Video Transcript - GAAD 2022 webinar
Amanda: Alright, well everyone Happy Global Accessibility Awareness day. This is really exciting. This is the first time that we've done something for Global Accessibility Awareness Day, like this, where we've had something so open to public and to have what I can only describe as the most expert person I know, presenting to to all of us about accessible documents is even more fantastic. And so my name's Amanda Mace. I am the vice president of AbleDocs Australasia and in charge of the ADWebKey team. Some of you will know me because you've dealt with Web Key IT before, which has had a bit of a name change in recent months. After merging with the global company Able Docs.
So, you may know me, but what I want to do is introduce Adam. So Adam is my boss. So be nice guys and he is He's the CEO of Able Docs Global, so Adam has been a global leader in document accessibility field for over 10 years. He specializes in PDF, accessibility, accessibility standards and document usability by adaptive technology users. He is also the vice chair of the Standards Council of Canada, which is responsible for offering of the ISO standards PDF and PDF accessibility and volunteers on several accessibility advisory committees and as a speaker at conferences around the world, sharing his experience and expertise.
Adam, thank you so much for taking the time out in your evening to be a part of today and presenting to everyone. So I'll let you hand it over. As people join, I will add them and mute them so that hopefully you won't have too much feedback. Until the end anyways.
Adam: I just realized I was muted. That does seem like a canned presentation about me. It's fine like there, there we're all good here. We're all friends other than the fact that Australia has banned me for coming in for the last three years. But other than that, it's totally fine.
It's an absolute pleasure and Amanda, you know, even though you and I have never met face to face, we have tried to build out what we've been doing for the last year, and this is amazing.
So I really appreciate everyone coming in and I don't want to oversell any of my position. Yes, so I've been making documents accessible for almost 15 years. And a big part of that is trying to recognize the challenge in document accessibility, and obviously our acquisition of Web Key IT and, coming together is trying to start that conversation about document accessibility earlier in the conversation, not one format is more important than the other, and I'd like to talk about that today. If that's alright with everyone here. It's an absolute pleasure.
I have tried to get to Australia four times. I have been denied each of the four times because as a Commonwealth country. And citizen of both Canada, the UK and the EU. I assumed that I could just walk in and the funny story. I can't because Canada and Australia have this dueling battle between temporary worker visas because Canada wanted to have I don't know less Australians work at Whistler. And then we needed more Australians working at Whistler. Which was ridiculous because no Canadians wanted to work at Whistler, so I wasn't allowed to come to Australia. So this is what we're dealing with on an international level and my hope is based on this conversation. Document accessibility can solve world problems because I think that may be the Nexus of how we solve, international relations within the Commonwealth. So anyways, I digress.
It was interesting and thank you so much for inviting me. GAAD has been a very near and dear cause to my heart. The founder of GAD is a very dear friend of mine. Jennison Asuncion actually used to work for my mother many years ago and that's how I got into accessibility because my mom couldn't find anyone to work and make her documents accessible. And then that's how I got into document accessibility 15 years ago. Here we are, 15 years later. We're talking about the evolution of document accessibility and it's been a fascinating evolution, and in many respects we've, that we've travelled so far and gotten nowhere. And I'm not saying that discouragingly. I'm saying that in that when I got into document accessibility in 09, I expected that we would be out of business in five years. That was my expectation. We can solve this. But the reality is we can't, because document accessibility continues to evolve. How we create accessible documents. How we encounter document accessibility challenges, how we consume accessible documents or inaccessible documents has continuously changed and the reality is very few people understand how to really engage with document accessibility.
So I started talking internationally about 12 years ago. My first international speaking engagement as in Germany and I sat there and said I cannot be more excited to talk to you about how we're solving PDF accessibility. We've got it. We can do this faster, better, cheaper, more sustainably than any other organization in the world. Shame on me. Here we are still talking about, in Australia, the fact that we really haven't even scratched the surface of any document accessibility strategies whatsoever. And that's not a bad thing. It's recognizing where we are and what that journey looks like.
So I started off by talking about the wars between PDF accessibility and web accessibility, and for those of you who've been in digital accessibility for longer than 10 years, you know that there was this war and Amanda. You and I came from different approaches, but we recognized that there was room for both of us and we had to end the war between formats. There is room for PDF accessibility, Word Accessibility, Excel, PowerPoint, HTML, XML, AFP. Any format just needs to be accessible. It's not one format is better than the other.
We have to understand that we've got to make all formats accessible. So for three years I spoke around the world about ensuring that documents needed to be accessible, and if you weren't going to make your documents accessible, that didn't mean that you needed to convert everything to HTML. We had to stop this war. And there's a good reason, because certain formats are better for accessibility than others. They're equally accessible, but we've got to look at sustainability, and I think this is where. The experts in formats. Get caught up on each other. We sit there and say, well, I understand HTML so I'm a web developer. I can make websites accessible. Well, I'm a PDF engineer. I know how to make PDF accessible. You don't. Adobe sucks. So we're gonna try and figure this out and that's not thrashing Adobe. It's just recognizing that their expertise has nothing to do with accessibility. They're selling licenses, and that's fine. But this evolution over the last 10 years has been about recognizing how we understand this.
