Episode 25: Accessibility for All

Episode 25: Accessibility for All

 
 
00:00 / 36:33
 
1X

This episode is sponsored by Podium Education.
Alexa Heinrich (@HashtagHeyAlexa) joins Jon-Stephen and Joel to talk about accessibility on social media.

Episode 25: Accessibility for All

 
 
00:00 / 36:33
 
1X

This episode is sponsored by Podium Education.
Alexa Heinrich (@HashtagHeyAlexa) joins Jon-Stephen and Joel to talk about accessibility on social media.

Accessibility for All episode transcript

This episode is sponsored by Podium Education

Podium Education partners with colleges and universities to offer turnkey, tech skills programs delivered 100% online. Their coursework covers emerging technology areas like data analytics and web development – giving students from all majors the skills needed for a great career in the modern workforce.

If you’re interested in increasing enrollment and attracting top students – bring Silicon Valley to your campus with Podium Education. Learn more today at www.podiumeducation.com

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Welcome to the Thought Feeder podcast. I’m Jon-Stephen Stansel and with me as always is the fashionably bespectacled Joel Goodman. This week we have with us, the social media manager for St. Petersburg College and recent Sprout Social Always On award recipient, Alexa Heinrich. Thank you so much for being with us this week, Alexa.

Alexa Heinrich: Thank you for having me. I was very excited to be here.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: we’re, we’re thrilled to have you, and you know, you and I have talked a lot on Twitter back and forth a little bit, and you do just an amazing job educating others and being an advocate for the importance of accessibility on social media. And I think it’s such an important topic and one that, you know, we talk a lot about, but I also think we don’t talk about enough.

So, you know, just kind of start off with, you know, can social media managers be better advocates for accessibility in social media.

Alexa Heinrich: Well, I really think it’s a, a lead by example kind of deal. Like you have to implement these best practices in order to advocate for them. And I’m always very pro it’s not just the social media managers or the digital communicators. It’s a matter of you have to get your management on board, you have to get leadership on board, which I’m very lucky to have at my college.

My leadership is all about what I do. They were really excited when they heard that I had been, you know, asked to talk about this subject for the National Institute for Social Media, for different podcasts, and then I got the award, which kind of highlighted my accessibility work. So I’m lucky in that aspect because they make it a priority because I’ve made it a priority. Which is just huge, cause it makes it easier for me to do my job and educate other people at the college and beyond.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yeah. Oh and you know, that’s an interesting issue to touch on too, because I think w one thing I have noticed about being, you know, you being an advocate on social media is, you know, we make that sort of part of our job and that helps us do our job a little bit better in some ways when we are a little bit more vocal and we go out and do presentations and things like that.

So, can you address how that’s helped you a little bit in arguing for better accessibility at your university?

Alexa Heinrich: Sure, well, for one thing, when there are more people on board with accessibility, then I don’t have to put so many flyers on Instagram, which is always kind of a great thing, but it helps my colleagues, coworkers think about the content that they’re sending me a little bit better, and I actually get better content because of that. Because they’re like, Oh no, I know that’s not going to work because Alexa would have to do X, Y, and Z in order for it to work properly. Which is always great.

So they think about it a little bit more, and they’re more conscious of what I’m doing. So that’s helped immensely just in the past year, year and a half that I’ve been with this college. But I think just talking about it more and bringing more awareness around the subject helps the entire digital community a lot.

Cause I get people all the time now. They’re like, I didn’t think of this before you started shouting about out into the void. I’m like, that’s great. I’m glad that you’re thinking about it more. So it’s just, it’s really cool to see how it’s been embraced more by our community online.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yeah. I think especially for me kind of getting on board with accessibility is, and I think for a lot of people is, they don’t realize that it’s an issue. And once somebody is made aware of it, most people want to do the right thing, right? And they go, “Oh, okay. Well, I can add all text and that’s a simple thing I can do, to make my content accessible.” Add closed captions and things like that.

But bringing that awareness is something that is so important. Cause I don’t think, you know, one the general public isn’t aware of it. So obviously when I, when I bring it up to university leadership, you know, I’ve never been in a meeting where a VP has said, Oh no, we don’t want our content to be accessible.

So generally it’s that just bringing it up, bringing that topic to the table. but aside from that what do you see as the biggest roadblock to universities creating accessible social media content?

