SPS-385: Accessibility for Authors – with Jeff Adams & Michele Lucchini
Did you know that there is an entire audience that you may be missing with your marketing entirely? For those with disabilities, marketing is often hard to decipher due to a number of factors. On this episode- Jeff and Michele join the show to talk about their accessibility guidelines, and what you can do to cater to a larger audience.
- How Jeff and Michele started working together.
- Why push accessibility in your marketing.
- How to start integrating accessibility in your own content.
- Do you have to compromise vision for accessibility?
- Accessibilities as guidelines.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
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Accessibility for Authors - with Jeff Adams & Michele Lucchini
Speaker 1: Want to sell more books? Make sure you are at the Self-Publishing Show Live this summer. Meet the biggest names in self-publishing at Europe's largest conference for independent authors. Enjoy two days packed with special guests, an exclusive networking event, and a digital ticket for watching the professionally filmed replay, including bonus sessions not included at the live show. Head over to self-publishing show.com/tickets and secure your spot. Now, the Self-Publishing Show Live is sponsored by Amazon k d p
Speaker 2: On this edition of The Self-Publishing Show.
Jeff Adams: I would feel comfortable writing almost anybody's love story, getting them to an h e a with an external conflict. I would not want to delve into somebody's character who's who I'm not a part of inside, you know, and having that lived experience to get into any trauma or difficulty or angst around being a member of that group
Speaker 2: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing? Join Indie bestseller Mark Dawson and first time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Hello and welcome. It is The Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blatch
Mark Dawson: And me Mark Dawson.
James Blatch: Hello, Mark Dawson. And first thing to say is Self-Publishing Launchpad is open for another week, I think probably when this goes out. So if you have not yet signed up, you've got a week left, or be open again towards the end of this year, most likely. It is at self-publishing formula.com/launchpad. Very, very exciting for us always to get a new batch of authors going through the course. The group gets busy with lots of questions and we start to see people's early successes, which is brilliant. And if you listen to a podcast two weeks ago, you'll hear. Lots of authors, great successes as a result of that. And it's one of the great pleasing things I think for you and me and John and the team here at SPF F is to see careers properly launched by that launchpad.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, absolutely. So we've you know, we've had a, it was a good episode and, you know, had some really, really successful go through launchpad and I don't how many people have taken the course that it's in the thousands.
James Blatch: Yeah, seven or 8,000. Yeah.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. So it's, it's really always very pleasing to see that. And, you know, got, had a few emails over the last week or two from people saying, when did the course open? And they're keen to gain in. So that's good. Also p people are saying, why isn't, why can't I get in now or after you close it? And we've, that's just the way we, we do things. We, we only open them twice a year, each of the, kind of the, the two main courses twice a year. It just makes it a little easier for us to administer.
James Blatch: And everyone then goes through, you get a batch of a few hundred students going through at the same time, helping each other the same mix work, everything works properly
Mark Dawson: It does work. And, and also just, you know, from our perspective, it's, it's pretty, it's busy. It's a very busy time for us. And I wouldn't really want, I couldn't really sustain that kind of level of interaction over the course of a longer period or, you know, internally just because there's other things that need to be done. So, you know, we've, we're quite close to making I think, quite a big announcement with regards to one of our other little businesses. And something else bubbling away in the background as well, potentially that might be coming at towards the end of the year. There is
James Blatch: Lots going on in the background and there is, we'll all eventually become public, but it's and when it does become public, I want you to think back to this period in mid 2023 and think how many meetings with lawyers Mark and I have had.
Mark Dawson: Yeah.
James Blatch: On top of everything else.
Mark Dawson: Luckily I have one. So it's been quite, yeah, has been quite helpful actually negotiating with, there's loads, I'm doing loads of law at the moment. I'm doing a contract with her. Probably can't, I can't announce this yet, I don't think whether we have a new course coming out with, with someone, which I think is be really good. And that has involved quite a lot of legal backwards and forwards and with me dealing directly with, with her lawyer, just to try and iron out a contract, which we are pretty much there now. Were, we were getting to the stage of moving coms and dotting eyes and crossing ts. I had to kind of say, this is it now. Anyway, we'll be there. And quite pleased to get that done and very, very excited to get that course done.
