Episode 6: Crafting a Culture of Accessibility

Episode 6: Crafting a Culture of Accessibility
Season 1

 
 
00:00 / 41:34
 
1X

Joel and J.S. are joined by accessibility advocate Erika Boltz to talk about how higher education can build accessibility into social media and web content processes by creating a culture of inclusivity. Insights on this episode of Thought Feeder cover working with university leadership, dealing with technology platforms, and keeping the focus on your audience’s needs.

Episode 6: Crafting a Culture of Accessibility
Season 1

 
 
00:00 / 41:34
 
1X

Joel and J.S. are joined by accessibility advocate Erika Boltz to talk about how higher education can build accessibility into social media and web content processes by creating a culture of inclusivity. Insights on this episode of Thought Feeder cover working with university leadership, dealing with technology platforms, and keeping the focus on your audience’s needs.

Erika Boltz is a communicator, ally, and activist living with a disability in Jacksonville, Florida. She has spent the last nine years working toward more inclusive content and communications in higher education spaces.

Episode Transcript

Erika Boltz  
UF. They’re the Gators, right? That emoji is a crocodile. 

Joel Goodman  
That’s bad marketing.

Jon-Stephen Stansel  
Welcome to Thought Feeder. Today we’re here with Erika Boltz who is the go-to person for accessibility in higher ed. If you’ve seen her presentations at HighEdWeb and followed her on Twitter, you know that she probably knows more about accessibility than anyone else out there right now. So we’ll go ahead and welcome her to the podcast. Erika, thank you for being here. And look, why don’t we start off a little bit about just a quick overview of accessibility and inclusivity on the web, and how higher ed is doing in this field and what challenges we still have to overcome.

EB  
Thanks, J.S. Thanks for having me. Hello, everyone. Um, yeah, so. 

The state of accessibility and higher ed is constantly changing. I started doing this work maybe about twoish, almost three years ago now, when I was working at Virginia Commonwealth University, and that was definitely more of a reactive situation. So when talking about accessibility, I like to talk about doing work that is more proactive versus reactive. A lot of this movement has been around lawsuits, which is something I would prefer not to get into. But we want to try to be proactive. So if you have not had the experience of going through that legal situation and trying to become compliant, I definitely recommend looking into some of these things that you can do to remove barriers to your content before you get into any sticky situations. So I think the state of it currently it’s definitely better than it was. A lot of people are starting to be a little bit more aware of the content they’re putting out. 

The two biggest things that I think are more of the benchmarking things that people look for when they’re talking about accessibility is captioning on videos, I’m definitely seeing that improve. It kind of, I would say, it depends by platform. Captioning options are definitely varying across the different social media platforms. So if they have it built in, people are tending to use it more. But if they have to do some other step, people aren’t always taking that initiative to go and do that. 

And so then the second thing for those big two are would be including an image description or alt text. People use those two terms interchangeably, they technically do not mean the same thing. But what that’s referring to is essentially a description or information about whatever image it is that you’re sharing. So you may have noticed that right now, especially with all of the things going on around the pandemic, and people trying to communicate things, they’re thinking people aren’t reading their emails. Instead, they are posting screenshots of those messages on social media platforms. I know that is something that we all have feelings about. But if you are doing that, you really have to make sure that all that text is actually transcribed into a place where assistive technology can access it. So that might be the image description or alt text field. So most of the platforms now actually do have those built in which is super helpful. Instagram has it, Facebook is maybe the most difficult as far as adding it when you’re posting. Twitter also has it but you have to turn it on the setting. So all these things are different per platform. So I think some of that barrier is a learning curve of figuring out “which box do I have to check?” Where do I have to go to enter this thing because that piece of actually filling out the information isn’t uniform.

JG  
Twitter actually limits their character count like super low. So if you are, for instance, doing something terrible like taking a screenshot of a letter, and that letter has 300 words in it, that alt text or description field on Twitter is not going to help you much because it’s going to limit it. So don’t do that. Just link to a webpage that, you know, assistive technologies can actually read well.

J.S.
And this also kind of touches upon an issue that I feel strongly about with accessibility is: accessible content is better content in general, for everyone. 

EB  
Definitely. 

J.S.  
So posting a screencap of a letter is bad content so it’s not just impossible for screen readers to read and when I’m reading it on my cell phone, it’s really difficult to read.

EB  
Well it’s usually pixelated, right? Because it’s a screenshot. So.