Alexa Heinrich: I just think bandwidth. I mean, you and I hear it all the time about, well, I’m a one-person team or there’s only two of us and we’re covering, you know, seven different schools within the university. And that’s just so hard.

I mean, I’m. I’m technically the only full-time person for my college, but I have a part-time — I hate calling her an assistant, but that’s her title. Um, I have a part-time person who she’s very pro-accessibility. Once I taught her about this, then my department’s very pro-accessibility. So I really think it’s bandwidth, but then just understanding the little things you can do. And the platforms themselves, aside from Twitter, now, don’t really stress accessibility or the, their accessibility features.

So I think Twitter’s done a really nice job in recent months of being more transparent about what you can do to be accessible. But then you have the other platforms that don’t, aren’t really doing that. Like Instagram posts pictures all the time and they don’t have alt text and it drives me bonkers. It’s again, it’s kind of that lead by example and what bigger example for social media accessibility would there be then the platforms themselves doing that? I think that would be a huge step in the right direction.

Joel Goodman: On the bandwidth side, sometimes I think a lot of institutions, this goes back to what leadership thinks is important and how, especially in higher ed at — well maybe not especially in higher ed, but definitely in higher ed -— everything’s an emergency everything’s urgent, everything has to happen right now. Where I think a lot of general bandwidth problems, whether it has to do with accessibility or, you know, other responsibilities that social media managers, web content people, designers, you know, anyone that’s working in the digital marketing space in higher ed, all they need to do is have leadership realize that you can take an extra five minutes to make sure that something is done the right way and it can have a profound impact on not just the final product it’s going out, you know, not just making sure that you’re including ALT text in images or that, you’ve burned captions in, or includes included closed captioning on YouTube videos or whatever else.

It’s that there’s this systemic thinking that starts to change in terms of, no, we don’t have to have this out now in five minutes. It’s not going to make that big of a difference. And in fact, in five minutes, it’s going to make a bigger impact because we’re affecting everyone that we can possibly reach and not, precluding some people. Or, I mean, honestly, like I’m harsh, but not harming some people, which I think it does come down to.

When you’re not paying attention to it. You’re, you’re harming someone else and that’s, that’s a very, it’s an important issue. And it, all it takes is a few extra minutes, five, ten then you may a little longer for captions, but also if you’re not doing captioning, you’re opening yourself up to some other issues right now.

Alexa Heinrich: Yeah. Plus the whole, everything is an emergency. Everything is a priority. Okay. Well, most of the timelines aren’t chronological anyway. So, unless you’re, you know, you’ve got it switched over on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and I don’t even know how LinkedIn’s algorithm actually works. That one is, it’s a mystery.

So, but yeah, those, those timelines aren’t chronological and it’s not feeding into anyone’s feed chronological. So yeah, it might be an emergency, but the algorithm is not going to agree with you. I mean, 65% of the global population relies on inclusive technology possibly. That’s, that’s a huge, that’s a huge number of people that you’re taking out of your messaging by not being accessible.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: And, you know, Joel saying it doesn’t take a huge amount of time. Time to do that, you know, an extra five minutes tops to add alt text, you know, if you’re, if you’re really getting detailed and nitty-gritty with it, but I mean, in general, like some of the, I’ve railed against like the statements that people put out on these long image, text statements, that one, you know, I don’t require accessible technology, but I have an incredibly difficult time reading on my phone. Two, I mean, it takes five minutes to cut and paste that text into, to the alt text or put it up on your website where everybody else can read it and it’s searchable like

Joel Goodman: You copied and pasted it into the graphic. I mean, copy and paste it into your alt text field.

Alexa Heinrich: Well, and the thing is, is that, I mean, most of the time when you see that stuff, it’s coming from these huge brands or these huge organizations or your major sporting teams, all of which normally have a PR and news section on their website. So what is the point of creating this graphic, if you’re not going to use the section on your website, that’s made for this type of thing?