You know correlation between how we make formats accessible and how we make it more accessible in a more efficient way. And I really, truly believe that after dealing or not dealing, sorry, working with the W3C, the IAAP, the ISO. And any other manufacturer or developer of any other format. We don't talk well with each other. There's this competitive nature between the formats that says my way is the only way, and even internally I will share a story.
We decided to take a path down a certain content management system, saying that this was the most accessible CMS that we could find, and then we realized that that wasn't actually true, so we spent all this money. Changing direction to try and go down that path and realizing after all of that effort it was just one person's opinion that that was more accessible than what we were doing before. We've gotta stop competing and I think accessibility is one of the only industries in the world that we can actually take a step back and say we can collaborate about this. There are far too many websites and documents for any of us to find the end of that path. I'm best friends with our biggest competitor in the world. He's a great mate of mine. I love him dearly. But we both know we just need to make the format better to ensure that our end users, not our clients, but their clients are able to interact with content. And so as we continue to push that boundary of what it means to be accessible. How we pursue a standard to say organizations that are producing content are able to validate whether they are in compliance or not. Because we often deal with carrots and sticks and I'll get back to that in a second.
How do we say I'm accessible or I'm not? I'm in compliance or I'm not? I have mitigated my risk or not without understanding where that bar is set. So one of the things that I've done for the last too many years is try and get people to talk in the same language. I was very involved in legislation here in Ontario and Canada trying to make sure that we could say if you're creating this format, this is the legislation. Sorry this is the format. This is the standard. This is the guideline that we need to pursue and it's very tough. When we're battling against commercial interests who don't understand what accessibility means, saying well, it's too expensive, but you don't even know, and I think one of the cool things in Australia given that we've got more Australian participants than any other. You're at a point where you can start having that conversation where it's not just accommodating and an individual. It's about understanding how we are able to be more open to as many people as possible. If we follow certain standards. The whole basis of standard based implementations is so that developers, software developers implementation creators. Remediators anyone who's creating content can understand what target they need to hit the second that area becomes grey. It becomes very difficult to say what I'm producing is accessible. And the reality is, and one thing that we've seen here in Ontario. Given that we put legislation in place earlier than most other jurisdictions in the world, is that it's very difficult to draw a line in the sand to say this is or is not accessible.
I will preface my next few statements by saying check box accessibility is not the bare minimum. You've got to recognize where that barrier sits. It is not just using an automated checker. You've got to know where those limits are and where that capability sits with the tool. Ask the difference between any of those vendors and I won't go into details, but the the difference in quality and capability of a tool set to say, am I truly generating something accessible? Do I need a first person user experience to call me out? And what else can I do to ensure that the content that I'm creating is fully accessible to be engaged with by someone with some form of print disability?
I think in many jurisdictions we've gotten to the point where we have become ignorant. And saying, I'm trying to make this problem go away as a Commonwealth country we typically look towards the Human Rights Commission to just say that we're offside. In the US, as an example, they are typically going to litigate against, they're going to sue an organization. Canada and Australia, UK and New Zealand and others. We're probably just going to say, can you do better? I'd like it if it was more accessible, but the reality is, this is the difference between someone living independently and consuming their own personal content on their own or requiring someone else to participate in their own personal information. And again, as I talk about this continuum of how organizations have made content accessible and how we need organizations to make their content more accessible. It's too late to just say, well, we're learning. We've already learned the rest of the world has learned any jurisdiction can say we understand what it takes to make content accessible. Specifically documents and websites. And we've got to double down on the fact that we can call organizations out and say what you are doing is not enough for me. And when we started there were these really cool moments where we said, I am now able to hear or I am now able to feel a piece of content that I couldn't engage with before. A lot of it was reactive. People were calling into organizations saying I need this level of accommodation. The reality is, and particularly through COVID. We don't have time to wait for content to be made accessible because it's already changing for the next time, so we've gotta make sure that we're accessible from the time that content is created and then distributed to the individual who's going to consume it.
I'll share a quick story. One of the things that was really interesting and I really, double down on the fact that organizations and governments should learn from other organizations and governments that have legislated this before or been through litigation before where we sit there and say, OK, maybe we don't know that's OK. We're still on this learning continuum where we need to know more. Why don't we just ask people who understand or who have been through this and see what was successful there for them. It drives me insane when people are afraid to ask for help, not from a consulting basis, but from a, I don't even know where to start, and document accessibility in particular is much more engaged at a level that says you've got to take some time because nobody goes to university to learn how to make a document accessible. That's just not a thing you can go to university and learn how to make a website, how to build out an HTML page, but you're not going to start from scratch and say I'm now a PDF engineer. It's not a thing. And that's OK, but at least ask the people who know what to do in order to get there. And we saw that, in Ontario, there was a group that tried to train 56,000 employees how to make all of their documents accessible? This is 10 years ago now. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars. And instead of asking experts, they decided to go with the cheapest option and say teach us, how do we do this? The reality was they didn't even know. So turns out only two people out of 60,000. Could actually make a document accessible because they took that upon themselves.