J.S.  
Exactly. So you know, take the time. It’s not like I’m, you know, a socialite influencer celebrity that doesn’t have access to a website and able to update it myself. We have a university web page where we can get on and put that content in an accessible way before we share it to social media and then share it in a way that is productive.

EB  
Right. Absolutely. So thinking about places where assistive technology can access that information. So your two places, when you’re posting, would be the actual copy of the post. So, for example, this kind of also refers to one of the bigger issues of people posting flyers on social media, right? So that’s also a big one. You want to make sure you’re transcribing all that information. But what you want to look for is you may not copy it verbatim in the copy but you’re going to include information like, this is what the event is, this is what time it is, this is when it is — you know the basic information. And if you don’t want to include it there because you feel like you’re repeating yourself, put it in that alt text or image description field.

J.S.  
Exactly. We could spend an entire podcast of just all of us railing against flyers on social media. That’s one of my ultimate pet peeves.

EB  
Absolutely. Some other barriers — those are definitely the two big ones, would be captioning and including that image description. But I’d say one of the biggest barriers for social media managers would be time. I think that’s why people aren’t doing it. So time and also budget. So some of these tools, as I mentioned, some things are integrated into the platforms, but things like captioning, you might need to use another tool to do burned captions or something like that. And I know a lot of people are working with little to no budget. So having access to those third-party tools is another barrier. So we have barriers for the actual people creating the content and then also the barriers from the platform.

JG  
Even for this podcast. We we use third-party software to do our transcribing, which, you know, a lot of times is fine. Like the transcripts, the automatic transcriptions that come out are okay, but it does actually require a fair amount of time to go through and make sure that what is in the transcription is accurate. And that’s, you know, we don’t actually have to match that up with our audio because, you know, usually someone’s going to be doing one or the other. And if they’re doing both, they’re going to either be primarily hearing it and then just reading along or primarily reading it, so it doesn’t matter as much to match it to audio at all. But with video, you actually do need to match your captioning to what’s there. And so it does take a lot of time. 

And we’ve talked about on this show, just how, you know stretched thin most people that do this kind of work in higher ed are anyway. They have a lot of demands on their time. They’ve got a lot of things that they’re expected to do. And if the tasks around creating video media more accessible, and more inclusive, and I mean, same with photos of, screenshots of whatever is text — which you should never do anyway — those are time sucks. And if you don’t have leadership that takes those seriously as a central tenant to how you produce media and how you produce the work that you’re doing online, that’s a bad thing. Like, you can’t really find the justification to spend the time there, even if you know it’s the right thing to do. And even if you really are passionate about it, so, yeah. 

And that’s the whole theme of this show! Like, how do we figure out and how do we improve building a culture of accessibility in college and university marketing offices and organizational units so that it’s not an afterthought. So it’s not something that we’re doing just to avoid a lawsuit. So it’s something that we’re doing that is of service to the people that we interact with that — you know, if higher education’S mission really is to teach and educate anyone and everyone, you can’t be excluding people because they can’t see or they can’t hear or they have to access your media in another way. So let’s be better 

EB  
Let’s be better! For sure.

And for me, I mean, just having sensory disabilities like being blind or having low vision or being deaf or hard of hearing, you know, there are other things that this enhances. So J.S. mentioned accessible content is better content for everyone. So I have ADHD, and I need captions to be able to be engaged with your video. If it’s just a video of someone talking at me? Of course, we know talking head videos maybe aren’t the best choice for content, but when it’s a video of someone talking, I need to hear it and also read along with it to keep me more engaged and students really appreciate that as well. 3Play Media has some great white papers around higher education statistics around accessibility if you do need those numbers to kind of push leadership to invest and realize how important this is. That’s a good place to check out for that information. But I think it’s like 96% of students prefer to watch video with captions. That’s huge. 

JG  
I do. 

EB  
Yeah.

J.S.  
Yeah, exactly. You know, how often are we in a situation where we cannot watch a video with the sound on?

EB  
Exactly! 

J.S.  
And, we need the captions, even without accessibility issues being a factor. If we want people to watch our videos putting that in there, not only is it accessible, it’s better for everyone. So that kind of leads us to this question. We’re talking about creating that culture of accessibility on our campuses. While we can take control and make sure that the content that we oversee is accessible, there are so many other outlets on university campuses where those overseeing the content are either unaware of accessibility issues or sadly unconcerned about that.