So, I mean, when we do, Coronavirus updates — ugh Coronavirus — we have a graphic that just says, “COVID-19 Coronavirus Update,” and then I will have readable text where I either send them to our website, or I have a note on Facebook or I thread it on Twitter. Like a Twitter thread is not the end of the world. As long as someone can actually read that text. That’s the important part, especially for a public health update. So.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: And I think that’s where the advocacy part is so important of making people aware of this. Cause I think what happens, especially, my theory because generally, we’re seeing a lot of these statements come from sports teams. And what I think is happening is someone high up in that organization is seeing these sort of messages pop up on Twitter and going, Oh, that’s how it’s done. Going to their team communications team and saying, I need that, here’s my statement, put it in a graphic. And they have so much weight and power that, that team is afraid to push back and say, Hey, no, that’s not the best way to do it.

And they roll with it anyway, which leads to the snowball effect of more content like that, cause more and more people see it. So we need people like you Alexa, going out and saying, no, this is not how we do it. so I think that’s really important.

Alexa Heinrich: Yeah, I agree. And more people need to speak up against that type of stuff and be backed by their leadership. We have that at the college where, um, I’m not going to name the state department, but someone sent a toolkit to like all of the 28 Florida state colleges of, Hey, can you guys share this? But there was like no landing page to link to or anything. It was just a bunch of graphics. And I quite literally told my director, I’m not doing this. It’s not accessible. She’s like, That’s fine. She’s like, I don’t want you to compromise our values in order to put out a five-minute graphic that people probably won’t pay attention to. I was like, Oh, thank goodness.

So.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: That’s awesome to have that support because I do think there is a level of a lot of people who don’t have that, who get that order, Hey, publish this, infographic up on social. And maybe they push back and that person, you know, their supervisor’s unwilling to push back to their supervisor of, Hey, just make them happy, just post it and don’t think about it.

But like Joel says, you know, I said all of these bits of inaccessible content do damage.

Alexa Heinrich: Yeah, no, for sure. And it’s, it’s nice when you have leadership in your corner. So I’m, I’m lucky compared to a lot of our peers apparently, which is sad.

Joel Goodman: Is that support something that you’ve like consciously cultivated or was it naturally there?

Alexa Heinrich: So I came into the college last June (2019) and they kind of had the, I mean, the department overall, there’s like 25 of us and it’s a very tight-knit department and it’s very much, my director leads with, “you guys are the experts in your field,” which is great. And when I came in, I was kind of talking about the accessibility of certain things when I get sent flyers and they kind of, they kind of laughed about it a little bit. They were like, Oh, you’re, you’re way stricter than we were. I was like, yeah, but it’s a thing.

And then I just kept feeding them information and talking about it more. They’re like, Oh yeah, no, this is definitely a thing that we should care about a hundred percent, which is, which is awesome. So it was there. I just made it more of a priority.

The more I talk about it, plus it helps that like I have all these people now that want to listen to me yell about this. So they’re like, Oh, okay. It’s not just us. Got it. Okay. So yeah, but again, I have a, I have a great team of people that I work with. So it’s, it’s just nice to have that support.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yeah, definitely. That’s the support is just so important and that understanding of, of the importance of it and, and why we’re doing it. I’ve even argued a little bit that creating accessible content should be part of a social media manager’s job description. It needs to be included there. I’ve put it on my annual evaluation, so each year when I get, uh, we do our evaluations twice a year, that always comes up, like am I keeping our content accessible?

And I am, but I also want my providers to understand what I’m doing. Cause some of this behind the scenes content that they’re not aware of, needs to be brought to their attention.

Alexa Heinrich: Yeah, and I, I try really hard with like the volunteer social people at our different campuses to educate them on this stuff. And it helps when I frame it like, well, that’s not clickable, that’s not actionable. So you want to do it this way instead. Oh, by the way, it’s also accessible, if you do it this way.

So trying to find ways that it, they feel like it, it benefits what they’re doing, I guess.

But again, it comes down to you should just care about how people are experiencing your content. I shouldn’t have to guilt-trip anyone. And for the most part, the people that I work with at the campuses are really understanding about that. And they’re like, Oh yeah, no, that, that totally makes sense.

And you’re right. We should care about people, especially our students.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: it comes down to, you, you made a good point there about, yeah, this is not clickable or actionable, that, that accessible content is better for everyone. Not just those who need those assisted technologies. Like it becomes better. When I post something in a form that is accessible, it furthers our goals in better ways.

Even from a creation standpoint, there have been times when I’m writing alt text for an image and as I’m writing that description, I start to think to myself, well, maybe this isn’t the best image after all, and I’ll go back and change it. So it helps you be, become more intentional about what you post.