Fast forward 10 years. I think that number has increased to four. So you and this isn't to be discouraging. It's recognizing that you've got employee turnover. It's that you don't have ongoing education. It's that you don't realize the change in technology and the tools that can help you make things more accessible as you go forward. And accessibility is something that changes every single day. We're trying as a global group, whether it's websites, documents doesn't matter. How do we push the barriers out even further? How do we question each other about what our reality is today dealing with today and saying that's not good enough and pushing it out? Five years, 10 years from now saying we've actually solved this. Or we've recognized a problem we don't have the solution today. Let's work on that going forward, and I think it's a really cool thing from the W3C, the ISO. That says what we have today isn't barrier free enough. I always say this internally. My goal is to be completely obsolete. I want to build a company into obsolescence because if we've actually done our job in document and digital accessibility, we shouldn't be in work. And that's not to say particularly to anyone who's building a career in this space, that there isn't longevity in this career, but, we are a a stopgap for what truly leverages digital accessibility. We want to make sure that all content is accessible for all people, regardless of how they're consuming the content, and we can continue to call out non compliance to standards. Non engagement from adaptive technology, non recognition from the major producers of content like Google, Apple, Microsoft, others. But we've got to keep drilling down to make sure that we're able to contribute to a conversation saying this piece of content isn't accessible for me. And it's OK if you don't understand how to make that accessible, but if you don't contribute that back, then those of us in the industry can't build a solution to make that accessible going forward.
There was a big initiative I'm going to say 5, no, even further, 8-9 years ago. That said, you should never make a PDF and everything you do in a Word document should be stripped down to effectively plain text and anything on a website should be black text on a white background and it should be completely responsive in a 12 point font at a minimum, and that's it. And for a long time, at least in North America, that was the guidance that was being put forward for digital content. However, those were workarounds. Never use a table. I was at a conference and I don't think she's on here. I don't see her, but I was at a conference with the CNIB, which is the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. And there were two people who were near and dear to my heart. I love them dearly. They actually taught me to make documents accessible 15 years ago and they stood in front of a group of graphic designers and said you can only use Arial and Verdana font. That was it. There was no other option. It had to be 12 pointed a minimum black coloring on a white background, Arial and Verdana, and you could feel the air come out of the room. Again, Graphic designers. We want to be creative. That's not how we're creative. There's no way that we're just gonna strip everything down and black text on a white background is horrendously inaccessible for anyone with macular degeneration or any form of color blindness because that contrast level is far too great for someone to engage. And this became law. It's the craziest thing to see that back then, legislation was written around poor guidance that didn't actually engage with end users, didn't engage with adaptive technologists, didn't engage with anyone in the accessibility space, but took advice from banks and insurance companies. And no offense if anyone here works for them. But well, that's anything we're doing, seems hard and expensive without asking if anyone who actually knew what they were doing.
So this became legislation in North America and we've spent the last 10 years trying to undo that guidance because it was false and now it's really cool to be able to be part of new dialogue where we're talking about how do we engage and how do we make content responsive? How do we change things? COVID ended up being a tremendous blessing for the digital accessibility space because everyone's working from home and consuming content electronically rather than in hard copy and we needed to make sure that content was accessible. It was reflowable. It we could engage with it in any way that was coming at us and then organizations needed to make sure that they can engage with staff, clients, consumers of content. And this is where we've gotten to now. So this became this amazing impetus for shifting our approach to making sure that digital content was fully accessible. Compliant organizations were mitigating their risk. That's a big part of IT organizations. We're making sure that when they were implementing digital accessibility strategies, they were sustainable and the most important thing is that end users with print disabilities were able to consume that content in a way that worked for them. And I will say out of the North American context that got lost for about 10 years. People were trying to check boxes, give me a testing tool, give me a creation tool that would create something that would tick boxes and all of a sudden I'm fully accessible. Well, what we're seeing and I truly hope you learn from this is that organizations were trying to skirt what true accessibility was. This isn't about ticking a box. This is about engaging personal content with the individual who needs it in a format and a way that makes the most sense for them. Whether that is a visual way, an auditory way, some form of transforming that content, into a more accessible way for them to consume without having to call 1-800 number saying I need this in a different format.
