A latte with Sandi Gauder

Episode first aired on May 14, 2024

GAAD Special | Episode 02

In this episode, Matisse chats with Sandi Gauder, a web accessibility specialist, about everything PR and communications professionals need to know about web accessibility.

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About our guest

Sandi Gauder focuses on removing barriers in the digital learning environment, starting with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and incorporating usability and humanizing learning strategies to ensure all digital environments are accessible for all students and staff. This includes education to support the accessibility and compliance of public-facing websites, internal applications, learning management systems, etc.
Sandi is a co-founder of CMS Web Solutions Inc. As a web accessibility specialist, she has been developing modern, accessible websites for over 15 years. She also coaches designers, developers, and content producers on best practices for meeting web accessibility guidelines.
Sandi is a curriculum designer and instructor for accessible web and social media content. She has led workshops on web accessibility and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) for businesses, municipalities, and web development firms. She has spoken at conferences and appeared as a web accessibility expert in webinars. Management and technical audiences welcome her clear, common-sense approach.

Episode Transcript

Matisse Hamel-Nelis  00:02

Hello and welcome to PR & Lattes, the podcast where you can fill up your cup on everything PR and communications. I’m your host, Matisse Hamel-Nelis. And I am so happy to have you join me today for another special episode of the podcast in honour of Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Before we get started, make sure you subscribe to this podcast wherever you’re listening to it to get notified when a new episode drops. You can also subscribe to our newsletter by visiting our website PRandlattes.com. On the website, you’ll find our podcast episodes, plus our amazing blogs, with new ones being uploaded every Monday morning. And, of course, make sure you’re following us on Instagram at @PRAndLattes and on LinkedIn PR & Lattes. On today’s episode, I’m chatting with web accessibility specialist Sandi Gauder. Sandi is a co-founder of CMS Web Solutions, Inc. As a web accessibility specialist, she has been developing modern, accessible websites for over 15 years. She also coaches designers, developers and content producers on best practices for meeting Web Accessibility Guidelines. She’s also a curriculum designer and instructor for accessible web and social media content. She has led workshops on web accessibility and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act or AODA for businesses, municipalities and web development firms. I am so thrilled to be chatting with her about all things web accessibility today. So grab your latte, sit back and enjoy. I am so excited for today’s episode. Sandi, who was one of my teachers at Mohawk College when I took the Accessible Media Production program is our guest for today. Welcome, Sandi.


Sandi Gauder  01:39

Thank you, Matisse. Thank you for asking me to join you.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  01:43

Very excited, this is going to be a good chat and something that I think our listeners are definitely eager to learn more about. We’re going to be talking about accessible websites, something that sometimes scares folks when it comes to accessibility and not really understanding or knowing the beginnings or where to go when it comes to it. So I’m so excited to have this conversation with you today. But let’s start off with the basics. Can you tell me about your own journey in web development and how you became an expert and accessible websites?


Sandi Gauder  02:13

The word expert just makes me cringe. So I don’t like to I don’t like to call myself an expert. I like to call myself a specialist or professional because we all have things to learn, and I still have so much to learn. But we’ve been in the web business, my husband and I we started a company many moons ago. And we moved into web development probably about 15 or so years ago. And at that time, I had no idea what web accessibility was. I hadn’t come across it in any any of the circles that I was in. But we had a colleague who was doing customer service training for the AODA so the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act. And she said, hey, you need to know about this, you need to start building accessible websites. And we said, well, of course we need to be doing this because why wouldn’t you? And so since that time, I have been working on building accessible websites still not perfect, still make mistakes. But it’s been a primary focus from that point. When clients approached us, for an accessible website, we’ll build it. But if they have no idea what it is, we’ll still build an accessible website for them. It’s just become second nature. It’s how how we do it. So that’s how I stumbled upon it. Like so many things in this internet world, you you don’t know where you’re headed, you don’t know what’s out there. And it was a natural fit for us. Because we don’t understand why you would want to leave, you know, 15% of your potential revenue on the table because you don’t have an accessible website. It just it doesn’t make sense. As a business owner, you don’t give away cash. It’s hard enough to get the other 85% Why would you give up that 15?


