In this week’s episode of Horner’s Corner, I share insights regarding my experience working on an accessibility workgroup for a state agency. This episode touches on accessibility standards, and the reasons why I’m passionate about accessibility.
Two short videos I produced about accessibility are also featured in this live stream broadcast.
Correction: I misspoke when I said nearly 4 out of 5 people in Washington State have some form of a disability. I should have said nearly 4 out of 10.
Horner’s Corner is live streamed on YouTube every Thursday at 7pm PST / 10pm EST.
– [Mark Horner] Okay, I’m gonna say that’s long enough. I’m still mastering the beginning of these YouTube videos via Zoom and what I have learned is that, don’t wait after you click. Don’t wait after you click for the bar that YouTube shows you that you’re getting close to going live and in theory, it seems, they’re trying to tell you that when it gets to the end, you’re now live.
No, I found myself waiting, when I watch the replays, I’m sitting there and I’m on camera waiting. So, I’m just launching right into it, you guys and we’ll go for it here.
So, how you doing? Great to see you. Nice to have you here.
I know Janine Sedola is an attendee at the moment. She’s a regular and has been a friend of Beyond 90 Seconds. My friend for a number of years now, originally through Periscope and has followed me through the brush all the way to where I am trying to clear a trail, more of a trail on YouTube for myself. I’ve been here on YouTube for a lot of years but trying to build a community here and something where we can share some knowledge.
Welcome to Horner’s Corner. I think this is week four. It’s either week four or week five now and today we’re gonna talk about accessibility. So, don’t have a guest planned on but I do welcome people to join the panel. And there’re a couple of ways we’re gonna extend that opportunity to you today. Let me share the link to do so in the YouTube chat and I’ll tell you where else you can find it but we’re doing this through Zoom and then through Zoom we’re going live to YouTube.
So in theory, what I will be doing, it’s not just a theory, is in the YouTube chat. Let’s just do it. I am sharing the Zoom link and that’ll take you to where you need to register. It’s free and then you can follow the information in the email that you’ll receive to the Zoom event and you can hop in as attendee and if you wanna be a panelist, where you could be appearing on camera and speak in and join the discussion, feel free to request to be a panelist as well. So, in addition to the YouTube chat, you can also find this link on my website and the specific page you want or the URL’s gonna be, beyond90seconds.com/live. That’s beyond90seconds.com/live. So, let me bring up, the old Zoom here in front of me, so I’m all squared away and seeing what you’re seeing.
Yeah, accessibility. You know, it wasn’t too long ago, just a few years ago, where, well into my video career, which has been, I’ve been working on videos in one shape or form for a few decades now but it was only a few years ago, as a state employee working in communications at the time for a state agency here in Washington. You know, when someone said, “Oh, you’re gonna have to put closed captioning on that one.” It was like, “Oh, does anybody really know “how long that takes? “It’s an hour long video, it takes forever to write on a transcript and do the captioning.” You know and then over time I learned, you know, about software.
And then over time I did a complete turnaround, to a point where now I’m eager to be involved in the captioning process, making sure that it’s at least 99% accurate and I’m very passionate about not just captioning, but all of accessibility when it comes to digital media.
So, a bit more on the specifics of what we mean when we talk about digital media in just a moment but I am looking at, I just wanna make sure I’m on top of things here, I’m looking at the YouTube chat. I see the Zoom chat actually. Let’s bring up that YouTube chat as well because I wanna make sure I’m not missing anything there. Tom is here, hey Tom. Right on, so I’m gonna pop the YouTube chat out, bring that across and now we’re cooking. All right, got Zoom and YouTube chat to moderate your comments as we go.
So, what happened was, as I developed that passion, there then came a point, maybe not quite a year ago, where at work, at a state agency, I was asked to be part of an Accessibility Workgroup. I’ve produced a lot of the videos for a state agency that I work for, the Washington State Department of Licensing, for well since 2009 now. About a year ago I left communications and I went into human resources but now I produce, not external facing but internal videos. I help develop training videos and other training tools through various software for our staff of about 14, 1500 employees statewide. And so as part of this Accessibility Workgroup, what we did was, we wanted to see where are we at with the accessibility that we provide, more specifically, are we meeting the legal, by law, requirements for providing accessibility? And it’s not like you can be halfway there, you have to be 100% there when what’s required by law when it came to our digital media products which really came down the three areas.