Alexa Heinrich: Yeah. I always say that one of the big reasons to be accessible is, I mean we’re marketers. So at the base, our goal is we want as many people as possible to see our message and engage with our message. So why wouldn’t you take that extra step to make sure that the other 65% of the population is seeing your message?

Joel Goodman: And that’s the thing that’s always bugged me is that for some reason making content accessible is seen as not related to the actual business goals of the organization. Marketing is about, like you said, getting as many people to engage and interact and, see your content as possible. And if you’re, excluding a whole group, because you’re not thinking about it, like that’s not accessibility being a chore. That’s, to be frank, you being a bad marketer. It’s you not knowing the core job function of what you’re doing.

And I don’t know, I don’t know what the fix is. Like. I think there’s definitely the education side of it. I think there’s kind of the slow burn of like what you’ve done with, you know, being more vocal about it. And I’ve, I’ve talked about that approach with a lot of other different marketing, verticals, channels, whatever.

And I think that that works. I mean, it’s very good, like bring everyone together and get people to buy-in from a central kind of standpoint. But I wonder at what point we’ve gotta, I don’t know. I wonder when the shoe drops, right? And it’s just like, someone says like, no, this is, this is central to marketing practice.

Like when you’re taking marketing courses in college or you’re, you know, you’re coming up through a job, like, are we waiting 10 years for enough people to be in leadership roles in marketing that they’re making that central to the job function? Like making accessibility a key cornerstone of what you do as a marketer?

I hope not. That’s a, that’s a long time away, like. It’s getting better, but I hope it’s getting better quick enough, you know?

Alexa Heinrich: Yeah. And I’m always, I mean, I kind of said it yesterday when I had a presentation on this. there are no laws around accessibility and social media right now. There are the WCAG guidelines for digital accessibility for websites. People like to reference the ADA, but that’s brick and mortar institutions and kind of dabbles with websites, but there are no laws for social media right now concerning accessibility. And I feel like that is going to change in the near future. Just because of our current situation and how everyone is suddenly very much online.

We’re relying on these technologies. Zoom had to kind of change on the fly of, Oh, we have, we have live captioning. We’re so sorry. so I really feel like in the next five years or so, we’re, we’re going to see some laws kind of try to make their way through the process of getting, actually being laws and effecting social media, which sadly, I think we definitely need it’s something to lean on, but I wish that people just had the thought of, well, I should just care about people. I don’t need a, I don’t need this law to tell me to care about people.

It’s like that picture that goes around. You should just care about people.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yeah, well, you know, you bring an interesting point up and you kind of touched on this a little bit earlier, with zoom changing and then Instagram not using their own accessibility features. one of the most difficult parts for me making our own social media accessible is that we’re often at the mercy of these platforms and too many platforms that accessibility isn’t seen as a priority or something that can come later. Like just ship the feature, accessibility can come later.

So a lot of times we want to use some of these new features, Instagram stories and reels, and the accessibility on TikTok isn’t all that great. We don’t want to be left behind on some of these platforms. So when, if ever, is it okay for, for, social media managers to use some of these new tools if they can’t make them fully accessible, because there’s no way to do that?

Alexa Heinrich: Yeah. I mean, there’s, there’s always the workarounds. Like, you know, when I talk about captioning with stories I always have, well, I use Clipomatic to caption my short videos cause it, records vertically. It’s great for stories. You record it square. I’m like there are workarounds, but there, there shouldn’t have to be workarounds.

I get really frustrated because the API for Instagram doesn’t allow third-party platforms to add the alt text. And I’m like, can you just change the API? Like I get it. You, you, Facebook wants you to use Creator Studio.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: We can do a whole episode on Creator Studio, Alexa.

Alexa Heinrich: Yeah, but it wants you to use its product where you can schedule posts and add the alt text now, which is, is wonderful, but I don’t want to use Creator Studio. It doesn’t work half the time. I want to use the platform that I pay for to manage my systems, which is Sprout Social. But again, Sprout can’t do anything because they can’t get through the API.

So, yeah, it’s, it’s again, a lot of this is reliant on the platforms actually saying, “Yes, okay. We’re going to value people over profit. Finally. Sorry about that.”