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  04:12

Yeah, exactly, exactly. And like you said stumble upon and a lot of cases, those who specialize in digital accessibility, it was a stumble into it. For the most part, like I share the story for myself, or it was a tweet that I put out for a large nonprofit using the acronym D.Y.K. You can listen to that episode another day. And what it reads out as by assistive tech, and that was sort of my aha moment in terms of if I don’t know this, and I am communicating for an organization. What else do I not know? And that just opened the door for me.


Sandi Gauder  04:52



Matisse Hamel-Nelis  04:52

That’s how I stumbled into it. And I’ve loved I loved learning and continuing to grow my knowledge on it ever since. Yeah. So speaking of knowledge and sharing, let’s dive into the good stuff. Could you? Could you start by explaining what website accessibility means and why it’s critical for businesses today? You mentioned that leaving 15% of that revenue on the table. But what is what is website accessibility? When we say it? What does it mean?


Sandi Gauder  05:20

Well, I think you probably get about 57 different answers if you asked 57 different people. But for me, it means that anybody can use a website, it doesn’t matter if they require assistive technology, like a screen reader. Or if they can only use a keyboard because they can’t navigate with the mouse. Anybody and everybody can engage with your website, if you’re an e-commerce site, anybody can put products into your shopping cart, check out and they don’t run into any barriers along the way. And I think that’s really what an accessible website is about it, it removes any and all barriers whenever possible for anybody trying to engage with your site. So that’s sort of the the baseline to me, but I think it goes a bit beyond that, in that you can have a perfectly accessible website as defined by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s usable, it could still take a lot of effort, extra effort because of how you’ve designed the interaction. So web accessibility at its base means removing the barriers. But we we generally try to go beyond that to make it a more…to make it efficient, I guess, you know, whether it’s can I use your website efficiently and effectively, without running into any bumps?


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  06:57

So in a lot of cases, when folks hear about website accessibility, it gets tied into legal requirements, and you don’t want to get sued. So let’s let’s get that out in on the table right off the bat. So what are the legal requirements for website accessibility is that PR professionals and communicators should know?


Sandi Gauder  07:17

Well, it depends, I guess, on your where you doing business. So you and I are both in the province of Ontario. So we are bound by the Ontario legislation, which is the AODA, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. So that guides organizations in this province to have an accessible website. Now, mind you, that legislation points to old guidelines that are extremely out of date. So complying with that legislation really doesn’t bring you into the 21st century. The guidelines that that legislation wants you to adhere to, doesn’t consider my mobile phones. I mean, it’s how we live with mobile phones now. So it doesn’t really talk about that doesn’t point to that it doesn’t address people who may have a cognitive disability. So there’s a lot of things missing with the legislation that regulates us here in Ontario. There is the Accessible Canada Act that kind of bridges the whole country, but that’s more for federally regulated organizations. So think airlines, transportation, banking, that kind of thing. But if you’re a PR professional working in those kinds of environments, then absolutely, you need to be paying attention to accessibility legislation. And those web content accessibility guidelines are going to guide you from that perspective. There are other provinces that are working on their regulations. So it’s essentially going to be something that if you do business in Canada, you need to be aware of this stuff. And we often say why wait until the legislation comes into effect, just start doing it now. Learn the little things that you need to be learning. And by the time the legislation is in effect, you’re going to be ahead of the game. And it’s just makes sense to do that. And of course, there’s legislation around the world if you’re in the US, people usually refer to the Section 508 for organizations that do business with the government. Europe has their EN-301548. I was get those numbers all mixed up, but they have their own legislation. If you’re in the EU, so each country and sort of geographic area has some sort of legislation in place. Almost all of them come back to walk egg or the web content accessibility guidelines. So if if you don’t You have legislation where you’re doing business now. That’s where I would start, I would go to the W3C.org. website, look for the web content accessibility guidelines and start getting familiar with it. Because if you’re not impacted by it now, you’re going to be impacted by it eventually.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  10:18

That’s an excellent, that’s a great way of putting it. That’s that’s really a great way of putting it when it comes to the Web Accessibility Guidelines, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG. Do you think…you mentioned how the current legislation, at least here in Ontario is very dated in terms of which version is used? If a company or organization has already said, Well, we’re accessible to WCAG 2.0? Or 2.1? Now we’re at 2.2? Do you think they should be going back and building it out or tweaking things to be at the 2.2 calibre? And if they’re just starting out? Do you recommend that they go for 2.2 to more future proof than the 2.0.


