Document Accessibility Unraveled
Chad Chelius and Dax Castro during an Accessibility Podcast with the Chax Chat Logo between them.

Effective Accessibility Goal Setting for 2022

Accessibility Podcast Topic Links

Accessibility Podcast Transcript

Dax Castro
Welcome to another episode of Chax Chat. Join Chad Chelius and me Dax Castro, where each week we wax poetic about document accessibility topics, tips, and the struggle of remediation and compliance. So sit back, grab your favorite mug of whatever, and let’s get started.

Chad Chelius 
Welcome, everyone. Today’s podcast is sponsored by AbleDocs, makers of axesWord, axesPDF, document remediation services, as well as website auditing and testing. So we want to thank them for being our sponsor on today’s podcast. I’m Chad Chelius. I’m an Adobe Certified Instructor and Accessible Document Specialist, as well as a consultant and trainer.

Dax Castro
And my name is Dax Castro. I’m an Adobe Certified PDF Accessibility Trainer, as well as certified as an Accessible Document Specialist by the International Association of Accessibility Professionals. Welcome to Season Two. We are officially in our second season of Chax Chat.

Chad Chelius
This is pretty exciting! Right, Dax?

Dax Castro
Yeah. You know, it’s funny, I think back to our first episodes and I’m in awe that we have gone through basically an entire year of podcasts and are starting our second premiere season. So, yeah!

Chad Chelius
Yes. And we had a little bit of a delay from last season to this season just because of the holidays and everything. It was just too difficult to try to squeeze them in there. There were days off and work challenges and things like that. So we’re trying to get back on the horse and now we can consistently release our weekly episodes.

Dax Castro
Full disclosure is COVID kicked my butt. I mean, [yeah] I went through a week. Literally, 10 days have destroyed. And I don’t wish that on anybody. I mean, I’m vaccinated and all that good stuff. But it still was 102 fever and all that jazz. But I’m mostly recovered and coughing just a little bit here and there. But the fatigue part is the thing that really kind of got me. So it’s still an issue. But, you know, we just move on.

Chad Chelius
Absolutely.

How to Grow your Accessibility Skills

Dax Castro
Well, Chad, today I wanted to talk about goal setting. I thought it’s appropriate New Year’s resolution. Everybody doing is that kind of thing. And I thought it would be a great topic to talk about accessibility goal setting for us, for our listeners, for everyone. And I thought that would be a good topic for today’s podcast.

Chad Chelius
I think it’s a great idea. I mean, everybody, usually around this time has their New Year’s resolutions. And whether those resolutions are any number of things – I’m not even going to list any – whether it’s to get more organized or to exercise more or whatever it might be, but when it comes to accessibility and our livelihoods, we’re always trying to become better at what we do. [Right]. And I really love the idea, Dax, of us talking about what are our ambitions or what is it that we can do to become better at our craft?

ADAcademy Accessibility Video Training Coming Soon

Dax Castro
Right. Well, I think the thing that people struggle with is that there’s no one place really to go and learn accessibility. [Yeah]. And we’ve mentioned in our podcast before that you and I are working on an Accessibility Academy, a virtual academy online, that is getting closer and closer to completion. But one of the problems that people have is there’s no real one place to go. And so you can’t just sit down and go, “I’m gonna study accessibility and kind of put in your work. And then all of a sudden, now you’re an expert.” It’s really a variety of different skill sets. It’s like fishing. You don’t just sit down and just go fish someplace and become a good fisherman. It’s a variety of environments and baits and fish and techniques and all of that, that over time you become a well-seasoned fisherman and you can do well. And I think accessibility falls in that same line. So like, for me, I’m pretty strong when it comes to screen readers and using JAWS and NVDA and the shortcut keys that go along with them. While somebody else might not be, where someone might be struggling with nested tag structure. So for them, the idea of, “I don’t really have a good handle on what a list structure is, or what the TOC is, or how does certain structure affect how it’s being voiced with a screen reader?” And other people are more focused on the rules. Are that’s a weak point for them, right? You know, 1.3.1 Info and Relationships or variety of different standards. And maybe that’s your shortcoming. And you want to get better at that. So I would suggest that you evaluate yourself. You do a self-evaluation of some specific categories of knowledge and see where you are weakest. Maybe give yourself a score of 1-10 for how proficient am I at. And maybe we can come up with a list of what those different areas might be here. Chad, what do you think?