Jon-Stephen Stansel: It brings up the issue too, of how we use social media as individuals, you know, as marketers, we could, you put ALT text on everything and, and, you know, if our wish came true, every single brand would use ALT text and accessibility best practices, but individually people aren’t always doing that or are aware of that.

You know, I make an effort to kind of, you know, walk the walk, talk the talk of when I post something on my personal account, I try to make it accessible. But sometimes that’s not always feasible as an individual. Like, you know, if I’m, replying back and forth to you, Alexa, and I’ve got a GIF and my three-year-old is like bouncing up and down, like wanting my attention, I might just ship it without the alt text, you know?

Alexa Heinrich: Well, I, I, you know what, that’s fine because I, I tell people all the time, if I’m talking to someone one on one in a thread on Twitter, I’m probably not adding the alt text to my images, because I know if I know that that person doesn’t rely on it and I’m having, again, a one on one conversation, I probably don’t do it. But if I’m sending out content, that’s meant for hundreds, thousands of people, I am definitely doing it.

So yeah, I definitely take shortcuts with my own personal social, but that’s my prerogative to do. But again, if I’m sending something out to everyone, then yes, it has the ALT text, but one on one conversations I’m a little bit lenient with.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yeah. And I think that’s an important distinction to make too, not for the individual, but brands as well is that, the main thing is to make an effort. To do these things. You know, we’re not always going to be perfect. I think sometimes my alt text image descriptions aren’t written, you know, really well, but that, you know, something is better than nothing, sometimes. Like we’re making an effort and we’re, we’re trying to do better. And I think anybody who’s listening to this who is wondering about accessibility is like, just, just start, just, just start making the effort.

Alexa Heinrich: Yeah. And that’s, that’s my big thing is the goal is progress. You’re never going to be perfect. I’m never going to be perfect at it. I have full not full, but I have, you know, use of my sight. I don’t rely on this stuff, so I’m never going to be a hundred percent good at it because I don’t rely on it. So I don’t know, you know, is this good alt text? Like, I can’t tell you really. To me yes.

But, uh, yeah, I think any effort is better than no effort at all, which is again, kind of what I stress because my thing is awareness and education. I try to educate others that way. I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re being shamed by the information that I’m putting out there, which is why if I see a brand do something I’m always polite, and I direct response. I don’t put them on blast. I don’t retweet them into the timeline of like, look what this brand happened to do with all these emojis. So I try really hard not to do that. Cause I don’t think that works. People are resentful of that type of strategy, so to speak. So again, awareness, education. A lot of people just don’t know how to do this stuff.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yeah definitely. And, you know, you kind of bring it to a point too, of we ourselves don’t require some of these assistive technologies. but how can we better, bring those who do require them to the conversation of improving our accessibility? Do you do any sort of, getting feedback from those who are using assistive technologies at all, or are aware of any universities that are doing that?

Alexa Heinrich: So, actually, I’m not going to name the team, but there is an MLB team where someone who works for them is very much involved in their accessibility, best practices. And she is blind and she actually sent me a message last week, saying how much she appreciated what I was doing. And she thought it was really great initiative and she was happy to see me doing it.

And it was just really touching because it was the first time I’d actually had someone who relies on these best practices (dog barks)

Sorry.

Someone knocked on the door, give her a second. She’s old, she’ll wear herself out. Okay. I think she’s done. (dog barks again) She wears herself out really fast. She’s like 11.

But anyway, it was the first time I’d had someone who relies on these accessibility best practices reach out and say, yes, what you’re doing is making a difference.

And that meant a lot to me. And just kind of reaffirms, like, yes, we’re heading in the right direction. We need to keep doing this. I need to keep shouting about this loudly for other people to understand. For the people in the back to hear and we’ve kind of talked about, how we can work together to make this more of a thing within our community.

So that’s, that’s really exciting to me because I have been, I asked before, like if you were brought on to any of the major social media platforms, what would you immediately do? I was like, I would make accessibility teams that are made of people who rely on this, who need this, who understand why this is important.

I don’t want those teams to look like me. Because I don’t need this stuff. I shouldn’t, I shouldn’t be the person that people are like, Oh yeah, she’s the expert. I’m an expert. There are people who are way more involved in this world than I am.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Definitely. I think it’s important to kind of always remember and kind of keep in the back of our minds. But again, it’s not something that we can, you know, we can make that effort to do, but, you know, It’s not feasible for every single post to run through somebody, you know, and that person would need to be on the payroll too. We can’t just rely on volunteer work, or ask people to do volunteer work, to, to do this for us.