We live in a world now, you know. 15 years on, from when I got into this, that can't wait for someone to accommodate. This has to be everything we produce has to be accessible from the word go and from one Commonwealth country to another. The whole reason for accessibility legislation in Ontario started with a massive lawsuit against the federal government from one individual who couldn't apply for a job. There was a form, it was completely inaccessible. That individual then sued the federal government, saying I can't apply. I'm completely qualified. The federal government said we'll get to you. Eight months later, they finally found some sort of accommodation, which was ridiculous because making a three page form accessible should take an hour. Return that back. They then got sued continuously. And aggressively pursued a countersuit against that individual, lost again. And this completely changed the landscape in Canada to make sure that all content was fully accessible, recognizing that 70% of the population will be over the sorry, 70% of the population between 19 and 70 will have some form of print disability within the next 10 years. That is a massive segment of the population. And to think that someone is not going to have some sort of print disability is just ignorant. We deal with this all the time when organizations say I don't need to deal with this. We don't have anyone who's blind who works here. OK. One you don't know that. Two that can happen tomorrow, you can get hit by a bus on Thursday and all of a sudden your entire world changes. And do we want to live in a world where we're looking for accommodation or we live in a barrier free existence where everyone has equal access to everything at all times and we know that it's going to cost so much more for an organization to accommodate someone rather than ensuring all content is fully accessible at all times.
So. I realize I'm cramming a ton of stuff in I have full backup for everything I've said and anyone if anyone is questioning anything that I've claimed as part of this, but I would love for this to be interactive and answer any questions that you have because that level of accessibility for any digital content is a critical part, and why GAAD was founded in in the 1st place was to raise that awareness. And recognize that this isn't about accommodation, it's about barrier free access for everyone at all times. And you know, I think too many people are afraid to ask for help or ask the tough questions of. Well, is this accessible? You're not gonna be called out immediately, but you will be called out eventually. So why wouldn't you be proactive about it and say, hey where are we? We do audits on our site all the time just to make sure that everything we're doing is fully engaged by everyone and all users as often as possible. So I really want to encourage everyone to be almost vulnerable about it and say where are we? Am I accessible? Am I not? Where's my line in the sand? And after all of these years of pretending that this is never gonna hit my my front door, it's here and it's GAAD 2022. And why shouldn't we encourage everyone to say let's draw a line today? This is the most inaccessible position we'll be in and over the next few days, weeks, months, years. We are going to take a stand and be more accessible going forward.
Amanda: So Adam, I think you've just reminded me why I love working with you. The passion is obvious, and anyone who knows me knows how passionate I am. And, it just reminded me of the very first time we spoke in the lead up to the merger between WebKey and AbleDocs and how excited I was to be able to work with you. So we do have a couple of comments and I'd really encourage everyone to pop, if you're not comfortable putting your hand up and and speaking, please put your questions into the chat and I'll read them out for Adam. So Adam, the first one is actually just a comment, but I'd really like to read it out just because I agree it's such an important point. So it says hi, Adam, Ben here from Perth and I am blind and working in local government. I'm leading our workplace in this area as a user. For me it seems they have to use JAWS, NVDA, Narrator and ZoomText just to read one document. I want this to change, teaching developers is such an important part. And I really feel that comment Ben because I think that's true. There's so much that needs to happen in this space particularly, here in Australia.
Adam: You know it's one of those things. and thanks Ben for the question. We are so reliant on so few organizations that are truly committed to trying to make accessibility happen NVDA. JAWS asterisk. There is a different motivation for those who are committed to barrier free access. And, we've got to push. Those organizations understand how people are going to interact with content, and one of the problems that we face is that obviously there are commercial interests. There's no way around it. JAWS is owned by a private equity firm. Voiceover is owned by Apple and Narrator is owned by Google and we did well and sorry NVDA is an not for profit and if they don't get funding they can't continue to build. The comment that I will make about that is that for many years before standards were put in place. Those AT companies didn't know what to do, and we've got to make sure that those standards are followed because people are creating content in so many different formats. And if we keep moving this bar saying this is an accommodation versus, this is how we consume content every single time and I am a standards guy at heart. I have been part of the ISO and part of writing and contributing to the ISO standards for PDF and PDF accessibility. Amanda, you've been part of the WCAG standards, and I know there are other people on this call who are just as committed to that. The reason why standards are important is because we can say if you want to consume this type of content. This is how you do it, not we've made a specific accommodation for you as an individual and or this type of format and now you can hear it or feel it or transform it into a way that you consume. If we are standards based. Software developers are going to be able to leverage that position and say if you have X type of print disability, it doesn't matter what it is. We understand how to engage with that piece of content. And filter it out into your type of consumption. And that becomes the most important part about this. It kills me and I'm sorry there are too many people on this call, and if I offend anyone, yeah won't be the first time. One of the most important things is that organizations like JAWS, Freedom Scientific, built their model around workarounds. Not based on standards, but if we come up against X, we're going to try and make that read and they don't participate in the standards groups, which is horrendous. Neither does Microsoft, Apple, Google. Oracle any of the major producers of content they don't engage with the standards groups to say, OK, we understand why we're doing this.