James Blatch: Whilst I love lawyers on an individual level, I do hate the whole process. I hate it as a, as a business person, I've,
Mark Dawson: I've got, yeah,
James Blatch: I find it's char it's characterised by lawyers saying, you've got to have this, you've got to have that same as insurance. And then the moment you need it saying, well, it doesn't really cover that or there's no point in going to court. Well, you know,
Mark Dawson: a good contract are the ones that I'm negotiating will always cover everything. So we, we won't, we wouldn't find ourselves as exposed as perhaps we have done in the past because someone else's
James Blatch: Contract, let's, let's see. Because lawyers always say, ah, there's no point in going to court.
Mark Dawson: Oh no, there's no, there's no, that's what the contract avoids. That that's, that's the point. He's so clear. There's no point, there's no dispute. So yeah.
James Blatch: Okay. Anyway, enough about lawyers. We love lawyers or individually. Right. we are going to move on to talking about digital accessibility. You might not have known it exists every now and again, you get prompted to put in the description for a photograph, perhaps in an email, something like that. But there's a lot more to making your marketing, your books, your emails, everything that goes around as accessible to as many people as possible. And there are two people who are experts on this, and they are Jeff Adams and Michele and I spoke to them very recently. They have a book that helps you and they've got a giveaway as well, a pdf. So stay tuned for that. It's going to be very useful to get you started. A little checklist to make sure that your, you and I are doing everything we can do to make our work as accessible to as wide an audience as possible. After all that is money on the table, is it not? Okay, let's listen to Jeff and Michelle and then Mark and I will be back for a quick chat.
Speaker 2: This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Jeff and Michele, welcome to the Self-Publishing Show. Lovely to have you here from I think at least one of you on the West. Are you in the same location, both West Coast?
Jeff Adams: No, we stand the globe today.
James Blatch: Go and Michele, where are you?
James Blatch: You're in Italy. Wow. You're like a near neighbour for me then,
Michele: I am, I am. Yeah.
James Blatch: Whereabouts in Italy are you
Michele: Northeast? Quite close to Venice. Close to the Alps.
James Blatch: Nice. Just hop over there, do some skiing. Good. I'm going to Venice for the very first time next month, I think. I sort of get the feeling it's the place where they're going to ban tourists at some point in the future. So I think I better, I better go quickly before that happens. And Jeff, I know you are your California way
Jeff Adams: Exactly. Yeah, central California, near Sacramento.
James Blatch: Yeah. So Jeff, I mean, people may know you from the big gay fiction podcast, which has been going some time, I should say. I don't think maybe we started before you, but it's, it's, it's close. And I know there's a, you've got a lot of episodes under your belt.
Jeff Adams: Yeah, we're at, hmm, 417, I think. Where is where we are on the week that we're recording? 4 17, 4 18. Been going since 2015.
James Blatch: Oh yeah. You're actually, you actually older than us then. You mean going longer
Jeff Adams: By just a little bit. Yeah.
James Blatch: Yeah. And I know, I mean, kudos because we know what it's like doing a weekly podcast. It's a lot more work than people might think.
Jeff Adams: Oh yeah, yeah. It's, it's quite a lot. We, at the beginning of this year, to allow for other creative projects, we actually scaled back to going every other week.
James Blatch: Oh really?
Jeff Adams: So reduce the number of episodes by a little bit just to give us a little more room to take on other projects.
James Blatch: I live wake at night dreaming of doing that maybe maybe one day.
Why did you start the podcast? Did you feel there was a gap in the market and need?