It came down to yeah, videos. It came down to forms, PDFs, Word documents, stuff we use internally and stuff our customers use. And then our websites or our external website and our internal intranet, the website that our employees use for a variety of reasons, communications, payroll information, all sorts of stuff.
So, we wanted to see, well, what does the law say? What do policies say? Where are we actually at? And let’s sample everything we’ve got and we can’t look at everything, but we can sample it. And we divided our work group into three different work group areas. One for forms, one for videos, one for the website, external dol.wa.gov and our internal intranet. So, the long story short after having said all that, ’cause there’s a lot, we ultimately had our recommendations.
I co-authored a white paper and learned a lot from our fearless leader of the Spark Workgroup, a coworker and now friend through this process, ’cause I didn’t know her beforehand, a woman named Connie Widener, who’s quite an excellent accessibility expert, now. She’s a coder, she’s an IT type person. She works on software and whatnot. And she also now is very, very much an expert in knowing what it takes to test the tools, the digital media products that we produce and making sure that they can be tested appropriately to meet what’s called WCAG 2.0 AA standards.
So, WCAG is an acronym, it’s actually W-C-A-G. So, that’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and there are different levels. First of all, there’s 2.0, that’s the level we were testing for and then there’s single A, AA and AAA and we’re, by law, required to meet the WCAG 2.0 AA standards.
So, again, why do this though? Well, you could say it’s to minimize risk because nobody wants to be sued but it’s more important than that. It really, it’s because it’s the right thing to do. I believe the figure is, when we looked into this and Connie’s the one who found the number, that nearly four in five people in Washington state have some form of a disability.
[Correction: Misspoke when giving stat in previous sentence. Actual figure is nearly 4 in 10 people in Washington state have some form of a disability.)
And when people can’t properly access or have equal access to digital media content, they no longer have equity. And so we need to do what we can to make it so that they can navigate the form, so they can absorb the content just as fully as a non-disabled person. When they watch a video, when they use a website. And it’s one thing to say you have the tools or that you have accessibility but you need to have tools that work or else you really don’t have accessibility, every single last tool.
So, there’s a lot of testing involved. You can have 90% of your captioning correct, in terms of when the words appear, the spelling but if you have too many words on at once, or the timing’s off, that’s a problem. If you get all that right, you still have 90% accuracy. That means one out of 10 words is wrong and that’s enough to change the meaning of sentences, worse yet, beyond making a sentence confusing, I’ve seen it say something that you don’t want it to say, it can be the opposite or it can be totally inappropriate. So, you gotta be really careful when you use accessibility tools, you wanna make sure they work and you wanna make sure that the user experience, the end user has a smooth, clear path that gets them through that process in a timely fashion and allows them the equity, the accessibility to the content that a non-disabled person has.
So, oh, Tom says in the YouTube chat, “Can’t seem to get Zoom to work.” Sorry about that, Tom. If you can hear me, maybe you can catch the replay.
So, what I wanted to do tonight, first of all I’m gonna… Got a Bubly, a Bubly, Bubly. How do you say it? Sparkling water, if you’re familiar with it in front of me, take a drink. I’m going to play a couple of videos for you. So, the first video is a few months old now and when our work group, this team that focused on this accessibility study, when we finished our work, you know, we researched, we gathered data. I looked at a whole lot of our agency’s videos, and we measured how well we’re meeting those accessibility standards required by law. And so, we finally arrived at a white paper and I coauthored that and we had some other supporting documentation.
And then someone said, “Mark, maybe you could include “some pictures like kind of, maybe a video showing members of the team. Just kind of a nice touch and maybe ask, you know, have a quote there about what accessibility means to each one of them.”
Well, I started the day before, we were gonna present our findings to the panel our recommendations. And I decided to make a little bit more than that. It’s still a video but it’s a bit more involved. And it turned out, I think, pretty effective because not only does it tell you what the members of the panel, what accessibility means to them, not the panel, but our Accessibility Workgroup, my colleagues who did all this work with me. It also demonstrates what an accessible video looks and sounds like.