Now, let's make sure that our tool set is able to provide access to that type of content and we pick and choose. SmartArt I'll I'll just pick something out. SmartArt is great example in the Microsoft suite that is horrendously inaccessible. All it needs is a conversation. Do you know what SmartArt is at its core? It's a list, that's it. We could really easily transform that content into an L, an LI, an LBL and L Body, and all of a sudden whether you're converting that into HTML or PDF or keeping it in its native state in the Office suite, that's now fully accessible in consumable as a list. And we forget how to break down the semantics of content so that other tools and and consuming devices are able to interact with it. So I hate to soapbox, but. If we aren't pressuring software vendors to follow standards, we will never find a common ground to make sure that it doesn't matter how old you are, what you're learning ability is what your level of engagement is, or what your adaptive technology is. We're never going to find a common ground. Even Kerswell is and I’m not thrashing it. But it's a workaround. It's not based on standards, it's trying to give access to something that was previously inaccessible, but there's no reason for it to exist today. There just isn't. If we made sure that the consumption devices and and adaptive technology we're able to engage with digital content at the start.
Amanda: So I have a question here from Victoria that says do you believe there will be a point of resolved for document accessibility? What did the solutions look like? AI technology, new software?
Adam: Yes. Next well that was sorry, that was easy. I'd love more softball questions. Victoria anytime you wanna lob that out there no but I, this becomes part of the challenge and one of the reasons that we've had a problem in getting AI to engage with content is that there hasn't been a standard set of engagement with that content. If we know that a heading is a heading because the author identified that as a heading and didn't just increase the font, make it bold. Underlined in a different color. Then we can do something with that content. This goes back to, you know, the 2nd grade when you start engaging with word processors. Ohh wow, I just sounded really old, sorry Microsoft Word or Google Docs, thank you and realizing that if we put a little bit of code structure around that content, we can do more with it. We get it really excited about how great my website looks because we've used CSS and and engage with those types of pieces to give more visual engagement with content. But documents become flat and I think that becomes part of the problem. So AI can guess when you go into Acrobat and nothing against Adobe whatsoever, itext or IBM or any other organization even ours. When you don't put any effort to how one piece of content relates to another, we're guessing. OK, so this is bigger, as bolder and it's underlined, and it's blue. Is that actually a heading? Or maybe it's a commercial for? I don't know the fair next week we have to guess and if we don't teach people how to create content in a more accessible way, again, it goes back to developers not understanding how to consume that content and do something else with it. Because at the end of the day, if we make our documents and websites accessible from the start. That content is now accessible for people with disabilities. On any device. Computer, laptop, tablet, phone. It's immediately responsive because that's how content is consumed. It's search engine optimized. We can do something to repurpose that content and all of a sudden we've really solved all the problems in the world. Or , well it's pretty on the screen, and that's good. And we can't do anything with it. I mean, COVID is an amazing thing that has said restaurants need to put all of their menus on websites and the number of restaurants that have just taken pictures of their existing menu and said well use a QR code that's good or QR code this and I'll look at an image of a menu rather than. Here's a responsive representation of the menu so it actually shows up decently on my phone. The gap is enormous. And it's ridiculous. There's no reason for this whatsoever, other than we have we as an industry and consumers have not done a good job to educate.
Restauranteurs. That you need to just do this little extra step and it's not that hard. But if we don't engage and one of the things that we've seen in North America in particular is the vilification of organizations who haven't made content accessible. And particularly in the US. This aggression towards how dare you not include me. OK, but maybe they don't know. So what if we take an approach that says, you know, would be helpful if all you did was this and I'll show you how to do it, but just put your website and your menu in an accessible format and it's not that hard and it'll look great and then all you have to do is change out the special of the day today for the special of the day tomorrow. They just don't know. But they don't want to be yelled at anymore. And it's this weird balance between education and I'll go back to yelling, where, I think as an industry those of us who are in the space and have been in the space for a long time. We live in a bubble. We know accessibility because this is what we do, but 98% of the population has no idea. They're completely ignorant towards it, and we do a terrible job of saying it just wanna show you this cool little thing that will help you engage with at least 10% more of the entire population if not more. As we face a growing or an aging population. To engage more customers or engage more individuals to be able to interact with the content that you're providing. And it's a much better stick, maybe carrot. You know, I don't like the approach of all of the sudden you're gonna unlock 4 trillion dollars of spending power. That's nonsense. Nobody's doing that. But we could just have a conversation and get that much further with, make it accessible and then everyone has a better experience.
Amanda: Absolutely OK, so I loved all of that. There's so much there, I wanna actually have this conversation, but (Adam) sorry, (Amanda) but there's a heaps of questions. It's so good.
Adam: Book a meeting.
Amanda: You know, I try that.
Adam: Have fair enough.
Amanda: So Brad said, let's say we have accessible web content and accessible documents. What are your thoughts and how the two work together when documents go from being used to support web content and start being a pain? And that's a curly one.