So it’s an important thing to consider, but from time to time getting that feedback from those who do use those accessible technologies is really valuable and a good major step in helping us improve.

Alexa Heinrich: Yeah. I always put the caveat in when I like write about accessibility for digital spaces of I’m writing it from the standpoint of an advocate, an ally, a marketer. Please do not assume that what I write about ALT text is a hundred percent correct. I am doing my educated best to give good guidelines for people who are trying to start doing this.

My, my stuff is really the basic of the basic, and this is the beginner stuff, the technical stuff. So I am not the expert.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Well, I, you, you are, you’re a prominent expert, we’ll say that. So that said, from talking about the basic of the basics, so, let’s say some to somebody who’s listening to this who wants that’s to get started and get on board with making their social media more accessible? What, what steps can they take right now to start making, making their social media accessible?

Alexa Heinrich: Sure. So I have, four basic areas. One is copywriting. So putting your hashtags in camel case, which everyone’s always like, what is camel case? If it’s a compound word, then you capitalize the first letter of each of those words. So camel case would have that capital C and another capital C, pretty straightforward, so that screen readers can understand, Oh, it’s multiple words.

Emojis, icons, being considerate about how you use them. Because emojis all have descriptive information. So you shouldn’t be putting emojis in the middle of content. You shouldn’t be overloading your content with emojis. I know people really like, like emoji illustrations, but they’re just small nightmares for screen readers.

Then obviously adding ALT text to your images is a huge part of accessibility for digital spaces. That is like, I could go on and on about ALT text and why it’s important, how to write it, and all the different aspects of what makes good ALT text.

And then, um, captioning your videos. Whether it has closed captioning, open captioning, I don’t care, but it should have captioning in there either as an option or you are forced to read it.

So those are kind of the four big areas of copywriting, emojis and icons, images, and videos.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: And, and, you know, the bottom line of all of these: none of these is expensive to do like And nothing that, with the exception of captions and transcriptions, are really all that time-consuming. Like, you know, you can camel case your hashtags right now. That’s not a big deal. You can add alt text that takes an extra 30 seconds or a minute to do so like right away, you can instantly start seeing results and being more accessible in your social media.

Alexa Heinrich: Yeah, especially cause I mean, even with captioning, if you upload a video to YouTube, YouTube is going to do its best to auto caption it and then you can go in and edit those auto-captions. So, which is something that I do all the time and I’m pretty fast at it, at this point. So I, I feel like people always think they have to start from scratch when it comes to captioning. I’m like, no YouTube will help you and YouTube will help you for free, which is great.

I mean, a lot of it is just like those emoji illustrations. How much time did you take to do that? We talk about time being a commodity with social. I’m just like, that’s a lot, that’s a lot, a lot. Same thing with the fancy fonts for Instagram, you had to go to a separate website to generate that text. So what, what are you talking about when you mean, Oh, I don’t have the time? Time for what?

Jon-Stephen Stansel: That’s a mic drop moment right there. Uh, let’s talk about that for just a second, because we see it all the time, whether the, you know, the emoji illustrations or the kind of text-based illustrations that are like the little cat holding a sign or something like that.

Alexa Heinrich: The ASCII?

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yeah. I think we see it, but I don’t think people understand the impact that has on a screen reader. Can you describe that a little bit?

Alexa Heinrich: I saw a tweet from a, a major brand and it had, Oh, gosh, probably somewhere around like 25 cheese wedge emojis and a bunch of little people icons. They were trying to like do a graph of how much people like cheese and it, it sounded terrible. And what would take me about five seconds to comprehend took my screen reader about 30 seconds to run through. I mean, thankfully when you have the same emoji, it just goes 10 cheese emoji. But what does that mean? Like if you’re just listening to this and you can’t see the content, what is 10 cheese emoji translate to you? So.

Joel Goodman: That’s a lot of cheese.

Alexa Heinrich: Yeah, it’s a lotta cheese. People really like cheese, but yeah, it was like emoji, baby, a straight line, 10 cheese wedge. I’m like, this sounds like someone just threw a bunch of like icons and characters and like yeah. Send tweet. This makes sense!