Train your Weaknesses

Chad Chelius
Absolutely. And what you just said, it reminds me… So our audience may not realize this, but I’m an avid cyclist. And one of the things we say within the cycling community is train your weaknesses. Train your weaknesses so that you can become better all-around. And you don’t want to train your strengths because you’re already good at that. [Right]. You want to train your weaknesses so that you can become an all around better person at your craft. So that’s exactly what we’re talking about here.


Dax and Chad’s 10 Accessibility Areas of Growth

Score yourself from 1 to 10 in each of these areas to know where you need to grow in 2022. Then develop a game plan to improve in those areas and re-evaluate yourself every 3 months to keep accountable.

  1. Tags Tree
  2. Tables
  3. Forms
  4. Preflight Fixups
  5. Shortcut Keys
  6. Understanding WCAG
  7. Screen Readers
  8. Accessibility Standards (PDF/UA, HHS, AODA, DDA, ect.)
  9. Software Programs (Office, InDesign, Acrobat, etc.)
  10. Solving Checker Errors (PAC3, PAC2021, Acrobat Checker, etc.)

Score Your Skills to Plan your Accessibility Enrichment

Dax Castro
Well, I’ve been just jotting down a few things while we’re talking here. And some of the categories that you might consider are the tags tree. That is definitely one of those areas where you might want to do some more study, maybe, to understand how the tags tree works better or what specific tags are appropriate or things related to the information in the tags. Another one would be the rules, your standards. What are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)? And maybe what are the differences in standards for your different clients? Someone who might be AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) versus the UK Standard 301549 (Accessibility Requirements for ICT Products and Services). Those standards have small nuances that make them different. Whether it’s the DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) in Australia or wherever you are geographically, you might have differences that make a difference. HHS (The Health and Human Services Standard), you and I have done some pretty recent kind of deep dive on those standards. And some of the idiosyncrasies about color contrast and how those color contrast levels are much higher for HHS versus just simple WCAG. So understanding those rules and differences, I think, is another good one.

How well do you know the accessibility features of your core programs?

Chad Chelius
Yeah. And so a couple of other things that you might want to consider scoring yourself on, one example, would be software errors. I mean, we all rely on software to do what we do. And whether that software be the source application. We can talk about Word, PowerPoint, InDesign or Adobe Acrobat, the primary application that we all use to work inside of the PDF itself. So if you’re encountering errors and you don’t know what they mean, that would be a great time to kind of take a deep dive into that and figure out exactly why those errors are popping up.

Dax Castro
Right. I mean, even considering software as a whole, if I’m weak in forms inside Adobe InDesign, then that might be something I want to take an extra hard look at how am I doing with creating accessible structure inside Word, am I using the right placement, and am I able to overcome some of those issues that continually pop up. Now, there’s things like, right now, of course, the alt-text inside images inside Word that are coming over natively correctly, those idiosyncrasies of the software that we use. Understanding those are super important too and how familiar are you in those other software platforms.

Chad Chelius
Yeah. And I’m sure a lot of our listeners have encountered situations where they have received misinformation. [Right]. It’s one of the challenges we face in this industry. As much as there’s a lot of great information out there, there’s also a lot of misinformation and there’s also some very outdated information. Whenever I get an InDesign file where somebody is tagging the document using XML tags, I’m like, “Timeout. It’s not the process.” So if you’re looking for a resource, Dax had mentioned, we are working on a product that we’re going to be calling AB Academy, that in the future is going to be available to help people learn more about these accessibility topics. In the meantime, there’s good resources currently available on LinkedIn learning. I have several courses on PDF accessibility that cover topics such as Word, PowerPoint, InDesign, Acrobat that you can learn it and get reliable information on how to make documents accessible. So there are some good resources out there. And I encourage you to leverage them to enhance your skills and become better at what you do.

How familiar are you with the Matterhorn Protocol?