EB  
Right. 

J.S.  
So how do we create that culture and get everybody on board with creating accessibility on the web and social media?

EB  
Right. So that is probably the biggest barrier. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people — it’s extremely harmful, but — having people come back at me with like, “you mean, I have to take all this time to do this one thing for one person?” And it’s like you don’t, you don’t know. Right? And as we just mentioned, there are other things that it helps with besides that, maybe, one person in your audience that is blind or low vision, deaf, hard of hearing. So for me, it definitely is that people piece. I am an empath. I like helping people. I think it’s important for anyone and everyone to access this content. So it comes down to equal access for me. And I think in higher education, you know, that is huge. We look at creating open source content and having things that are available for everyone. So thinking about, “This is for everyone.” 

But also, you know, thinking about your audiences, right? I think that for a lot of people, they’re always thinking about, okay, these are what my target audiences, you know, on and on like that. You’re missing a huge audience by not providing accessible content. So if that’s the lens that you need to kind of shift things is, oh, well, I’m not being effective, I’m not having the best return on investment for creating my project. And I think thinking about creating this culture, you do need to be more proactive, you need to be thinking about what barriers may come up when you are actually creating your content. 

My presentation I did for HighEdWeb this past year [note: only available for HighEdWeb members] — it’s actually on YouTube if you want to watch it — but I kind of was thinking about the process and how you need to think about it ahead of time because when I was first creating accessible content and figuring that out, there wasn’t really a lot of information out there about it. So it was a lot more hacking your way through it, right? So we would be like, “Oh my gosh, we have to create this Instagram story with the VCU Police.” So we’re going to go down and we’re going to record this video and we have to do it in the next three hours. Everyone in Social, it seems everything is an emergency sometimes. And you’re on this super time crunch, right? So if you kind of slow down and take your time… so for example, that VCU Police Instagram story, we went, we recorded it, we started to upload it and then we’re like, oh my god, we can’t have captions on Instagram Stories unless we burn them or have them open, burned or open captions is what that’s called. You have to actually embed it, make it one with the video. So that’s actually not accessible to assistive technology if there was someone that had a combination of sensory disabilities. So you kinda have to sit here and like, talk things through. If I do this, this is what the outcome is, and figuring out what’s going to be the best solution. So when we create this Instagram Story, we just put it up on Instagram, at that time we actually didn’t take the time to put the burned captions on there, which, you know, in retrospect, yeah, not a great idea. So instead, what we did was we took all those videos that were in the different slides, it was like six fifteen-second slides and whatnot for the Instagram story. We put it all into one video, and we threw it up on YouTube. And we had YouTube auto caption it, we went through, we corrected the captions. And that account was big enough that we had the Swipe Up link. So we were able to link to that captioned YouTube video and you know, for an accessible version go here. I think, you know, if we had taken the time and slow down, we definitely could have used a tool to add those burned captions. But you end up creating more work for yourself when you’re not thinking about it in the beginning. 

J.S.  
Right. And that brings up the question — in one of the things I run up against with trying to be as accessible as possible with the content that we create at my university is, a lot of times we’re at the mercy of the platforms, you know? You mentioned that they’re all different and a lot of times accessibility features are one of the last features that get added to new tech or new apps. You know, Instagram finally added an alt text feature and it’s buried. It’s hard to…

EB  
Very hidden light gray text.

J.S.  
Twitter just added alt text for GIFs. And then as new platforms emerge, you know, Instagram Stories are very hard to make accessible. How do we balance being innovative with new platforms while maintaining accessibility?

EB  
Right. So when I first started getting into this, Instagram hadn’t added alt text at all. We actually included image descriptions in brackets at the end of our copy on every single post. That was our “accepted solution” with our OCR lawyer. Some people actually still do that, but from a user perspective of people that use assistive technology, I am not a person that uses it daily to access content. I’ve heard various things that it’s not as, I guess, seamless when people are accessing content, putting it in the caption rather than using the actual field that it’s for. 

What’s really helpful, I think, is that everyone has a screen reader built into their personal devices. So iPhone has a screen reader built-in called VoiceOver, you can turn it on using Siri to check your content. And I think that’s really important. Using these new platforms is — you should do some testing yourself. 

JG  
Right. 