Sandi Gauder  11:04

Yeah, always go with the most current guidelines, because they’re they’re always evolving, always changing. The guidelines are, they’re working on the next version, just like everything in the internet, there’s always another version coming down the road. But it’s probably a few years before we’ll see that kind of an update, it’s gonna be a major shift in the guidelines. But yes, if the websites, in this day and age tend to be dynamic. So content is always changing, you might be putting in new themes. To change templates for your website, you might be coming up with a brand new website. So because websites are always evolving, and particularly the content that is in those websites is always evolving, you might as well be making your website adhere to the most current guidelines that you possibly can. And that cut in the other thing about that, that people, people often think that it’s it’s the web developers that are entirely responsible for making sure that a website is accessible. And yes, we web developers play a big part, we make sure that the infrastructure is accessible. But there’s designers who are making the site look pretty, and organizing it. They’re responsible, and anybody who touches content that goes in website is just as responsible. When you think about videos that get posted to a website, do they have captions? Are they using integrated described video? If you’re posting podcasts on your website, do you have a transcript for that podcast, if you’re posting images, have you written alternative text, so that people who can’t see the picture, know what that picture is all about? So content producers, in my mind play a much bigger role, because they tend to be the people that are keeping the site alive by producing new content all the time. So it’s those. And I would imagine that PR professionals play a big part in that driving the content that goes on website and on social media platforms. So PR professionals in particular need to pay attention to the content they produce, and making sure that that content is accessible for everybody.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  13:26

Yeah, that’s so true. And I think what sometimes gets people stuck in their thinking is that once we’ve made our website, let’s say they start fresh, or they’ve just done a whole new refresh of the website, it’s accessible from here on out. But it’s not it because it’s a it’s essentially a living, breathing thing. At that point, it’s always evolving, you’re always adding new content. As soon as you forget alternative text to an image or you upload a video without captions, as you mentioned, then you have now made the website inaccessible. In apart, there’s an accessibility. So it’s being on top, keeping it always top of mind versus saying, well, that’s somebody else’s job to check it. And from the PR perspective, like you mentioned, we’re the ones who are creating the content, or the ones who are dictating what that content needs to be. So we need to be sort of the leaders in that in saying that it needs to be accessible. And this is how to do that we need to understand the guidelines that are put out by the W3C. So I love that you brought that up.


Sandi Gauder  14:27

Exactly. We often get asked by clients to give them a checkmark or a rubber stamp to say my site’s accessible when we say well, at this second in time, it is but the minute you make a change, it might be broken again. So there is no such thing as a stamp if you want to make sure that…I guess if you want to announce to the world that your site is accessible on nobody, most people don’t do that. But if you want the world to know that you care about accessibility then you need to be monitoring it. And you need to be checking, you know, having a plan to say, “Okay, we post content every day of the week. So we should be checking at least once a month to make sure that what we’re posting is still accessible. And do we need to fix it, then, okay, let’s go back and fix it. Do we need to train people on our team, maybe you bring a new hire on, and they’ve never heard about accessibility.” So you have to teach those people what this is all about. They may be, they may buy into the idea, but they still need to know how to do it. So they’re, it’s an ongoing, constant training, constant checking, constant fixing, because none of us are perfect, we all make mistakes, and we have to fix what we put out there. But I think it all starts with just actually caring and wanting to do it. And sometimes that’s the biggest piece that’s missing is people just don’t care. And they say, Okay, we’re done. We don’t need to worry about it anymore.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  16:01

So that’s definitely one of the pitfalls I find, at least in talking with organizations and companies where I like to say they, they just aren’t aware, I tried to think positively about it, that maybe they’re just not aware, or they’re afraid to ask, but it’s a big pitfall when it comes to accessibility. Right? And so what are other common accessibility pitfalls that you tend to see in business websites, when you’re working with clients or just in general?