Dax Castro
You know, one of the other things to think about is, maybe, understanding the Matterhorn Protocol. The Matterhorn protocol in itself, just learning that checklist and understanding what those different errors and failure conditions are, is a huge benefit. And one of the other things too, is that learning how to present excessively, I think, beyond the actual accessibility of a document, but making sure that when you’re presenting in a PowerPoint, you’re presenting in front of an audience, did you consider the idea that you might need live captioning or that you might provide a transcript or are you explaining your slides well enough so that someone who is visually challenged can still get the same basic content from your presentation? You know, the physicality of introducing yourself and who you are as a person. You know, I’m a 6’2″ male with salt and pepper hair [and] that kind of thing. I think those are good benefits. So those are some of the things I’ve been thinking of from “What are the areas I can improve on?” Of course, the other one that comes to mind is a screen reader, using a screen reader and becoming better at that, and using the shortcuts in a way that’s more natural.

Chad Chelius
You know, that’s on my list. So I mean you’re very forthcoming here. I mean that is actually on my list. I’m a very rudimentary screen reader user. I can use it at a kind of a low level, but I’m by far not an expert. And one of my goals for this year is to become much better at that just so that I can more, more efficiently test documents.

How well do you understand PDF/UA?

Dax Castro
Sure, absolutely. And one of the things on my list is to get more familiar with WCAG silver and understanding what the new nuances of the standards are shifting to. And PDF/UA, I think, is one of my stronger points because I do own a copy of the PDF/UA standard. And I would suggest to anyone listening that if you don’t own a copy and you’re trying to maximize accessibility for your documents, it really is a good thing to have, because it’s a great reference to be able to go into the ISO 14289-1 standard and look up where things are. I mean, in the ISO 32000-1 standard, the document itself is 700 or 800 pages worth of content, but there’s really only two chapters that deal with the document accessibility that really matters for us. And there are countless times where you and I have gone through and looked up a specific table to see what the ASCII is, or what a certain state is for an object, or what are the different types of content that… We were looking up the reference tag and the use of the LBL tag by itself in a note. And we had to go back to the PDF/UA standard and find the line item where it says yes, “LBL can be used separately inside a note.” I mean, where else do you find that information? You know,

Chad Chelius
Yeah, you’re absolutely right. And I mean I discovered that in a file where instead of using the reference tag for the footnote references, they use the label tag. [Right]. And not to get off of topic here, but the Acrobat Checker flags that as an error. [Right]. But you and I looked that up in the PDF/UA specifications, the Matterhorn Protocol, and the label tag that is a valid use of the label tag [right] but Acrobat is just not smart enough to know. It was just a great example of a learning moment. Because I mean, even you and I, Dax, who had been doing this for years, [right], I saw that file and I’m like, “A label tag!” I’ve never seen that before. But it was a great learning experience because you and I went into that Matterhorn protocol, we found it, and we’re like, “Son of a gun!” You can use the label tag at that spot. So it’s just… You know, learning new things, to me, is one of the reasons why I do this. You know what I mean. And to know that you’re never gonna know it all, it’s also humbling, isn’t it? You know what I mean. You know, as much as we do this.

Dax Castro
Absolutely! We say this all the time.

The moment you stop learning is the moment you start becoming irrelevant.

Dax Castro, ADS

Dax Castro
[Yeah]. And that really is the case when it comes to this type of thing. Technology just changes. And there’s just so much information out there [yeah] which goes back to why AB Academy! I mean there’s just so much information out there. And I feel so empathetic to people starting their journey [yeah] because I feel like that there’s… I understand that frustration level where you’re like, “I just don’t understand. Where do I go? How am I supposed to know that?”, whatever that is. And all I can offer is time and experience. [Yeah]. I mean that’s a frustrating place to be in when you try to convince your boss. You know, somebody posted in the Facebook group the other day, “We’re trying to convince my boss that it’s worth training the rest of our employees on accessibility.” And I just like, “Wow! That is such an odd place to be in.”

How important is Accessibility to your Organization?

Chad Chelius
It is. And you have to ask yourself the question, “Well, how important is accessibility to your organization?” [Right]. And if the answer is, “It’s very important”, there’s only one way you can get there. You know what I mean. There’s only one way to get to a point where all of your people are trained and knowledgeable enough to be able to do the work that needs to be done. And I think it’s important to remember that.

Dax Castro
Well, I think one of the biggest reasons for implementing accessibility in your organization really is about spreading the workload. If there’s only one person that can do such an important job, you have a bottleneck, no matter how good you are. I don’t care who you are. When you’re the only person that does remediation and everybody’s bringing their files to you to say, “Make them accessible”, you cannot help but be a bottleneck. And why not? You know, how hard is it to right click on an image and set alt-text! You can show that to anyone. You don’t have to be an accessibility expert.

