that are trying to get things in place. Talk a little bit about what your plugin does and the importance of these audits and kind of how they work.

Amber: So our plugin is called accessibility checker. There's a free version on wordpress.org. Although WooCommerce does require our pro version and the goal of our plugin. It's not what some people may have heard of accessibility overlays, which is something that typically you add a line of JavaScript, and then it adds something on the front end that will try to modify and fix your website for you. And they're pretty controversial. Our plugin is not one of those. So I always like to sort of preface that. Our plugin is an auditing or testing tool. A really great parallel is a little bit what Yoast does for SEO. Our plugin does for accessibility. So if you install our plugin, it can do full site scanning. And there's a section where you can get a full report of all the issues everywhere on your site, but what's really useful about it is on any individual post or page or WooCommerce product.

If you have the pro version of the plugin, you can see while you were editing that product, the results of the scan on that product. So it will tell you if you're missing alt on images, we have color contrast warnings. It will tell you about there's 40 different things. That heading order that we talked about, ambiguous links, all kinds of different things. We even have a little bit of a check for low quality alternative text. It can't get completely accurate but it shows the report right there on the edit screen for the product, for example, or the poster of the page. And you can then see here's all the problems, you can try and fix them. And then the idea is that you're going to get all of it to zero errors, zero warnings.

And that really is a good way to get started if you're not sure what should I look for? Because it will automatically look for some things for you. And then we have a lot of help documentation to help people with actually fixing those problems. What is important to note with accessibility testing is that automated tools, depending upon who you ask can catch between 30 and 50% of errors on a website. There are some problems that really do just require a human being to look at them. So one example was we were talking about the alternative text on dresses and our plugin, if you had alternative texts there, as long as you didn't have certain things image of it, it wouldn't flag necessarily a warning that we think it's low quality because we don't really know. We can't tell what the image is of.

So we can't really tell how accurate it is. So if it's filled in it also wouldn't give you the error of it being empty. So that kind of thing like judging the accuracy, will still require a human to look at the product and be like, does this accurately describe what the product is? So that's one example of manual testing. The other things that require manual testing is basically what you would want to do is you would want to go to the front end of any page on your website. And there are two things that you want to do, the first is, you want to try and navigate your website completely with a keyboard only. So that would be typically using the tab key to tab through your website. Every time you tab, it should show you where you are visibly focused on the page.

And the tab is only going to jump to interactive elements like links and buttons. It won't jump to a paragraph. So you shouldn't expect to see that, but you should expect to see in an obvious way, typically it's an outline border, or if it's a button, it might change color to be the same color that you see if you were to hover over it with a mouse. So you want to tab through your entire page from top to bottom and make sure that the entire way you never lose focus, if you ever hit tab and you're like, Whoa, I have no idea where I went. Then that means there's a problem on the page. And you want to make sure that you have skip links available, and those should be the first thing that happened when you hit tab, you should see something pop up that says, maybe it would say like skip to main navigation or skip to main content, skip to footer, depending upon what they are.

By default you only have to have a skip to main content that allows people to skip the navigation. So they don't have to tab through every item in your navigation menu on every page, but it is nice to also have skipping to the navigation and skipping to the footer. You don't have to have those again. You just want to have the main content but it is nice to have more. So you want to make sure you can move through everything. And then you also want to make sure you can complete a purchase with your keyboard only and no mouse. So that would mean going to a product page, choosing whatever items, if it's a variable product, I highly recommend testing variable product, choosing whatever variations you need, and then choosing the number. Can you increase it from one to two or whatever that might be, and then hitting add to cart.

Then can you get to the cart page? Can you view the cart? Can you add a coupon code? Can you use the shipping calculator only with your keyboard? Test all of those things, then you go to checkout and then you want to see if you can fully check out using only your keyboard. So that's the first thing you would do. And then the second thing that you would do after you do keyboard testing, you make sure you focus and it all works, is you would want to run a screen reader. If you have a Mac, Macs have voiceover on them, you can enable that in the accessibility settings, on your Mac, and it will turn on voiceover. Voiceover has once you turn it on for the first time, you can even use a tutorial that teaches you how to use it in case that's helpful.

If you don't have a Mac, you have windows we really like NVDA, which is free and open source. So anyone can download it and install it. It only works on windows. And then you want to go through your website doing that exact same process, but you want to listen to what the screen reader says to you because sometimes you'll realize, oh, this is weird, or it doesn't make sense. And then you know either, oh, I need to correct my alt or one thing that's interesting we see sometimes on filters, I know you were talking, Noëlle about filters.

Noëlle: Yeah.

Amber: But sometimes if there's filter changes, you might notice if it's Ajax that it interrupts you because it'll say something really weird, and that could be confusing to a screen reader user, because it'll say something while it's changing the results.

Noëlle: Make sense.

Amber: And interrupting what you're trying to hear. Or sliders sometimes can do weird things with screen readers. So you want to hear what it says and try and think if I were navigating my website and hearing this, would I know what I was doing. Bonus points is if you turn your minder off, or you cover it, and you actually do it without seeing, but sometimes it's helpful to know where you are and see as you're testing.

Noëlle: It makes me want to do this with the store that is almost finished building, tabbing through. People tell me, once I've tried this, people that are also getting into accessibility and they said, wow, it was really like a world opening up to them once they started just tabbing through a page, for example. Because it's pretty alien to people who are not disabled, they might've never tried it and you immediately understand it a lot better. And also to have conversations with people who are disabled. I mean, my mother is deaf. So I have some understanding from that side when it comes to things like captions and stuff. But yeah, I'm pretty excited to try some of these things out and also recommend the tool to some clients because not everybody has now a budget to hire an expert, but they can make a start in the right direction with a plugin like that. Right.