Jeff Adams: You know, there was a definite gap and there's still a gap really, in terms of podcasts that look at queer fiction. We kind of stayed on in a niche of queer romance fiction because it's what my husband and I love to read. And it's also what we write. And at the time, 2015, there were some romance podcasts for sure, and romance podcasts that would occasionally touch on queer fiction, but there wasn't like the podcast that did it. And in the time that we've existed, there have been some that have started and ended. Because podcast fate is a real thing when you figure out how much you know it work, it takes recently a new podcast has come up, a shout out to the low angst library podcast that is looking at queer fiction especially low angst, queer romance fiction. So we hope that they have a nice lengthy life. They're new. They have only got, I don't think they've got a dozen episodes out yet. But it's nice to see somebody else come into the space because, you know, this niche of queer romance and queer fiction broader has grown substantially over the last few years. You know, as a, as a way that everybody gets to kind of find themselves in a book which I think is so key.
James Blatch: Yeah. And it's one of the things independent publishing's done is to serve more markets in a more subtle and nuanced way than Trav did before. But it's not, you're not just romance now, are you, you talk about all across different genres.
Jeff Adams: Yeah, romance is the primary focus. But, you know, if we, if there's, you know, especially Queer Ya is another spot that we look at really closely. But we also look at, you know, more broad queer fiction. You know, it all comes down to what we're reading in the moment. And if, you know, if I, if we see something that's like, oh, this book, this is really good, let's get the author, you know, we'll branch out. We've, you know, we've covered memoir, we've covered children's books. It just, you know, it's our show and we'll bring all people that we
James Blatch: your show you do what you want. funny if I interviewed Claire Lyon last week or the week before, I hasn't been broadcast as we're speaking now, but we'll probably have by the time this goes out. And Claire writes lesbian romance fiction here in the UKs. It's she now calls it and she made the point, which I didn't really think about was when, a few years ago when she was looking around for Lesbian Romance to read, because probably because it was lesbian and gay, it sort of had a load of other stuff attached to it, like quite heavy duty storylines and issues and stuff. And she just wanted to read romance and that's why she started it.
Did you find the same sort of thing you said, this is what you'd like to read, that there was always, for some reason in the queer fictions sector, there seemed to be some other stuff loaded into stories?
Jeff Adams: Yeah, there could always be the struggle of being queer and of coming out and, you know, it's certainly going through the eighties with the AIDS epidemic, there was, you know, that aspect of it. I'd like to read a world where queer people just get there happily ever after with whatever goes around with that. You could have a tonne of external conflict, whether it's dramatic suspense or something going on in the fantasy world or whatever that is. But let the queer couple come together and have their happy overcoming whatever they need to do. And that's, you know, one of the reasons that we started writing it, I mean, even when we started there was still, there was a decent amount of especially male, male fiction out there. But yeah, that's what we wanted to write to read, so we've decided to write it too.
James Blatch: Yeah. Okay. So you writing that, we'll talk a bit about your writing individually, but Michaela, you're sitting there very patiently. We should talk to you about your writing and your background. So first,
first of all, how do you, did you get to know Jeff?
Michele: Well, Jeff and I actually worked together. I've been working together for over 10 years for a company called Usable Net which primarily focus is accessibility. So we, we offer services, act technology and tech technologies to companies that are putting together an accessibility programme. And yeah, I think that I can say that we probably dedicated a good portion of our life to accessibility and working together. Knowing that Jeff yeah, was a, was a writer. The, the idea popped out. It was initiated by Jeff saying, I think we need to help authors and entrepreneurs on at least understanding how to start with accessibility. And I jumped immediately in, in on this idea. And that was my first writing experience. I come from a very technical background. I got a master degree, degree in computer science. But during my, my study course since the the early age, I always write loved writing. That was actually, I was actually performing better in literature and those kind of courses rather than the scientific ones. And that was an opportunity. And also given the fact that I mean my mother language is not English, was, was even a, a nicer challenge to, to get. And yeah, we were both very intrigued about the idea of working together on a project that was connected, but very unrelated to our day-to-day job.