Chad Chelius
And looking at that situation that you just mentioned in a different way, because you’re right, not only is that a bottleneck, but I’ve said this before on this podcast that if you want to burn somebody out in record time, put them in that position. You know what I mean.

Accessibility Training will Rocket your Abilities

Dax Castro
And then give them no budget. Tell them, “You have to learn all this stuff, [yeah] you’re not going to get any extra time, and by the way, we’re not going to send you to any training. [Yep]. You just have to figure it out. Everything’s online. Just go find out the information online.” [Yeah]. And that’s just so frustrating because I feel like, for any other task, you send someone to training. You want to be a mechanic, you go to school. You want to be a doctor, you go to school. You want to be a teacher, you go to school. You want to do anything with any relative skill, you get trained. And the idea that somehow people are just supposed to know accessibility – oh it’s just this extra stuff and you can figure it out – is a very frustrating place to be in.

Dax Castro
But all of that, to kind of pull that all full circle, “Okay, so you’re in that space”, and here you are at the beginning of a new year, and maybe you’re new to accessibility and they’ve given you the task of, “In 2022, you need to learn what accessibility is and do it”, or you’ve been doing it for a while, how do you tackle that? And that goes back to identifying what your weaknesses are. And you can go back and listen to the podcast again and write those down. We’re gonna put them in the transcript. So you’ll be able to go to chaxchat.com and kind of look at what those areas you can grade yourself are in, and then pick one or two, and then evaluate yourself every quarter and say, “Okay, I said that X was my weakness, what have I done to make meaningful improvement in my skills in that area?”

Practice builds Accessibility Knowledge

Chad Chelius
Yep. I’ll give you an example, Dax. I was teaching a class recently, and we were kind of walking the tags tree, and I would say, “Oh, this tag does not belong here. Let’s move this out of here”. And somebody asked, “How am I supposed to know that?” And it was a really good question. [Right]. And the unfortunate answer is experience. You know what I mean. And you can certainly peruse the Matterhorn Protocol and try to memorize what tag belongs with others, but getting back to the topic of our podcast, which is growing in the new year and expanding your skills, a great way to understand the tag structure better is to open up a document that has already been remediated [right] and just walk the tags tree and pay attention to how the content is structured and understand that a reference tag typically appears inside of a paragraph tag and understand how table tags are structured [right] – you always have a table, a TR, a TD or a TH – and just become more familiar with it. Lists are a great example. You’ve got the Li, you’ve got the L tag, you’ve got the label, and the LBody. So just become more familiar with that tag structure. And that’s going to pay big dividends. [Yeah]. Because that way, when you’re looking at your file, you’ll be able to identify a problem. I know, you and I, as we’re walking the tags tree, they jumped out like a red flag. You know, I’m like, “Oh!” [Right]. That’s no good. You just gotta move it out of there.

Dax Castro
Right. As soon as you see L, L, L, in your tags tree, you’re like, “No, no, no.” Pretty much sure that’s, no. [Yeah]. Because you know what those errors are. And for those of you listening, who are feeling frustrated, you’ll get there. [Yeah]. But you have to take the deliberate steps. I mean, it’s like T body. Somebody messaged me on LinkedIn just the other day and said, “Hey, I’m getting this improper use of a T head in my table, running the PAC checker.” And I said, “Well, you probably have a table that spans multiple pages.” They’re like, “Yeah, but how’d you know?” I said, “Well, I’ve been down this road a few times.” In Word, when you check that box for my table has headers, it will automatically set a T head structure for every time the header row repeats. So you’ll have a T head in the beginning, and then your T body, which is the rest of your table, and then on page two, when it starts page two, in the tags tree in that spot, it will have another T head, and then more stuff.