Sandi Gauder  16:30

Well, certainly the fact that they, they have no idea. They just don’t know the impact that they’re making. We often do these. It’s not a web audit, but it’s a live review of, of a client’s website. So we’ll get on a Zoom call, or whatever platform you want to use. And we’ll say, okay, so what do your visitors typically do on your site? Are they looking for information? Are they trying to buy something? So let’s go through that process, as if we were a person with a disability. So we don’t try to be a person with a I’m not a person with a disability. But I will show them what it’s like to try to navigate their site just using a keyboard. Can I see where I am? Can I figure it out? Can I put something into the shopping cart and checkout just using a keyboard…or…And it’s amazing to me the reaction, people, the reactions we get from people when they go, Oh, I had no idea. And as soon as they see it in action, and they see the roadblocks that they’ve created with their website, they’re generally ready to say, Okay, we need to fix this, this is not good. This is not how we want our organization represented to the world. We don’t want to lose potential business, because we’re putting up these barriers. So I think that the pitfalls are, as you said, it’s awareness, people just have no idea. They don’t understand the different ways that people try to engage with a website. Most people immediately think screen reader user, so somebody who’s blind can’t see the screen, and uses assistive technology to have a website read to them. That’s usually what people think about when they think about web accessibility. But as you and I both know, there are so many other facets to it, it’s people who can see the screen, but can’t use a mouse. They might have carpal tunnel syndrome, or they might have broken their dominant hand, and they’re going to cast for six weeks, and they can’t use a mouse. So it becomes it’s all these frustrations that get put up for people because somebody just doesn’t know that. That’s something they need to be aware about. And so I think awareness is certainly the first part. The other is just the genuine commitment from an organization. You can say, oh, yeah, we want our website to be accessible, it’s a good thing to do. But next week, they’ve moved on to something else, they’ve completely forgotten about it. And there’s no whatever momentum was there gets lost. So I think without a champion, and not really a fan of that word, but somebody who’s willing to carry the torch and say, Yes, we need to do this. Generally, you want it coming from the top, because it’s it’s a cultural thing. But you need somebody who’s going to take the responsibility for making sure that everybody on the team is producing accessible content and building an accessible website experience for users.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  19:36

Yeah, that’s very true. And one thing one thing that comes to mind for me is when you said you know, it’s sort of the they look at it as this is this week’s project then next week, they forget about it. I always relate it back to a lot of companies and organizations nowadays have their inclusion, diversity and equity statements or their DEI statements, where accessibility isn’t really thought of. So if they’re saying and proclaiming that we are inclusive, and we are diverse and we are equitable, but their website is inaccessible to me that comes across as performative. Right? Because you’re not really being holistic about what the E and I really stand for. Because you’re not thinking about the accessibility component in there. Yeah, so I like that you call that out for sure. What about documents on a website? Do they need to be accessible?


Sandi Gauder  20:30

Well, yes, they do Matisse. That wasn’t a leading question. Like I said, before, any content that resides on your website needs to be accessible. If you’re posting PDFs, then that PDF better be accessible. So you’re using colours that provide good contrast. So people can differentiate text from background, you’re using a font size that no people can actually read, you’re not using a teeny tiny font that, you know, very few people can read, you’re using and you’ve tagged it appropriately so that it is accessible for somebody who uses assistive technology. So yes, if you can’t post an accessible PDF to your website, then don’t post the PDF. If you can’t post a video with transfer with captions, and don’t post the video to your website, you’re better in my mind not to post the content, if it’s not accessible than posts posted, and open yourself up to some grief. Because people are saying, Why are you doing this? I can’t do it. I can’t do it. I can’t do it. So just just be proactive about it.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  21:42

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So I’m a PR professional, I want to start taking the basic steps to figure out where I stayed in my digital content for my organization. What are the basic steps that we can start to take to evaluate the accessibility of our current digital presence? What would you recommend?