James Blatch: So there was a writing bug in the background there. And we'll talk about the book obviously in the, is the subject matter in a second. But is,
has this ignited something for you, do you think, Michaela, you're going to write in the future?
Michele: I don't know. I mean, I, I'll tell you that we are working on the Italian translation of the of the book and why not? It definitely, it definitely clicked and it was such an interesting and lovely experience that, to be honest. The next one, I will want to do it with Jeff again. I'm not sure I'm ready to, to do a solo writing experience, but yeah, why not? Why not?
James Blatch: Sounds like something's going to happen there. It's nice to know that you've got on together in this writing process and you're still smiling at the end of it, because creative processes whilst they don't always end in angst, but they can be trial. I'm sure there were some, some trials and tribulations along the way, but let's talk about the book then. Say,
first of all maybe Jeff I'll ask you this. Do, is this a book aimed at people who require accessibility or is it aimed at the general author community to be aware of bringing into the way that they do everything?
Jeff Adams: The latter. It's really aimed for people who have websites and social media accounts and email marketing that they do. So we really pointed it at what we termed in the broader is like creative entrepreneurs, whether they're authors or podcasters or maybe they make jewellery or they're making art of some kind, or they're musicians or whoever that is who is probably running their own business. They may have a team perhaps who works with them, but you know, they're creating a WordPress or Wick or a platform like that and using mailer light or Create Kit or something like that for email. And they're posting on social media and they need to understand how to make the content they're producing accessible for everybody because just the way that we, let's say, do it by default. And I certainly, you know, did this for a number of years, don't necessarily take into account all the things that you can to make something accessible for truly everybody. Instead of smaller portions of your audience. So you could be leaving people behind who want to engage with you, who for some reason cannot.
James Blatch: Okay. And, and I suppose Michaela, the, the central business thing here is it's, it's about a commercial aspect to your job as well. This is not just do you know, being nice for the sake of it and including more people. It's actually making your audience bigger.
Michele: Yeah, there's definitely a, I mean, an implication related to the business model it is, it is clear maybe it doesn't make a lot of sense to, to bore everyone, everyone to death talking about numbers and statistics, but just doing a a summary around 20% of the population has a sort of disability. Also, I think that the important aspect is not j not just about emphasising the ethical aspect, not just about emphasising the, the business factor, but accessibility should be, I mean, e everyone expectation is not, is not an accessory. That I think was the, the main driving force for, for our initiative and and what we try to leverage in order to convince people to start doing something.
James Blatch: Yeah. and I presume you are the technology side of this. I'll ask you this again, Michele.
The ability to make everything more accessible has never been greater now than it used to be?
Michele: Yeah. the, there, there are guidelines to follow and the guidelines are evolving and together with the, the, the technology if you think about the, the need right of accessing the web in particular after the pandemic, we have gone through that maybe force people at home, force people to go online just to buy food or or, or or other main needs develop this this need indeed to help yourself and operate on the web. This just amplified something that was already a minimum requirement. And that added chain reaction on new, new technologies, new expectations, new a new guideline that will, will be delivered soon by the W three C, which is the worldwide consortium. It is a it is an ongoing activity for let's say everyone working in this space. But yeah, if you, if you think about years back yeah, the, the evolution has been quick and the future will, will also show that it will improve further more. There is this concept which is a sort of saint grow for the redesign, which is the, the inclusive design. So design and implement something that works for everyone independently by everyone's abilities.
James Blatch: Okay. Jeff.
So I suppose if people listening to this thinking, okay, well what, you know, what should I be doing? Can we, we start with some sort of practical tips for authors listening?