Adam: That is a curly one. OK. So. My comment is stop the fight. Any content that's being presented should be accessible. There is. There is room for every single format. To be engaged with. I have my personal opinions. I don't believe that everything should be a PDF. I don't believe everything should be a website. I don't believe everything should be a tweet. I think there is a time and a place and a level of engagement that makes sense for that type of content. What kills me is when organizations are trying too hard and replicating their content in an an accessible web page. An accessible PDF, and then an image on their Tweet or Instagram post, whatever, with alt text that then lays out everything that's in that image. That's ridiculous if we're doing our job correctly. Then pick one and go with it. If you have any of the major. Browsers. Document consumption applications, particularly ours, ADReader, it's free, so it's I'm not gaining any from this free plug. ADReader fully accessible for PDF UA compliant files, but you're realizing that that content can be engaged with. And that's all you're trying to do, so my comment to you, Brad, is that when you're creating that content, what are you anticipating 99% of your users to consume? Are they going to access it through your website? Are you printing it off and then providing a document? Or are you blasting it out on some social media platform? Whatever platform you're choosing, there is a way to make that content fully accessible. And ensure that that content is fully accessible. You know everyone has always assumed that I'm just all PDF and that's not the case. I mean, I have a giant tattoo on my back. It was a weird night but you've got to make sure that that's not true. Maybe it is, you don't know. But you've gotta make sure that whatever you're posting that content is barrier free to everyone who's consuming that content first. The second you make an accessible version, you've now created either a stigma or an additional barrier for someone else to access that content, and it's completely unnecessary. This is 2022, doesn't matter the format, we can make that access. Period, so pick one and if you're going with it, make sure that you're embracing that going forward. So if it's a PDF for someone who's cited great, make the PDF accessible. If it's a website for someone who's got a print disability, great. Make sure that everyone is able to access that website. Never, ever. Especially with hidden text, say for an accessible version, select here and all of a sudden it brings them to a plain text version that has no semantics, no engagement, that is not how we make sure that we have a barrier free and equal access to content.
Amanda: It's one of those first questions we always get asked isn’t Adam. Should I just make an accessible version of this and it's like, well, yes, the original would be good.
Adam: Would you like a TXT file because it works with JAWS? Can I make this JAWS accessible? No. So thing, it's just readable because it's garbage. Thank you. Would you like to read me a bedtime story? I'd love nothing more. Thank you. Victoria really quickly cause we have some questions to get through, but did you have a comment to that?
Victoria: I have to say I feel this so much and this is something I come across. I had somebody want to put in this very complex graphic that had tons of really important information that demonstrated this planning project and they were like, well, I'll just write a book in the alt text and I'm just like no, no and they're like but the information's there and I'm just like no. And having that conversation with them and trying to get them out of this like well it makes the checker go green and I'm just like. No, no, I'm like I can roll my head across the keyboard and the checker is going to go green. That's not an indication. So yeah, I feel this. I'm very excited to hear a lot of the things you're saying cuz I get right behind this. But yeah, it's right. It's about engaging and having those conversations and trying to like redirect people who are just like, well, I'm just gonna try to do this because it's meeting some of the things that you've highlighted.
Adam: But the one comment I will say. Don't discourage the people that are trying. Don't. Because they have at least made a first attempt, they may not know, but they've made a first attempt and then it's up to us to come back in and say I see what you're doing here. That is terrible, but we will keep. We will be able to show you how to do better and because they at least acknowledge that they've got to be doing something. And that's a great first step. It's a journey. This is something that like I've been working with organizations for, you know over a decade. They still have teams that are completely inaccessible and unaware, even though other parts of those organizations are fully compliant, fully accessible, and are all bought in. We can't discourage people from trying, but we've gotta bring them around and say I see what you're doing. Cool not great. Let me show you how and and that again. There's such turnover in an organization and especially large organizations. People who are trained today are gone off to another organization tomorrow, so we've got to keep that journey going and saying even your team before was doing something that's good. But we could build from that and and we could do better. And Amanda, I know, we're short on time, but I see some wicked questions in the chat. Really good questions.
Amanda: Actually Carmelo's question
Adam: I can stay longer.
Amanda: So I guess look if everyone's comfortable we can. We can always keep going, so there are some really good questions here. I wanna go to Carmelo's because, I know that you're gonna love this one
Adam: I was going to say go to Maureen's but that's fine
Amanda: oh yeah Maureen's good as well let's do Carmelo and then let's let's do Maureen so Carmelo said, is there a good accessibility accessible PDF examples that we can view or a list of standards that we can use as a base going forward? So this is definitely your wheelhouse Adam.
Adam: Quick answer yes. Next, no. Carmelo, there are absolutely standards, so the PDF association, which is a not for profit industry group, has put out a complete and comprehensive guideline and samples of what document types and and content examples need to look like in order to be accessible, so pdfa.org exists. You can obviously always call us and we'll answer any of those questions, but there are fully comprehensive samples of all of that content that you can review. I would also suggest that you review the Matterhorn Protocol. Terrible name, terrible branding but we came up with it while we were at a meeting in Switzerland and there it was. So we came up with that. So it's a great place to start and really understanding the base requirements to make a PDF accessible, and if you have a PDF. Test it out. The PDF UA Foundation has a free checking tool. You can download that. No charge, no names. It's fine and test your files to see whether they're accessible and compliant or not, and then request from industry experts what you can do to make that fully accessible going forward.