EB  
I always tell people, you want to test it yourself. And yes, it will be a lot harder for you to use, especially now that iPhones have removed the Home button. I found it was a lot easier to use VoiceOver when that home button was still there. But I use Siri generally to turn it on and off to actually check what a thing sounds like. So that way I know, okay, this is the information that’s missing that I need people to know and I can try to find a way to make it work. And sometimes it does just take trial and error. But once you figure out, okay, this is what works for this platform, then you can build that into your workflow, right? 

So I know a lot of us create templates to make things go faster, you know? You need to create your, I guess, template for creating accessible content. So right now I’m thinking about new platforms, Instagram has added it for timeline posts, the alt text, the Stories are not accessible to assistive tech. So think about if that’s the only… you don’t want to only communicate a thing on a platform that is not accessible. So you want to have it in multiple places. Of course, you know, your users have different preferences for the platforms that they use. Some people may be more Facebook users, more Instagram users, or Twitter users. So making sure that that content, you have an accessible version somewhere and that you’re providing that and letting people know where they can go to find it. So Instagram Stories: super not accessible. TikTok, of course, everyone is super into TikTok right now. Um, TikTok has its own issues even for me as a sighted person. The way that their captions come up on their videos, a lot of times people put that text on the actual video. It’s like someone standing there like pointing to all the different text that’s on the screen, but their description is covering up half the text on the screen, there’s no captions, there’s people talking, and there’s songs playing. So, TikTok is kind of an accessibility nightmare. 

So try to think through how you could solve some of those issues. And again, there are a lot of people trying to figure this stuff out. So I personally do not use TikTok for work, and I really just watch them for personal entertainment. So that’s not really a thing I’ve tried to tackle, but for things like you know, Instagram stories I just mentioned, if you have the swipe up capability linking off to an accessible version, even on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, you have control over your own website, you can make an accessible version link people to that. So there are options and depending on the platforms, especially with the new ones, you may kind of have to hack your way through it.

JG  
The moral of the story is that all these corporations are really bad at implementing accessibility as well.

EB  
Yes. Absolutely. A lot of people have no idea what they’re doing.

J.S.  
And to bounce off that point is, all of these accessibility issues. It does requires a lot of thought, a lot of knowledge of how best to work it. And to me, it’s one of those details that separates a good professional social media manager from an amateur one or someone who just goes, oh, I’ve got Facebook, I can be a Social Media Manager too, you know? But also, I think it’s very important in creating that culture of accessibility on our campuses that people know what you’re doing because the average… 

Right. Well, the average user or the average, you know, your supervisor may not know that you’re going in and adding alt text to every single Instagram image. And that sort of thing. One thing I’ve asked you and I always put it on my, my evaluation is, bring up what the work we’re doing on accessibility is and why we’re doing it. So it’s written down as I’m advocating to make it part of my job description. So I want my boss in my office asking me, “why weren’t there alt texts on that image?” if I slip up and forget.

EB  
And why you’re doing it! 

JG  
Think about how long web folks had to support really old versions of Internet Explorer and it was crucial in the eyes of leadership that this, you know, 1.6% of our visitors that still use Internet Explorer 7 or Internet Explorer 6, were able to access our websites. And now — not as often, nearly, do they put any attention on accessibility and making sure that you know, we’re spending the right amount of time focusing on how to make sure, like our images have alt text, or figcaptions, or making sure that charts that get put on webpages actually have descriptions of what’s in the data, you know, or that the underlying code of the website, I mean, they wouldn’t know anyway, but you have your proper ARIA labels and everything else. It’s interesting, I don’t know, I could guess at what the what the societal reasons for this mode of thinking are, but I don’t know if this is the right show to talk about that. 

[everyone laughs]

But, you know, why would you spend so much time making sure that 1.6% of a population that had a choice to use a poor browser, that had bad, you know, just bad rendering of webpages and make that the hill you’re gonna die on and then completely ignore a swath of people that actually want to access your content and want to read it and learn from what you’re doing and just completely disregard them. I don’t know.

EB  
Yeah. And thinking about people using older tech, a lot of people have, some people have government-issued screen readers, right? They have government-issued assistive tech. So that’s going to interact with things potentially differently than VoiceOver on your cell phone, or TalkBack, which is the Android version if you have Android. But I know when I was at VCU, the library actually had a computer set up that had JAWS on it, which is one of the more common screen readers that people use. So thinking about testing it yourself, I would reach out to your librarian. Your librarians on campus know all of the things and I know right now, of course, we’re all at home so we may not be able to access that library computer that has that installed on it. But I always tell people, make good friends with your University librarians they’re full of so many, so many resources. 