Jeff Adams: Yeah, absolutely. And it's, it's what the whole book is designed to give because we don't want to make the, on these authors and podcasters and such feel like they have to have a big technical know-how to do some of this stuff. We've narrowed down like what Michael and I talked about to our usable that client and really honed it down to the things that people working in those platforms that I mentioned can do. So, you know, fundamentally some of it starts with good colours. Use good colours in what you create so that the text can pop off of the background so that everybody has a good chance to be able to see it well and sharply. Because you think about people with low vision, people with some cognitive disabilities, for example, like dyslexia where they might need to have some super sharp letters to read to be able to parse the words, right
Same things if you're using like really fancy fonts in some of the graphics you're creating, you know, think about how that might be perceived by somebody else. And I'm not really talking about book covers there, but I'm talking about like the promo graphics that you're doing book covers and product is their own thing. It's how you're presenting it on the web where you need to think about it a little bit more. When you're using images use a meaningful alternative text with those and think about it in the context of what you're presenting alongside it, whether it's a social post or something on your website or something in your email. Think about it. If you can't, if if you put your hand over the image, like if it's on your screen on the page and you put your hand over it and you can't see it anymore, what do you need to put in the alternative text for that image?
So someone with a screen reader will understand the story they need to get from that image and how it relates. And if in fact you can cover that image up with your hand and you're not missing anything, then you leave that alternative text empty because it's a decorative image and nothing more needs to be said about it. The other thing I'll throw out about alternate text that's important to think about is when you're doing it on social, Facebook and Instagram will prepopulate it with an AI concept of what it thinks the image is. It is never what you want
James Blatch: it's a long way. So you so, so, so the, as a bare minimum, you need to go in and check that because it could be misleading.
Jeff Adams: Yeah. And you can't just leave it blank, which is the unfortunate part because sometimes you don't need it because it's all in your post, but you've got to put something there so that it's not just, you know, three people maybe inside one with a beard, you know? Which might be how it describes our zoom, you know, screen at the moment.
James Blatch: Yeah. do you know, I actually like writing the alternate texts. When I put me a covers in, I obviously do a lot of adverts in the, in the fuse world and my own books in Vellum. You know, for instance, you put an image in there and you go into the alt text, I quite like describing a soldier walks away from camera and a foreboding atmosphere in dark weather. You know, you can, you can, you can create a nice little word a picture sentence there, which is quite a fun thing to do from a writing point of view. So Mikela, I guess coming back to you, there's two things that are sort of jumping out at me here.
Two different things. One is what you do that everybody sees and consumes that could, could be better for people with certain conditions. Like, you know, we talked about eye contrast, bold colours, easy to read text, and then there's things that you can do that people who are viewing it with certain equipment or have settings set on their browser that they're going to access. And these are sort of two different things, aren't they?
Michele: Yeah, yeah. There are two different things, but very, very much related. Let, let's consider the, the way we should look at our audience. It would be probably a mistake start making distinctions between disabilities. So it would be a mistake and probably it will add the complication to our work. If we start thinking about, okay, let's start working just for, I mean, to accommodate blind needs, then let's work to accommodate motor disabled needs. The recommendation is to simply follow what exists, which is the guideline that we explain and distil in our book, because the guideline contemplates all kind of different abilities and combination of disabilities. The, the, the good of the assistive technologies is that normally they are platform independent, meaning that you do not have to build the web, the website or the page or your post to support a specific technology.
The technologies are respecting the sta respecting the standards and normally are interfacing with your browser. Nothing more than that. So you can ignore what kind of technology the, your, your user your customer is u is using as far as you respect what the guideline asks you to do, ask you to do. So this means that you will assume that every screen reader will perceive and announce in in a consistent way, the alternative text that Jeff mentioned. So in case there is an empty alternative text, this screen reader will just keep it in case the alternative text is described. It will announce it, announce it properly. If I can just make a, an an overarching point, James. I think that one of the goals of the, of the book was certainly provide some very clear and practical how to, but I think that there was also something more between the lines, which which was stimulating questions.