Amanda: Perfect, OK, I will actually pop the link for the PDF UA foundation and the PAC checker to check documents for free in the chat for you in just a moment so everyone can have it so Maureen I wanna get to your question because it's a really good one. Can you address getting learning management systems like Blackboard Canvas, Moodle to build more current and user appropriate accessibility into the LMS? Higher Ed needs to do better for designers and users.
Adam: Preach it, Maureen. Here's what I will say. The best thing you can do. I not against, but to encourage the LMS developers to do better is call them out for their shortfalls. Part of the challenge that we face with the LMS is that they're trying to bluntly, sell to the US federal government and education boards by checking off boxes for their vpat. Their voluntary product accessibility test. They are not following a standards, they are able to identify where their shortfalls are and overcome those by saying we're working on it. But if educational institutions don't call them out and say what they're producing isn't accessible, then they have no requirements or need to invest further. All of their accessibility problems can be solved. I can tell you this flat out we've reviewed them. We've engaged with them before. They have chosen not to engage further and Standards exist for reason and their development teams should. Be encouraged to follow the standards further.
Amanda: Absolutely. We work with a couple of LMSs at ADWebKey or ADWeb team at AbleDocs work with a couple of LMSs and I have to tell you that there are some that that are aware and they're trying to do better and I think being a lot of them, particularly on LinkedIn, follow them. Poke them about accessibility, ask what they're doing about their for their next release because the ones who are doing a good job are really happy to talk about where they are in their journey. So yeah, we've got some great clients in that area, which are are trying to do better. And it is a bit of, Adam you said it earlier. It's not that you were bad before, it's that you didn't know better. And at some point you have to do better. So once you know, it's on you to do better and and really encourage your vendors and people around you to do a little bit better, it is a journey you're not going to wake up tomorrow and everything be accessible. I've tried that. Doesn't work. Stephanie Edwards asked, where can we go to learn to do better? I wanna do better and Adam I know, you don't want to do the sprucing, but AbleDocs is a good place to go to want to do better.
Adam: I'm not allowed to plug. No, but here's the cool thing. This industry for the people that truly believe in in digital accessibility and creating barrier free content, I will tell you. You don't have to pick AbleDocs. But pick one of the vendors that actually believes and follows through with accessibility. Pick great companies. I'll tell you. Our biggest competitor is CommonLook if you don't want to pick us. At least pick CommonLook because they believe in the standards as well, and it's common to here for a CEO to say at least pick us or our competitor, but there's a reason because we actually believe in it. Their CTO is one of my closest friends in the industry. We built the standards together we truly believe in this. What I don't want organizations to do is try and just find the cheapest escape route and say ohh I ticked the box. Here's an overlay and now I'm done. Or here's a QR code that I stick in my document and I'm fine. That's not how people consume content. I think one of the cool things for those of us who have been in the space for as long as I have or longer. All we want to make sure is that organizations are generating and distributing fully accessible content. That's it. And you're going to find a good fit between one organization or another as your supplier or your trainer or your software vendor. But find what works and find something that's sustainable. I believe obviously we're the solution, but if you're not going to pick us, cool. At least call us to ask for a competitors who we actually believe in are doing a good job and and I know that sounds bonkers, but that's how much I believe in our approach to making sure the content is fully accessible and compliant and barrier free for the people who actually need to consume content in an alternate way. And that's where I think we have failed for many years in not being encouraging of more entries into the pace to make content fully accessible. Adobe's great great friends of mine, but they're not in the business of digital accessibility. They're in the business of selling content management systems. That's what they do. Yes, they build the PDF standard, but it's not theirs anymore, so you can't call Adobe and be like I don't like the way you tag a document. They don't care, and that's nothing against them. That's not how they generate revenue, so ask the people who are actually passionate about this. If you have a WordPress site. We have the name of the King of WordPress accessibility or you know any other CMS ask don't be afraid to ask and I think that's one of the coolest things in digital accessibility. Most of the the participants just wanna help you solve the problem to make content accessible.
Amanda: I think that's what we love about the industry is an adamant that we're all kind of there for the right reasons. You don't get into accessibility to be rich, which is unfortunate, but very true. You don't do it to be rich, you do it because you really do want to make everything as accessible as possible for as many people as possible. We have, and we'll make this our last question, unless anyone's absolutely bursting to ask Adam more. But Jesse Stevens has said I struggle getting our developer to create accessible documents to the level that I believe. I believe it ought to be. Any advice please know our developer is a contractor for the State, so we can't just go anywhere.