J.S.  
Shout out to libraries. 

EB  
Shout out to librarians everywhere. Yes. But yeah, there’s different versions of things that people are accessing your stuff with. So test it on as many things as possible.

J.S.  
We should be doing accessibility just because it’s the right thing to do anyway, but you did mention there are legal issues involved and requirements that we must fulfill. And earlier you mentioned that you talked to your OCR attorney about your Instagram captions. Now, we know that there are there are certain regulations as far as our webpage and what we’ve got to do as far as accessibility there, legally. But has that really extended much into the area of social media? Or is that legislation coming down…

EB  
[sighs] So…

J.S.  
…down the tubes, you know, what, what should we be doing? What should we expect from on social media?

EB  
Right, so right now we know we have WCAG, the Web Accessibility Content Guidelines. Those were recently updated. As far as formal information from the government around social media accessibility, it super does not exist. There is a toolkit I think it was called DigiGov. I want to say they’ve changed the name of it now, because the last time I tried to look it up it did pull it up and it had different name on it. A lot of the recommendations on those websites are also super outdated. So I don’t really know what’s going on with the government right now. But there aren’t people allocating resources to updating that. It seems that that website has an option for people to submit things, which is interesting as well. So they’re kind of trying to crowdsource this. 

There are a lot of really great disability rights activists as well as people that live with disabilities that are providing guidelines around this and I think that also thinking about that human element — it’s really important that we involve the people that live with these challenges and barriers to our content every day. They can provide a lot of insight on how they’re using things and what they need and what their needs are. I think it’s super important to include those people in the conversation. 

And I will say, I have seen people doing some things that are super not okay on their campus trying to reach out to people that live with disabilities, and trying to get them to do labor for free to benefit them. So just think about the ethical vibes around that. You don’t want to ask people to do this thing for you, because you need it so bad. There’s a lot of research you can do yourself, and that are more firmed up guidelines. I mentioned 3Play Media is pretty great. They have free webinars all the time, too. That will provide some insight around that. But as far as like hard and fast, this is definitely what you need to do. That information is not as available as it should be. And of course, we know the government is very slow at things especially people that do web stuff, and they know It took a very long time for the WCAG guidelines to get updated.

J.S.  
So accessibility for university accounts is one thing, but when it comes to personal accounts, I don’t think it’s something a lot of people really consider. And this can be especially problematic as university leaders start to use social media as representatives for their institution. How do we get leadership to pay attention to accessibility on their personal accounts? I know I’m not really comfortable, you know, marching into the president’s office and saying, hey, you didn’t add alt text, Mr. President, on that last Instagram post. We need you to do that. How do we get University leadership involved on their own accounts?

EB  
Sure. So of course, people have different relationships with their leadership on campus. Some leadership is much more open to having that kind of conversation and some of them maybe are going to be more reactive when that lawsuit comes in. So again, I mentioned being proactive, we want to try to work on that. Before OCR comes knocking. But I would say with leadership in accessibility in general and creating that culture of accessibility, there is that education piece. So I know a lot more university presidents are starting to operate their own accounts. I know some are still being kind of more ghost written by another person. So if they are actually operating their social media, I would probably connect with their team first. They probably have some folks working with them to write things for them. I know I worked pretty closely with the person who worked with the president at VCU. So we were able to get that on board a lot quicker, because I had that relationship and conversation with some people on his team. 

So we want to of course, not be waiting for something awful to come in. I think that this is really hard. Honestly, it’s, it’s really hard. I mentioned the key about reaching all of your audience, I know a lot of times I’ll hear people going on. I think, [sigh] I think that university presidents sometimes have a different view of what’s going on on social more so than the people that are operating it day to day, right? That’s definitely something we can all agree on. So I think it really is that education piece of kind of bringing people into what those concerns are and how we can be more inclusive and how can we better connect with the community, right? So that’s the goal of leadership, being on social and operating their own social is to be more available to connect more. And I think that to really solidify that connection and create a better community and relationship between leadership and the community on campus. Thinking about what are the things you can do to make sure you are connecting with everyone? Accessibility being something that makes that a lot more possible. I think that that’s a great thing to really look at when thinking about strengthening that connection. I personally have not worked with leadership in that regard. But I think that getting leadership buy-in is something that everyone has challenges with.