Sandi Gauder  22:02

Well, first, I would suggest that you go to the W3C.org site and look at it read about accessibility. There, the the walk egg, the guidelines are, you know, they’re pretty tough to read, they’re pretty dense. But the website does have overviews summaries, there’s some really excellent videos that demonstrate what it’s like to interact with a website with different kinds of disabilities. So just get a general understanding of the kinds of disabilities or how people interact with websites just so you can put things into context when you’re trying to make a site accessible, or the content on the site accessible. There’s lots of great tools out there. Once you’ve got that sort of understanding. In your toolkit, there’s lots of great tools out there that are free. My favourite tool is your keyboard and putting your mouse aside burying it somewhere in a box, I don’t care what to do with it. But just use your keyboard to try and navigate your site, navigate your competition site navigate amazon.ca, it doesn’t matter to me. But just to get an understanding of what it’s like to try to navigate a website with a keyboard. It’s free, it’s easy. It’s available to you all the time. And it a site that works with a keyboard is usually going to work for somebody who uses assistive technology like a screen reader. So if you can navigate know where you are, interact with things using your keyboard, then you’re probably in good shape for screen reader user, not maybe not perfect, but you’re in a good place. There’s lots of tools that let you check a website to see what it’s like, from a code standpoint, like does the code make sense. And there’s things like WAVE from WebAIM. So wave.webaim.org has a great free tool, you drop in a website address, and it will scan it and say yes, it’s good on these counts, but maybe not so good here. And there’s a colour contrast tool built into that WAVE. So that’s a great place to start. It helps you identify where some of the issues are on your site, talk to your web developer to fix some of them. Some of them could be you know, up to you to fix alternative text. So those are some pretty good tools. There are so many resources out there. It’s just a matter of searching. Really. I always go back to WebAIM because I think they are probably to my in my mind a gold standard and their information is easy to digest. They’re a university in Utah. They’ve been in the web accessibility business for I don’t know how many years probably from the get go. And you have all sorts of great resources, and they explain what a web accessibility is in pretty basic terms. So if you’re new to it, that’s a great place to start.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  25:12

I would agree with that. Now, in a lot of cases, there is this when it comes to websites, people, we we’ve mentioned this already, people don’t know what they don’t know. Right. And so when they’re when a company or organization is starting to do a search for a web developer or vendor, to enhance their web accessibility, what are those essential questions, they should be asking of the vendor to make sure that they actually know how to make your website accessible?


Sandi Gauder  25:41

Yes. First thing I would, the first leg is if somebody says we’ll fix it with an overlay. Run as fast as you can. So an overlay is is like a widget or a plugin that you would add to a website. It’s some script, and it provides all of these magical tools that apparently will make your inaccessible site accessible. And they actually cause more problems than they solve. They interfere with assistive technology. And there’s a whole bunch of other issues with it. So if that’s their answer, that’s then run as fast as you can away from them. Ask them about WCAG, you know the guidelines. Ask them what they know about, ask them about legislation, ask them what legislation your organization needs to commit to, if they don’t know the legislation in your particular jurisdiction, then they’re probably not going to know about web accessibility. Ask them what other clients they’ve done websites for or remediation for. And ask if you can talk to those clients and your testimonials and references are probably the most probably one of the most valuable things you can get from any vendor saying that they can do business for you whether you’re looking for web accessibility or not, to talk to previous clients talk about the experience, talk about any bumps that you hit with respect to accessibility, how did that vendor handle those things? And if you’re talking to a vendor that is providing some sort of software, they’re not necessarily building a website for you, but they’re providing software they might you might use for your website or in conjunction with it. Do they have a VPAT? So voluntary? No, I never get the VPAT. But it’s it’s letters. I hate acronyms. So it’s it’s a voluntary document where they say we’ve we’ve run through our software. This is what where we stand from an accessibility standpoint, these are the things that we’re working on. Do they have an accessibility statement on their own website? Do they say that our website is accessible? Except for these sorts of things? Do they have an accessibility strategy? You know, the more questions you ask about where they are, for themselves around accessibility, the better sense you’ll get about what they can do for you, when it comes to accessibility.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  28:16

I love those questions and what you’ve proposed there. I think, like I said, we don’t know what we don’t know. And knowing sort of the starting questions is always a great start. For proceeding when you’re working with a vendor, but also having that education yourself, right. So like you said, researching and going on to the W3C.org website and reading about WCAG, and you don’t have to be an expert in it, but just sort of getting an understanding of what it is that you’d be looking for. So when you ask the question, you sort of know what the answer should be. And that sort of thing is so important as well.


Sandi Gauder  28:53



Matisse Hamel-Nelis  28:54

So shifting things a little bit we only hear about AI lately is what it feels like. That’s the buzzword. That’s the trend that is everything. How is AI being used to improve or maybe not improve website accessibility? And what should we be cautious about when using it? For our own websites?