Jon-Stephen Stansel: It’s like Dadaist poetry.

Alexa Heinrich: Yes. Yes. That’s. Yeah. If, if, uh, Jackson Pollock was a social media manager, this is what he’d be throwing out there.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yeah. but two, you’ve made a good point that accessibility isn’t always like the fun police. Like we, we can do the, still do these things. Like you can have those illustrations as an image with alt text rather than text-based in your tweet. Just because it’s not accessible doesn’t mean you have to skip out on the fun stuff and you don’t get to, to play in, in the meme that’s popular that day, but.

We just need to be cognizant of how can we do this in a way that is accessible. And if more people start doing it, it becomes the norm.

Joel Goodman: If anything you’re being fun for more people than you were before, you know?

Alexa Heinrich: Exactly. There was a woman who, she, she does use a screen reader. I wish I had saved the tweet where she had an example of a tweet she had seen. And it was, there was something in the middle of this giant block of emojis and all the emojis for different people, emojis with different skin tones. And for anyone listening, who doesn’t know this, every emoji does have its own description, but then when you change the skin tone, that adds an extra layer to the description. So it could be baby light skin tone, baby medium-light skin tone.

So. She had her screen reader read it, and she had her screen reader set to a very fast speed. So it really ran through it, but it was still like obnoxiously long to listen to this tweet of this giant emoji illustration. And she, she said, or you could just do it like this and then screenshot that emoji illustration and added ALT text to the screenshot and tweeted it out. I was like, yeah, that’s all you really need to do.

I’ve had people push back, like, well, I like ASCII art and I like emoji art. I’m like, that’s great for you. Good. I’m glad you like it. But other people can’t understand what it means because it doesn’t make any sense.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: And it’s not, you know, sometimes it’s not about what we like, you know? As a marketer, I’m not creating for my art, just because I like it doesn’t mean anything. Right. Um, it doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do it. My personal preference and personal taste should not always enter into it. Sometimes, sometimes you know? I have very strong tastes, but,

Alexa Heinrich: Well, it’d be like me saying that. Okay. I work for, I work for a public college. Um, we are taxpayer-funded. It would be like me saying, well, I’m not going to recognize this particular group of politicians that have supported the college because I don’t like them. I don’t get to do that. I, I am unbiased when it comes to the content that I put out for the college.

So you kind of have to make the same approach when it comes to accessibility.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Alexa thank you so much for being with us this week. We really appreciate it. And do you have any, any plugs where can people find you, find your work, uh, learn more about you?

Alexa Heinrich: Sure. I can always be found on Twitter as @HashtagHeyAlexa. That is literally the word hashtag, Hey Alexa, don’t try and put the pound sign in there. And my website is therealalexa.com. Yes, I am throwing shade at my stolen name.

Joel Goodman: OG Alexa.

Alexa Heinrich: I thought about making it that. But, uh, I am always down to talk about accessibility for digital spaces, especially social media. So I love chatting about that. So anyone can find me online just about 24/7.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Excellent. Thank you so much.

Joel Goodman: Thought Feeder would like to thank Podium Education for sponsoring this episode of the show.

Podium Education partners with colleges and universities to offer turnkey tech skills programs delivered 100% online. Their coursework covers emerging technology areas like data analytics and web development, giving students from all majors, the skills needed for a great career in the modern workforce. If you’re interested in increasing enrollment and attracting top students, bring Silicon Valley to your campus with Podium Education. You can learn more about Podium at podiumeducation.com.

And if you like listening to the Thought Feeder podcast, we would appreciate a review or rating on Apple Podcasts. We would appreciate a follow on Spotify, but you can also subscribe and listen to us on every podcast platform imaginable. If you find one we’re not on, let me know and I will, I will fix it. Because we should be on all of them. And you can always find us on Twitter, @ThoughtFeedPod, find our previous episodes and transcripts of every episode that we have at thoughtfeederpod.com.

Once again, we want to thank Alexa Heinrich for being on the show and for having such a great conversation with us. Thanks so much, Alexa.

Alexa Heinrich: Thank you have a good one.

Joel Goodman: Thought Feeder is a production of University Insight.


This episode is sponsored by Podium Education

Podium Education

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