So, I’m gonna share that one first and then we’ll go to a video that I shot just last weekend, which is a simpler video but I think, pretty compelling and it gets me fired up. So, I’m gonna share here. Let’s go to Zoom and we’ll share the screen. Well actually, you know what? First guys, I’m gonna make sure I have the right video up. Yep, I do. So, let’s go to Zoom and we’ll share. There we go, I gotta check that box that says, “Share sound” or else you’ll be looking at a video and saying, where’s the sound? Okay. All right. So, here is that video. I’m gonna make it full screen and then I’ll play it.
What does accessibility mean to you?
– [Paige Kirkhus-Horner] Photo featuring large doors, slightly open, sun shining through the doors.
– [Mark] For Marge Mink, accessibility means inclusion. Much needed are the words that come to mind when Eugene Abuan considers accessibility. Rob Norton says accessibility is about connection. For Bradley DeVol, the word that comes to mind is equity. Connie Widener will raise a glass of iced tea to that. Connie’s word is also equity. When Sakinah Hunt thinks of accessibility, her thoughts go straight to the customer. Ask Tricia Bowden and she’ll tell you that accessibility is caring. Jhenifer Morfitt’s passion for accessibility is largely fueled by the potential for meaningful connection. Yes, accessibility is about breaking down the barriers, so says Karen Main.
– [Paige] A quotation from Will Saunders appears on screen. It reads quote, “Thinking about accessibility stretches the mind. You have to think about what another person experiences when they encounter your work. It’s like mental swing dancing.” End quote.
– [Mark] For Will Saunders, accessibility means mental swing dancing. And for Mark Horner, that’s me by the way. Well, I see accessibility as an essential ingredient in a successful recipe for diversity, equity and inclusion or DEI. Without accessibility in that mix, you risk being left with empty calories or lip service.
– [Paige] Color photo of Mark Horner has changed to a black and white cartoon.
– [Mark] It’s like having a locked door in front of you. Accessibility is the key that gets you through that door. Our customers and employees deserve accessibility.
– [Paige] A hand is seen drawing colorful drawings of a diverse group of people.
– [Mark] In fact, laws and policies mandate that we make our digital media products…accessible. Providing accessibility, opens the door to equity for everyone. It is the right thing to do.
– [Paige] Text of DOL’s purpose statement appears on screen. It reads quote, “Helping every Washington resident live, work, drive and thrive.” End quote. Text for closing credits appears on screen stating, “A presentation “of the Spark Accessibility Workgroup, designed and produced by Mark Horner, October, 2020.” A DOL logo appears. It includes the words, Washington State Department of Licensing.
– [Mark] And there you have it. So, let’s stop the screen share and bring it back to the camera before we go to the second video.
So, I hope you found that interesting. I would love to know your thoughts on what you saw and what you heard. So, one thing you’ve no doubt noticed, if you can hear, is you heard a second voice. Props to Triple Tall. My wife, Paige, who did that, very spur-of-the-moment. First thing in the morning, right out of bed, I needed a second voice.
And the reason there is additional narration is because under the accessibility standards that government agencies in the U.S. are required to meet at the WCAG 2.0 AA level, is that when something occurs on screen, that is not in the spoken word, that is crucial to the equitable understanding, if you will, the full understanding of what is being presented in that moment, then that’s a descriptor, that needs to be described in audio as well.
And you know what? It may sound like that’s a lot of extra work. It may sound like it has to be confusing but it really isn’t. You know, I whipped this video together pretty quickly and that was included, in large part to illustrate the approach and the outcomes, so you could kind of have that experience or the, in this case, the panel that we propose our recommendations to, got to see that. And I have to tell you, I didn’t expect that exercise of making that video to be… I felt something could be done really, really cool but it became deeply meaningful to basically provide a window to what an accessible video looks like.