Dax Castro
And so accessibility says, “Hey, look, you can only have one headings area in a table.” If you use T head, T body, T foot, those are the top, the middle and the bottom of your table. And you can’t have multiple tops of a table. There’s only one top. [Yeah]. So it’s those types of things that you just get as you go and you solve those. You know, Kenny Moore’s taggedpdf.com was a great resource for me early on for all of those really kind of esoteric errors that you’re like, “What the heck is this error? [Yeah] How do I fix it?” And he’s got some great walkthroughs. And our Facebook group is really great for being able to help people who’ve got specific issues. And honestly, they bring up stuff. You know, it’s really great to be able to watch the group and interact with a group. And then someone goes, “Hey, I just started noticing this problem.” And somebody else chimes in and says, “Hey, I noticed that too.” And then all of a sudden, we’re all working on the same problem trying to figure out how to solve it and troubleshoot it. And it’s such a great sense of community. I really enjoy that group. And if you aren’t part of our Facebook group, feel free. Please, go join PDF Accessibility on Facebook. And we’d love to have you.

The Facebook Group Builds Skills

Chad Chelius
You know what I love about that group, Dax, is, it’s kind of like watching your kids succeed. [Yeah]. And you’re in that group and you get to know a lot of these names, because they’re on there quite a bit, which is fine. But you start to see names that in the beginning were asking these fundamental questions, really basic question, which is fine, which is totally fine. That’s what the group is there for. But then as time goes on, you’re seeing those same people answer questions that other people have. [Yes]. And that is cool. That is really, really cool. I mean, it’s kind of like the whole teach a man to fish scenario. And it’s just really cool to see people that we’ve helped helping other people. [Yeah]. And that’s what it’s all about.

Dax Castro
Absolutely! I think that’s a great way to end the podcast here. So for those of you who are struggling, we understand. We know your struggle is real. And we’re working on solutions for you. But realize that there is a community that you can belong to. We are here. And the ‘we’ is the ‘WE’. Literally, we’re at 1,988 people [now over 2000] in our Facebook group that are part of your community, who are arm and arm with you, trying to make the world a more accessible place. So feel free to reach out.

Chad Chelius
I’m gonna take this moment, just one moment, while we’re talking about the Facebook group. If you’re gonna post a question on the Facebook group, screen captures are amazing! [Yeah]. So often people will ask a question, and I’m like, “I’m flying blind here. I have no idea what you’re looking at. I have no idea what you’re seeing.” If you’re gonna post a question, take a screenshot, and post it along with your question. That way, we could see what you’re running into. And you’re much more likely to get an answer, and an even more, a correct answer, if you include that additional information.

Dax Castro
Right. And a lot of times, we’re in the middle of remediating, we get stuck. We want that answer. We want that. Like, “I need this answer now.” And instead of… It’s like, when you have a conversation with somebody and said, “Hey, can I ask you a question?”, and then they pause. And they wait for you to say okay. I mean, little behind the curtain, that’s a huge pet peeve of mine. Just ask me the question. Just tell me what you want to know. And ask what you want to know. And I think in the Facebook group, it’s the same kind of way. If you just post the question with a screenshot and say, “Look, here’s where I’m having a problem”, we’re going to be able to answer it almost immediately. And if we can’t, someone else will. Rather than, “Hey, can you post a screenshot?” And whatever, trying to figure that whole dance out. It’s two or three messages before you finally get to the meat and potatoes of what you’re really trying to find out. So it’s not a slam on anybody. And sometimes you can’t post a screenshot because it’s confidential information. So then you’ve got to go through the process of maybe making the sample or something else. And it can be involved. So we understand and realize that. But we also want to be able to help you. So posting screenshots are important. [For sure].

Listen to our 39 other Accessibility Podcast Episodes

Dax Castro
Anyway, I’m looking forward to 2022. I just can’t wait to see what this year is going to hold for us. I think it’s going to hold some really big things and for all of you who have stayed with us from the beginning, we love you and we thank you. And for those of you who are new joining us, welcome! And I hope that you get a lot out of it. We’ve got 39 episodes from last year for you to go look at. Feel free to go back and peruse those, but realize more content is coming. [Absolutely]. We have lots of stuff to offer. So all right, Chad. Well, why don’t you take us out man!

Chad Chelius
Okay, guys. So once again, we’d like to thank AbleDocs for being our sponsor of today’s podcast. As a reminder, AbleDocs are the makers of axesWord, axesPDF, document remediation services, as well as website auditing and testing. My name is Chad Chelius,

Dax Castro
and my name is Dax Castro, where each week we unravel accessibility for you.

Chad Chelius
Thanks, guys.