Adam: Fire them, Here's the thing. Contractors will tell you anything to win a contract. Scary reality. You've got to validate their skill set and question it and make sure that you're getting what you need. It's very easy in 2022 to validate whether a content, whether a piece of content is accessible or not. You can't hide behind it, and unfortunately, organizations have leveraged this without actually having the skill set in-house. Question it, and if you're not sure we bid on contracts all the time where an organization has a third party validate our work to ensure that we can make that content accessible, which is, in my opinion pretty rich but. We know what we're doing and I'm happy to be questioned all day long and you should too. At the end of the day, the most important part is that you're producing fully accessible content, and if you're not sure whether your contractor can do it, call them out. Show us an example. Question that metadata, is it actually their document or do they use someone else's document? Is it the same team? Don't just get one file, get ten? Was it done by the same group and don't ask for 10,000 page documents? Come on, be realistic. We're all in business. We all have lights to keep on, but make sure that you're seeing how that content is engaged with how it's made accessible, and then even ask them on the fly. Thank you for providing your file, here's one of ours. We'd like to see how you make that content accessible, whether it's a PDF or a web page. How are you engaging with it? I think too often organizations are trying to do the right thing but get taken advantage of. And not question where that content came from and then they get fully and accessible content because it was a cheaper option. Don't just go for the lowest price and that's not saying spend more than you should, but make sure you've got that balance because the cheapest solution is never going to be the most accessible solution.
Amanda: We certainly have a challenge here, at least in Australia, where we have designers who are brought in 3rd party designers to do marketing material and such and they really they don't even know, and in fact we've had a particular client unfortunately who has gone through a slew of design vendors and have literally had to pay for them to be trained by us to make their InDesign files accessible to produce an accessible PDF. Because even though these were very big name firms. But they really had no skill set in this area. There's a lack of skill set and I would just add to that Jesse that every person has a different switch when it comes to accessibility. And I learned this really early on. Sometimes it's empathy, so you know, they just want to do the right thing. Sometimes it's the challenge, so one of the things we did and this was several years ago. Now we were working with the local Council and they were developing a new website and one of the developers was hesitant. And read that as aggressive against the idea of doing accessibility for the website and he was really, it was almost a blocker for us. We were trying very hard to engage and one of the challenges he was having was around a calendar widget. And I couldn't get through to him I mean honestly, I think this guy hates my guts to this day. But one of the things that we were able and the way we got through to him was we brought one of our user testers in. So we have two teams. One who audits from an ADWeb point of view. One who does a WCAG audit to the standard, and a team that does usability testing. And these are all users who have a different type of disability that affects the way they absorb digital content. And we brought in one of our blind user testers and she sat there in front of him and he watched her try to use the thing he had built and it didn't work, and to him suddenly he had someone in front of him. She couldn't use something he wanted to make work, so that was the challenge and he was fixing it on the spot. Does it work now? Hold on, stop stop. Let me try this. Does it work now? And that was his light bulb moment and I think everyone has a different light bulb moment. You have to bring them along on the journey and the thing I love about AbleDocs and what we do here is we will never in in anything just hand you something and run we you know we don't do testing hand it to you and run. We hold your hand for that journey. That's that's what we do. It's how we how much we believe in what we do, and the end result is actually getting you to a point where you're producing accessible content. So, I thought I'd share that just because it seemed really relevant. Everyone has a different. A different light bulb
Adam: Shameless plug. Shame on you. This is a not for profit engagement.
Amanda: Come on, to be fair. I've got our sales guy next to me so I'm just trying to make him proud.
Adam: You know as I said earlier, when I entered this industry, I thought we'd be obsolete in five years. we can solve this 15 years later. It's like we are nowhere close like every development group is trying to come up with something else. So why not just ask? Why not persona test it? Why not see what that software can engage with? Because what we can do in a digital context is never gonna change. It's going to expand. It's going to be something new. It's going to be cool. We want to push the limits of what we have today. It's going to 3D, 3D maps, the metaverse, whatever the hell that is, I want to make sure my Bitcoin is fully accessible, but if you don't ask how to engage with that interface. In a non confrontational way, but ask the people who actually know how to engage with it, not just your persona but multiple personas. And then we can make things truly accessible and barrier free. And that's what's cool about, I think a lot of the people on this call, and how we engage how we're committed to accessibility, it's, OK, this works for me. Does it work for you? And if it doesn't, how can we make that happen?
Amanda: That seems to be the end of our questions, but Adam, thank you so much. I realize it's quite late there. As always, fabulous to hear you talk, to hear your passion really come through on the screen. Thank you everyone for showing up. Our plan is I will take some time to put together a transcript and some captions for this recording and we'll pop it on the ADWebkey YouTube page. So thank you everyone for coming out. Remember that today's about awareness for accessibility, so don't just walk away and forget that you've been to to this webinar. Walk away and do better. Talk to people about doing better talk about accessibility, what digital accessibility means and how you can engage more. So everyone thank you so much and be on the lookout for the video on our YouTube channel and you can watch it again and share it around.