Amber: Yeah. And I mean, that was our goal with the plugin. It was twofold. One is giving back to the community a little bit and making it easier for people that don't have the budget to go pay for a full accessibility audit. But also, as we're launching websites that we know are accessible, we wanted to create a tool that would allow our clients who are not accessibility experts to try and maintain the accessibility as they're adding or editing content. And on that note, I will say especially with e-commerce. So the last numbers I saw was that in 2020, there were over 3,500 lawsuits and 78% of them were against e-commerce businesses in the United States. Accessibility is really important. But the other thing that is important is if you're a developer or an agency, is that you need to teach your clients how to use these tools and whether it's our plugin or not.

It is really helpful for a client if they're going to be maintaining their own website after you launch it, they should know how to do screen reader testing and how to do keyboard testing. And you have to build that into whatever training process you have with your clients as you hand off the website, you want to say to them, if you have built one that is accessible for them, they have to know how to keep it accessible. And so there needs to be some sort of training in there on how to do these basic things. So they're not afraid to do it and it sort of demystifies it a little bit.

And then on the audit thing, I will say like, that's the other thing not to go too much commercially, we're in the process of rolling out, we do rapid audits. So it's just smaller pages. And we're trying to figure out ways to make it more affordable for small businesses. Because my ultimate goal is I want every website to be accessible, but I think, we have to be realistic and not everyone can pay $15,000 for an accessibility audit and no fixes. Right. And so that's really what our goal as a company is trying to figure out how we can make this more affordable and more accessible to all businesses.

Bob: Totally makes sense. And I've been leaning towards getting your pro version and putting it on my site. And it's like, okay, I know that I'm going to have to do it when I have some time, because if I run it and there's things coming up, I'm going to get all stressed. If I don't deal with them.

Amber: Sure.

Bob: I do have that on my list to do. But one of the things I thought was interesting, what you said about how the lawsuits on e-commerce sites are higher. And it's kind of be that frustration because I mean, when you're reading, okay, somebody goes and reads something on my site. Okay if something goes sideways. Okay. Yeah. That kind of irritates me. I'm off to do something else, but when you want to buy something and maybe this is a place you want to buy it, and there's that frustration that hits you, that's a lot different. And that's why you said exactly why it's so important with e-commerce sites. Because there's a whole different thing going on there.

Amber: Because think about last year with COVID. My grandma started online shopping for the first time last year. Right?

She'd never done it ever. I even remember our kids would have an online fundraiser and she would mail them a check. She would not contribute to, she's like, "I don't put my credit. I don't ever do that. Right." But the whole world entered a situation where all of a sudden e-commerce is hugely important. I think I saw it was 78% spike or something. It was huge spike in e-commerce last year. So of course it makes it even more important and probably certain people with disabilities that might have challenges on websites may also have health conditions that make it even riskier for them to go shop in a store. So I think that's another driver behind that as well, but you're you're right, Bob, it's definitely purchasing something and having the intent to make a purchase makes it a lot more important than if it was like, if they came to my personal blog to read about me. It'd be like, well, okay, whatever.

Bob: Exactly.

Noëlle: Imagine wanting to buy groceries, for example, for your family and you can't, it must be hugely frustrating.

Bob: Yeah. That's definitely makes a difference and you're right. I think a lot of people are going to continue those habits too. I mean, I've picked up on buying more on Amazon just because of the convenience. And now it's like, I'm not going to go back, I'm not going to go and go to the mall or anything. This is just too easy. I can just do it for my office. Have it delivered. Good to go. So well, I know we could talk about this a long time and we will probably have to have you back some time to go into version two of this, but yeah, this has been good stuff.

Bob: I mean, you really dug in and you really walked through a lot of the steps and especially for people that are just getting their sites up and I think it's a great message to our audience builders. They can understand it more and understand the importance and convey that more to their clients, just as Noëlle was saying, she was all curious, she wants to get into this. She wants to be able to tell her clients, this is why this is so critical. And I think you supplied some really good reasons there to give that a good thought. So excellent stuff. And yeah. And speaking of your plugin and all the groovy stuff you have going on, where can people find you and find your plugin and connect with you personally, or if they want to reach out to you?

Amber: Yeah, so we are equalizedigital.com is the website. We actually just last week started a Facebook group, WordPress Accessibility. So you can find that and that's a good place if you want to just get started and connect with other people. It's kind of small right now, but we're hoping to grow it. So those are probably the two best places to get in touch with me.

Bob: Cool. Well, All righty. Well, I think we are going to wrap up and yeah, I'd just to thank our sponsors. One more time. PayPal, our community sponsor has your clients covered with fraud and seller protection a lot more with their streamline commerce platform. Check that out. Nexcess gives you a 14 day free trial of their managed WooCommerce hosting, you just head on over to go.nexcess.net/dothewoo. to get started. And of course BuildWooFunnels, Keep your clients, they got some great CRM solutions, some funnel solutions for your WordPress site. We're talking about this and on top of all that, keep it accessible. So I think the bottom line here.

Noëlle, you made it through number two show I'm hopeful that you will be able to stick with me here and I really appreciate you coming on board to the team of volunteers.

Noëlle: It's been wonderful so far, Bob, I hope many more and Amber, thanks so much for being here. I mean, I learned a lot and I'm sure that our listeners have as well.

Amber: Thank you. Thanks for having me. It was fun.

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