Now, you’ll notice that you saw the captions, by default. It wasn’t because I had closed captioning turned on, those were open captions. So, open captions, in case you don’t already know, are captions that cannot be burned on or off. So, in that case, I edited them, so the caption file that was created directly into the video itself, baked into the video file. I did that in Adobe Premiere and exported it with the captions burned on, if you will, it’s part of the video. Closed captions are different. They can be turned on or off and they are a separate file. It’s kinda like a text file. They’re very small, a very tiny file. And it’s just the words and some timing information for when those words appear in the video. So, when someone, for example, uploads a video to Vimeo or YouTube and Netflix and others are doing something similar, there’s the video file that gets loaded to the server and alongside of it, right aside of that big video file, usually, oftentimes, is this tiny little text-like file but it’s actually, they’re a different format, .vtt or another format. And so, that’s referred to as a sidecar file and they kinda talk to each other or the video knows when the player tells it to to go ahead and load that sidecar document if somebody wants to see the words on screen, the captioning. We call that closed captioning when it can be turned on and off.
So, that’s that story. I’m just gonna check the comments on the Zoom side of things. I see, actually, I’m looking at the participants, let’s check the chat on the Zoom side of things. Click the old chat and I don’t see anything, it appears in the Zoom chat. Let’s bring up YouTube, just make sure I’m not missing something. Nope, not missing anything on the Zoom side either. All right, good.
Now, I’d like to show you a second video. Let me get that squared away here, so we have it ready to fire right on cue. Great. It’s all ready to go. Let me set it up for ya. So, in that video, one of my colleagues and the woman I refer to as our fearless leader, if you will, very much now an accessibility expert, is Connie Widener. And Connie is, as I mentioned earlier, has become a friend over this process. She’s a wonderful person and she asked me outside of work if I might be able to do a one or two minute video featuring her kind of, well, teasing if you will, her appearance at a national conference for this coming fall, where she will be talking about accessibility, specifically how to make your digital media products accessible. This is something that all of a sudden you’re sprung with and you haven’t been doing in the past. It can be overwhelming. Where do you begin? Literally. Well, Connie’s led a team, a state agency through that many months long process and that resulted in very meaningful work that’s gonna impact the lives of people all across our state. So, Connie applied for and was chosen to speak at a conference in Anaheim, California in early October of this year. Forgive me, I don’t recall the name of it but that’s the scope of what we’re talking about.
So, what I did was, I just went down to Connie’s place and said, “Let’s do it outside. We’ll keep you out of the sun. We’re gonna just keep you on camera, take a seat, put the woods behind you, listen to the birds sing. And I’d just like you to look straight at the camera.” My reporting background, ’cause I was a reporter for a number of years in my prior career, before state government work. Oftentimes, I would tell people, don’t look at the camera, look at me and you will oftentimes see people, you know looking just off camera as they’re being interviewed and they’re talking but I wanted her to make that direct connection with the viewer and I wanted the viewer to feel inclusion, included and I just really wanted that direct connection.
And honestly, we just did this with an iPhone and I have a wireless microphone that I use with the iPhone and just asked Connie a few questions and she was great. In fact, when I got home, I did an initial edit of like eight minutes of Connie talking, which was basically all of Connie talking. I edited out most of my stuff and I was playing it back and my wife was walking by and looked at it and she goes, “Oh, she’s good. Oh, she’s awesome.” This got my wife fired up, okay. She was already a true believer and totally a strong advocate for closed captioning. And she likes doing closed captioning work, my wife. So, that’s how good Connie is when it comes to, I don’t wanna over-bill it here because you’ll have the risk of disappointing you and I thought, going in, because Connie had a window for this video to be one to two minutes. I thought I keep it to a minute but I let it go to nearly two full minutes, like 1:57.
So, I’d like to show you Connie talking about accessibility and we’ll share that with you now. Says sound is going to be shared, that’s good. All right, there’s Connie, let’s bring it full screen.