J.S.  
Yeah, I definitely agree. I think having that conversation and getting them on board, it’s important for them to have their accounts accessible. But even more than that, making them aware of it. And understanding that it is an issue can help you create that culture on campus as well. So I, you know, I think a lot of university presidents have no idea, but that’s something that even needs to be done. And I’ll admit it for early stages of my career in social media, I assumed it was just something that it just magically happened a little bit, you know, like…

EB  
Right! Some people really just don’t know and especially alt text or image descriptions. That’s not something as a sighted person, not using assistive assistive technology, have no idea if it’s there or not, unless you’re going to look for it.

J.S.  
I think that’s also where that education comes in. Right? Most people are not aware of it. And once they do become aware of it, everybody hopefully sees the importance of it. Yes, it is willing to learn it and we need to be forgiving of when people make mistakes and things are not exactly there. And one thing I like to say is, rather than call out, invite in.

EB  
Yes, absolutely.

JG  
So Erika, what are your thoughts on how we specifically can start to kind of foster a community and a culture of accessible thinking in higher ed institutions? Like, is that something that’s kind of top down? Do we need to start from the bottom up? Do we need to just be more vocal about it with the people that we interact with? What do you think are some practical things that folks who are running social media for universities, are writing web content, are coding or designing websites and different web properties, what are some of the practical things that they can do to start kind of thinking in this way of “accessibility and inclusivity needs to be central to the work they do.” And then also, how can they kind of spread that message around and get more people on board and thinking in that way?

EB  
Sure. So I think education, like J.S. just mentioned, I thought, that’s a thing that just happened. That may be the case for a lot of people and you know, it’s not necessarily anyone’s fault. That’s just something that they never either had brought to their attention, were educated on, were provided that information. So I think telling everyone you know, when you see something maybe isn’t accessible, call them, call them in don’t call them out, you know, how you approach that conversation, I think, will have a big deal on the results and impact of what comes out of that conversation. Um, I have a nice reputation of the “no fun police.” You know, I have been known to shut people down. Like, I’m sorry, yes, that sounds super great, but, you know, someone may enjoy *seeing* that thing, but right now there is no way to make that thing accessible. Or thinking about, you know, thinking about removing barriers offering some kind of comparable, similar, you know, you want to have the same experience available for everybody. And of course, some visual content may not be able to be replicated exactly the same way. For people that are blind or low vision, something I like to talk about a lot is writing these really rich pretty image descriptions. If you’re posting that glamor shot on campus, take the time to write it in a way where you’re not just going to say “photo of campus,” you’re going to talk about the beautiful fall leaves and you know the girl under the tree right? No. You want to tell people about things because they just may not have that information. 

So I think education is huge and also some people might need to be pulled in a little bit with their aspirations of creating this, I don’t know, this really flashy thing that there’s just so many barriers, there isn’t really a way right now to undo that. You want to think about things, definitely, ahead of time, and you want to really build it into your workflow of things. So if you have like your project template of like, here are all the things we have to do to complete this task. Make sure you add one in your Asana task that’s think about accessibility or like is just having it in front of your face of like, Oh, yeah, that’s a thing I need to think about. Some people do need that right in front of them. Um, but I think that education piece is really important and a lot of people just haven’t really been exposed to it. And they’re not, they’re not thinking about it. 

I think another barrier that I didn’t mention in the beginning, but color contrast, thinking about, I always see it on Instagram Stories, is really where it kind of gets me. You know, it’s like, oh, it’s a picture of a landscape and the skies kind of white and we’re gonna throw yellow text on it and someone will definitely be able to read that. Or people try to use their school colors, which usually it’s kind of a darker color and maybe a lighter color, like some schools’ work better than others. I think like VCU, we had black and gold. That’s good contrast. When I was at UF, blue and orange, people love using orange. Do not use orange. Please, God. Like orange is not maybe the best color for text, ever. So just thinking about contrast. The other thing is the size of text, right? So thinking about, you’re on a phone screen and putting like… cramming so much information, this is similar to the screenshots of… People don’t think about this. They’re like, I have a message I have to communicate. I’m just gonna put all of it on the screen, Instagram story, and people will then see it, but people are going to tap right past it. But, you know, making sure we’re not going to cram this 300-word message from the President on a slide on Instagram. And, you know, we have the text and it’s like seven point font. Yeah.

J.S.  
Back to the idea that accessible content is good content for everybody.