Sandi Gauder  29:17

So I’m not the AI guru in this organization. My partner is he’s just he’s so absorbed in it. But…so I learned by osmosis, mostly. So AI I think if you think about AI has been around for a long time in the world of accessibility, all these automated testing tools in a way you could say, are using artificial intelligence. There are different with AI, anybody that is in the digital world is trying to find ways to use it to make things better, make work easier, all that kind of stuff. And even around web accessibility that is happening. I think the best biggest caution, though, is it’s like anything to do with artificial intelligence, it’s garbage in, garbage out. So if..if we’re relying on artificial intelligence to crawl the web, and come back with answers around accessibility, that may or may not be correct, they may or may not be good solutions. So it’s like anything, if you don’t understand the context of what you’re asking AI about, you’ll accept whatever answer gives you. So you still have to have that baseline understanding of, of websites and web accessibility to say, okay, yes, that tool that AI gizmo is giving me valid information. And I can trust it. If you don’t know anything about it, then you’ll take whatever comes along. So it’s, you still need to have that basic understanding. I see AI and accessibility working as ways to monitor a site that is already accessible, help developers who already know accessibility solve, you know, a specific problem, or an interaction, building an accessible website. That’s pretty what like a content driven website is usually not too complex. And if you use semantic, HTML, you can generally build a site. Well, it’s when you get into fancy interactions, complex interactions, that you have to get a bit more creative and spend more time developing solutions that are accessible. And I think that AI might be able to support that. Because you if you’re already at that level of building something that’s accessible, but don’t know how to solve this particular interaction, you’re going to recognize the pitfalls that that come back to you with an answer from AI.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  32:01



Sandi Gauder  32:02

And we need more accessible websites out there so that AI can scour accessible websites and build a better dictionary of what an accessible website actually looks like, and how it’s built.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  32:15

Again, like you said, garbage in, garbage out. But if we can give it gold, there’ll be gold in gold out. And then that will be beneficial for everybody, when they’re trying to build their websites and other accessibility components. How can PR professionals with their teams ensure that inclusivity and accessibility are integrated into the web design process from the start versus, versus usually what I like to say is that you can’t necessarily fix you can’t necessarily take the eggs out of a baked cake, right already baked cake. So how can they really think about accessibility from the beginning of the process versus as an afterthought when they’re already halfway through the project?


Sandi Gauder  32:51

So PR professionals need to make sure that everybody else that they’re working with within the organization or the external agent agencies that might be supporting them everybody’s on the same page, everybody has an understanding of accessibility, and they’re all committed to creating an accessible product or project at the end of the day, at the end of the day. So you have to start with that, I think, define defining, but identifying the roles that everyone’s going to play in a project. So who’s responsible for the content? Who’s responsible for design? Who’s responsible for any of the technical stuff? Who’s responsible for checking the work? Do you have a QA team or somebody on the team have to be responsible for it? Where everybody on the team has a role to play in building something that’s accessible. But there’s each role has its has a predominant part to play. So understanding who’s doing what is essential, and making sure that you’re talking about accessibility right, from the very beginning at every stage, reviewing where you’re at, is it accessible? Have we thought about this? Have we thought about that? Can we fix this? Can we fix that? What do we need to avoid? Who needs to do what it’s just making? Sure that’s part of the conversation all the way along? I think when you’re doing a project where you’re always worried about colours, so are we using our brand colours properly here? You know, those kinds of conversations happen all the way along, but you also have to make accessibility that’s at that same level, same part of the conversation. And if you’re doing that, then you’re the odds that you’re going to produce something that’s successful skyrocket. I mean, you’re have much better odds of creating an accessible product, you’re talking about it, you have to talk about it. You can’t wait to the end. Because if you wait to the end, sometimes you’re just throwing the whole thing out and starting from scratch and nobody wants to do that. You it’s a waste of time and resources.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  34:55



Sandi Gauder  34:56

So the earlier you talk about it, the less expensive it becomes and the easier it is to do.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  35:01

So let’s say we we’ve done all these steps, we have an accessible website, we’ve done it, we’ve talked about it, we’ve worked through throughout the entire process, what strategy should we implement to ensure that it’s continually compliant? Versus we’ve dropped the ball?