[Connie Widener] This is more than the law. This is about how do you reach your customer. See, almost four out of 10 people need some sort of assistance accessing our information online. That’s almost half. Even if it’s just people like me who need to have the font bigger when they use the website, I’m in that age group now where I need to be able to adjust my screen size. And that’s one of the WCAG requirements, is that you be able to adjust your screen size without losing content and that’s something we have to start testing for. And so if you don’t start thinking of disabilities and thinking of how we test for that, you’re gonna lose a good portion of your marketplace. If we don’t test for accessibility, we are purposely excluding a large portion of our population and that’s just not okay. It’s the thing that testers have a unique role in changing in our digital world. It’s hard to know where to start. It’s hard to set a baseline and that’s what I can show you in this seminar, is how to get started, how to find your organization’s baseline, so that you can create a plan for becoming accessibility aware and accessibility compliant. See, this is more about meeting a law, it’s about changing a culture and you have to start somewhere. And that’s what I’m gonna show you in this seminar is how to get started.
-[Mark] And there’s Connie. Thank you, Connie. That was a lot of, that was fun. So, let’s stop… And it was easy to do too. I just drove down to Olympia and shot the video and a couple of days later edited it on my iPad using LumaFusion. All right, so now we’re gonna stop sharing and come back to our main camera, full screen. So, yeah, those are… That’s part of my world when it comes to accessibility work and why those of you who follow me and join me in conversations online and in videos, live streams, why I often feel compelled to bring up an accessibility point of view or question or what have you because I’ve become passionate about it, I see how important it is for so many people. Connie made that point about, if you are not testing and making sure that your digital media products are not accessible, you’re purposefully excluding if you’re deciding not to do so.
So, I wanna bring up the chat and I see that Janine’s over there as an attendee, nothing in the Zoom chat and let’s go and check that YouTube chat again. All right and you guys, I know that this isn’t something that perhaps is, for some of you, the most compelling topic but I hope that it’s somewhere along the way or in the future, in the replay of this, ignites an idea, a flame, an intent that helps support the awareness and ultimately the implementation of accessibility. You know, I like to watch movies on my television, as does my wife, when we watch movies and programs with the captioning on. And it’s, I mean, we can hear. I think I can still hear . My wife might say I don’t hear so well anymore but we both like it and studies have shown that even fully abled people benefit from having the captioning on. We absorb and retain the information even better. And sometimes we don’t understand a murmur or what just buzzed by off camera, on the screen but it’s somehow relevant to the plot, if you will, or the documentary or what have you and that textual information or the descriptors in the brackets or parenthesis or however the particular approach was used in that program, that really helps round-out the feel and the understanding of what you’re absorbing in that moment. So, it’s pretty darn cool. It benefits, I think, everyone.
Now, we can wrap this up right here and now but I do wanna throw it out there, in case anybody wants to join or ask any questions. Janine, you’re a realtor and I’ll just throw this out there and don’t feel like you have to come on but certainly, you know, what’s not unfamiliar to us is in the physical world, buildings, homes, businesses oftentimes, they either need or they need and are required to have accessibility features so that people can properly access them. These can be ramps, these can be elevators. So, and many other things. I’ll bet you, Janine you, in your long and storied real estate career, have come into circumstances where a building was properly accessible or had been made accessible. Maybe that was something that was appealing to a buyer of an existing building, the selling of an existing home, for example. So, we’ve seen the impact of accessibility in that regard, but now, especially since so much of what we need to do to simply go about our daily lives are fundamental things like getting a driver license. We need to have things be accessible so that we can have those things that help us thrive. So, yeah.
All right, so I’m looking at the YouTube chat, nothing there and I’m looking at the Zoom. Let’s see. So, Janine says, let me know if there is an after show debriefing session. We can do that, sure. And she says, it’s the law in Canada that buildings are accessible. Yeah, I wonder what the the digital products laws may or may not be in Canada. I would think they’re at least as good as the U.S. Anyhow, all right. It seems that’s where we’re at for tonight.
So, this’ll be a shorter live stream this week here at Horner’s Corner. I wanna thank you all very much for hanging here with me tonight, or if you’re watching the replay. Thanks for watching the replay. Hopefully this touched on something that you found of interest. Feel free to shoot me any ideas that you might have in the comments below the video on YouTube, or you can email me directly at mhorner at beyond90seconds.com. that’s mhorner at beyond90seconds.com or you can go to my website, beyond90seconds.com, go to the contact page and fill that out and I’ll get that as well. All right, thanks a lot everybody. Take care, stay safe. And thank you for watching.