EB
You know…. right. So I think that sometimes, once you call attention to the thing that is an issue, people will start thinking about it. So they may not have ever realized that it was an issue for someone because it’s not for themselves. I guess for me, it’s the people element is really what drives me and why I choose to make accessible content, but some people don’t. Everyone is different, right? There’s, I like to say there’s no such thing as normal. Everyone’s operating under different circumstances. 

JG  
You can say some people don’t care about people!

EB  
Honestly, yes. They really may not care what it is.

JG  
It’s the motivation factor for sure. I mean, you were saying earlier, you know that maybe the people thing isn’t what motivates them. Maybe it really is a return on investment. Maybe it’s you’re saying you’re ignoring, you know, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people and they could be potential students and you’re not giving them the chance to do it. It could be you know, it could be the lawsuit thing, right? It could be, you’re gonna get sued.

EB  
Yeah!

J.S.  
They’re seeing examples of it done. Not done well.

JG  
Sure. 

J.S.  
They think that’s what they should be doing. The screencap letters for COVID-19 are perfect example. One university president or head coach posted, you know that screencap of the letter, another sees it and thinks, oh, that looks really good. That’s what I’m supposed to do. They do it it again, it’s kind of a returning theme of our podcast, bad content perpetuating itself or even with like, certain types of memes. You know, on Twitter, you

EB  
Yeah, pulling in content…

J.S.  
Do you want to address that a little bit?

EB  
I was gonna say, people, I think another thing. So if someone sees something somewhere and they’re like, Oh, I want to do that. And then I think that happens a lot with people pulling memes and other things that are happening outside of higher ed that they’re trying to relate to this younger audience like, TikTok, right? That’s a perfect example. Or like the memes that are like, a bajillion emojis and it’s like the finger pointing to one word. Okay, please, everyone. I’ve told you, you have a screen reader on your phone. And try to listen to it with the screen radar. It’s like finger pointing up emoji, skin tone, blah, blah, blah, finger pointing up. It’s saying what the name of the emoji is over and over and over and over again. And while that may be, “fun content” for, you know, a 17 year old prospective student, you have other people in your audience on that channel that are being harmed by this content. So maybe thinking about that element of harm that some of this content is causing people because they’re trying to experience it the way that everyone else is, but they cannot because of the way that they gone existing in their life using assistive technology. So yeah, the means the emoji… I don’t really know what you call that. The the the emoji collection of emojis. 

J.S.  
Collage?

EB  
What is that? 

JG  
An emoji collage [laughs] 

EB  
Yeah, exactly. And that’s another thing. Please, please everyone stop swapping emojis out for words in copy, because you may not know what that emoji is called. For example, UF. They’re the Gators, right? That emoji is a crocodile.

JG  

[laughs] That’s bad marketing.

EB  
Exactly there is a website where you can see what emojis are called. So that is what people are hearing. So, I don’t know, it could completely change the context of what you’re trying to say, right? If you’re just reading what that text is and not visually seeing the emoji that you’re trying to swap out for words. It’s a bad look. Please.

JG  
Erika, thanks so much for being with us and having this super important talk. Give the folks listening some info on how to find you online, about you know, I know you got just got a new job. You’re doing exciting things. But yeah, we’ll go out on you letting everyone know how they can hear more awesome insights from you. 

EB  
Sure. So probably the best way to get in touch with me, to reach out ask questions, my DMs are generally open. If I don’t have the capacity, I might tell you that, but feel free to send your questions my way. Twitter’s the probably the best my handle is @efboltz. And right now I am building my website, which is super exciting. I am not a web person. But I’ve always you know, I feel like social media folks, we dabble. We dabble in web. So my site will be live here shortly. I did just get a new job. As Joel mentioned, I’m working with Dr. Josie Alquist. So I will be doing a lot more stuff with community building and helping her out with digital leadership. Right now we’re doing some webinars weekly through the month of May so you can check that out. But I’d say Twitter is definitely the best place to reach me. I do have an Instagram with that same handle that I don’t post on as much. But thanks so much for having me, y’all are great.

JG
Oh, it was a pleasure having you.

J.S.
Thanks for being with us.

JG

The Thought Feeder Podcast is hosted by Joel Goodman and Jon-Stephen Stansel and edited by Joel Goodman. And be sure to subscribe to Thought Feeder wherever you get your podcasts, or by visiting thoughtfeeder.com

Thought Feeder is sponsored by University Insight.

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