Sandi Gauder  35:18

Yeah, well, it’s, like I said earlier, you need to create some sort of a process to for ongoing monitoring. If you’re, you have to create the, by the time you’ve got this website, and brand new website or new project that is accessible, you’ve probably learned some tips along the way, you’ve probably created new habits. So your the odds that you’re going to create PDFs that are accessible have gone up, the odds that you’re going to post a video with captions have gone up, but we all slip up. So having a plan in place to say we’re going to monitor things once a month, once a quarter, whatever it’s suitable for, for how dynamic the content is on your website, then that’s what you do. You may assign somebody on your team to do that, you may hire an outside service to monitor and support you, really depends on the size of your organization, how much how much money you have to dedicate to it, what kind of resources you have. But the only way that you’re going to make sure that you’re continually compliant is to check every once in a while, you don’t have to check every single day of the week, or every, every time you you change a word on a website, but you do need to have some sort of plan to monitor to make sure that you’re you’re doing what you said you were going to do.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  36:36

And how does training come into play to ensure that people know what they’re doing? Where can they go for training, if they would like training? Or, you know, what are the basics in training, aside from just looking at the the W3C website to ensure that different members of the team know what they can do to be accessible?


Sandi Gauder  36:55

Now, there’s all sorts of intro courses online, EdX, those kinds of things will offer introductory courses, depending on what you’re looking for. I guess it all depends on your team, how many people on your team? What kind of work they’re doing? Is it one person that’s responsible for everything? Or do you actually have a team of like 10 people that that work on this stuff? So it could be ongoing coaching, mentoring, you know, maybe somebody’s working on a project, and they just need to touch base with somebody who’s an accessibility specialist to say, Hey, am I on the right track? Are we doing things right? Or working without sort of side organizations to do the monitoring of your web compliance? And then when they come back to you with a report, they help you understand what, where you went wrong. So there are different ways depending? It always depends on time and money, right? It’s like, how much do you have to spend on it? The web is always free, you have to be careful what you get from the web. But there are lots of consultants out there that are able to provide that kind of coaching and mentoring and training, you know. Maybe your team, maybe you are starting on a new project, and nobody understands accessibility, or maybe one or two people on the team do, but they’re not really sure. You do a workshop and accessibility workshop right at the beginning to say, hey, what do we need to know? What do we need to be thinking about? And making sure everybody’s got that same baseline understanding of what this whole web accessibility things all about.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  38:39

So we’ve talked about the pitfalls. We’ve talked about the legislation, we’ve talked about how you can incorporate accessibility through every step of the way. Let’s talk about the thing that tends to get folks the most interested, if you will, in accessibility on their website, the potential for reputational and financial impact.


Sandi Gauder  39:02

Oh, yeah.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  39:05

What does that look like if you’re inaccessible? What does that mean? What does that look like for them?


Sandi Gauder  39:09

Well, it depends on where you are, where you’re doing business in the province of Ontario, the AODA legislation has a series of fines that you know, the the board, the directors could get fined a tremendous amount of money every day until we get things fixed. But we haven’t really seen those fines being handed down to any organizations in this province. The usually the the fines, knowing the fines, but the money comes in the States. It’s a very litigious society. So there are lawsuits happening all the time, around inaccessible websites. And we’re also starting to see the agencies that build those websites getting sued. So it’s not just the site owner, but the people that help build the website that are getting sued. And that can be very, very expensive, it’s just going through the legal process itself is expensive. And then if you’re on the losing side, then there’s a lot of money to be, it’s gonna cost you right to fix it or possibly in in fines as well. So there’s that whole government, legal side of things that cost. But there’s the whole, the reputational side, to me is probably the bigger side. You…I don’t think I’ve met a company that doesn’t want the world to see them in a good light. So it’s when you put up roadblocks for people to use your site and you, you annoy somebody who might be vocal, or have a good following on social media, your reputation could be damaged overnight, because you, you didn’t do the right thing. And again, as a PR expert, I’m sure you know, this all depends on how you respond to that. If you respond quickly, and you do it properly, and say, “Oh, we screwed up, we had no idea, thank you for bringing it to our attention for on it,” and you actually are on it, and you fix it, then your reputation is potentially going to be saved and might get better. But there’s so many people organizations that just ignore it. So I guess from a reputational side, if someone brings something to your attention about your site that is inaccessible, pay attention to it. Thank them for the feedback, figure out what you need to do to fix it and make sure you do it don’t just like leave it lingering, don’t look for ways to avoid it. Don’t use an overlay to solve the problem. So yeah, it’s it’s just it’s like any other PR crisis, it’s you deal with it and deal with it properly, and effectively in a timely fashion.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  42:01

Exactly. What comes to mind thinking about the reputational damage a few years back with Domino’s, with their inaccessible website, and it was for them would have been a nominal fee to get their website, remediated and made accessible. And they decided to say no, no, we’re gonna fight this, we’re gonna keep fighting, and they kept losing. And all the money that went into that, versus using a fraction of the money that went into the legal fees to just make it accessible and make it a like a learning story, if you will, an evolved story where we had a mistake, we fixed it. Here’s what we did. Here’s so everyone can better themselves versus Nope. We don’t see a point. This is not quite right.


Sandi Gauder  42:46

X and Twitter, Twitter, formally X formerly Twitter. Yeah, you know, they had an accessibility team until the current owner took over and got rid of the accessibility team. And a number of people in the accessibility community. Were quite active on on Twitter when that that accessibility team was around. But the minute the team left, or was asked to leave, hold, a lot of people left that platform specifically because of that, because it said it spoke about the reputation and the view of accessibility of that particular platform. And so they lost a lot of people because of that. So yeah, people pay attention to this stuff, especially people who live in this accessibility field. We don’t like seeing people ignored like that, or treated like that. And and we’ll walk we’ll leave if we have to.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  43:41

That’s very, very true. So this has been a phenomenal conversation. Sandy, like I said, I could talk to you for hours about this. But to wrap things up here.


Sandi Gauder  43:52



Matisse Hamel-Nelis  43:52

for PR professionals who are just starting in understanding web accessibility, what is that one piece of advice you would give them to get them going in the right direction?


Sandi Gauder  44:02

One piece of advice. Just start learning. Just start reading. Learn about how people with disabilities interact with the web. I think that’s that’s probably the best place to start. Because once you know how all our users interact, then you know what to pay attention to. Don’t read the guidelines. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody who doesn’t need to read them. But definitely go to the W3C and look at those videos because they are probably the best way to get an understanding of what accessibility is about and why we do what we do. And to remember that we are all currently able bodied. Not all but some of us we may be able bodied now. We’re all going to get old. We’re going art we’re going to get arthritis or hearings going to go or sites going to go, we might end up with tremors in our hands. So we’re all going to be impacted as we age. And so just remember, if you’re if you’re 25 Now, and perfectly healthy and can run a marathon, you may not be doing that for the rest of your life. So what you’re doing in the field of accessibility, you’re doing it for your future self. So it’s not just about everybody else. It’s also, you know, you’re doing it for yourself too, because you’re going to be that someday, I break the news, we all get old and something goes wrong.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  45:34

I love that we’re future proofing. That’s what we’re doing suitability to future proven. Exactly. Amazing. Well, Sandy, thank you so much for being on today’s episode. Before I let you go. I have one final question. This is PR & Lattes. So I have to ask, what is your favorite go to caffeinated beverage that gets you through the day?


Sandi Gauder  45:52

I am a simple girl. I like my coffee and I like it black.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  45:55

Love it. Love it. We’ve had so many guests that will say that and then they’re like, Is that weird that I like black coffee? I’m like, No. Easy, it’s great. Just pour the cup and you’re good to go.


Sandi Gauder  46:05



Matisse Hamel-Nelis  46:06

Amazing. Thank you so much, Sandi, again for being on today’s episode. If people want to contact you or follow you on social media, where can they find you? Well, they can find me on LinkedIn, Sandi Gauder, S-a-n-d-i G-a-u-d-e-r. That’s the only platform I live on. My company is CMS Web Solutions. And I’m also a member of AccessibilityConsulting.ca, we’re a collective of accessibility educators.



Perfect and we’ll make sure to have all those links in the description of the podcast as well. Thank you again, you have been fantastic. Thank you Matisse. It was it was wonderful. You’ve been listening to a special episode of the PR and lattes podcast. Make sure you stay up to date on all things are happening with PR & Lattes by visiting our website prandlattes.com. You can also follow us on social media @PRAndLattes on Instagram and PR & Lattes on LinkedIn. Thank you so much for listening to this special series in honour of Global Accessibility Awareness Day. We’ll have a new episode for you each day this week focused on a different aspect around digital accessibility and communications. So, make sure you’re following PR & Lattes, wherever you listen to your podcasts. I’ve been your host Matisse Hamel-Nelis. And I can’t wait to share our next episode with you with a brand new latte. Until then, bye for now.

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