So I think that one of the goals was to help people finding new questions to ask themselves. There is a cultural transition that when you start embracing accessibility, everyone makes, which is what I like. It doesn't count a lot now because together what I like, I also need to consider what everybody can perceive. In the author space, it is absolutely correct thinking that I'm writing what I like, I'm producing what I'm, what I like. But there is probably another question is, am I sure that what I like is also what somebody else can perceive? There was a in a, one of the interviews that Jeff and I did writing the book, there was this person that says, well, I really like that colour scheme. I love it. That is what I want on my site. And that was extremely inaccessible.
And this person didn't even realise that that was complicated to, to see for a wide majority of people, not simply people that were colorblind. But another big segment of, of customers potentially may have not, may have troubles just interpreting that colour scheme and the content convey using that colour scheme. So asking good questions is the road to success for accessibility. And it is not in the, in the book, but happening in these kind of interviews that we did that we, we recommend also to try to, to challenge your everyday's life with questions around is this accessible or can this be implemented a better way from an handle bar to open a door for anything I, anything else, it is a, it is a process that is very helpful to going in the right direction. Also, Wendy will, when you, you you'll do your work of a creative entrepreneur.
James Blatch: Yeah, that is a really good point. And actually, Jeff, what was going to be one of my questions, which is,
do will people feel that they're compromising their artistic vision, they're losing the edge of what they're trying to do? And will that cost themselves? I can, I can imagine people having that exactly the questions Okay. To sort of spelled out, going through their mind listening to this
Jeff Adams: Mm-Hmm. this is actually a question that we deal with with our larger clients every day. We work with luxury retailers, for example, where brand is everything to them and how they present themselves, you know, to the public, to their customers and potential customers. And it's really about learning the guidelines and understanding the guidelines and then bringing that to bear on what you're doing and understanding how to make things accessible. It's rare that you have to compromise what you're trying to do to meet the guidelines. The trick is not just going, well, I really like this thing and I'm just going to use it, but taking a minute to, to, to understand more fundamentally this is what I want, this is what the guideline says, and then how do I get there to, to kind of meet in the middle? I think even for luxury retailers, there's a way to be accessible that still meets their brand ideas, but it's easy to want to say, this is just stifling my creativity.
What did I, what I feel the the guidelines do is actually to help help you understand how to be creative and accessible at the same time. The only true, what I would call like the, the hard and fast rule is really around colour contrast. It's the only place that the guidelines say you must do x, okay. To make this accessible with the, with the colour contrast ratios that he gives you, which didn't means you're just kind of nudging colours around until you find that right balance to your background in foreground. So it's not like radically telling you how to do something different. So I think if you go into it with the open mind, you're then able to understand how to apply what it's telling you for accessibility versus, you know, the thing that you want to create. And again, it's not going to stop you either from the product you're creating, it's merely how you're presenting that product to your online audience.
James Blatch: Yeah. And in actual fact, every creative endeavour has a framework that you, and rules and guidelines even before this, you know, whether it's the resolution, the size, the shape, the amount of text, even Jackson Pollock throwing paint to the canvases within a framework that he, he has to constrain himself by. So it's just a case of going in, you know, knowing that these are part of those guidelines. Okay. So this sounds, sounds very, I was going to use the like a pun accessible to to authors. You're like an easy laid out way of following the book.
Have you where is, what stage is the book at? What feedback have you had from people in the out there?
Jeff Adams: The feedback The feedback's been really good. You know, I think every time we have a conversation, like a light bulb goes off, like, oh, this thing, oh, I should do that. And nobody sets out to create inac accessible content. You know, it's a matter of yeah, you didn't know you were doing it in the first place and it's really been embraced, like, oh, I see these things now that I can do. There's a little bit of like, oh my God, there's all these things I should do because we highlight 16 things that we think non-technical creatives can and should do. And we try to wrap that in a nice package of, you don't have to do all these things this minute. You don't necessarily have to go backwards and fix your website. It'd be nice if you did, but maybe you're just fixing the homepage or some top pages of things. You're certainly not going to go backwards in your social media and fix stuff there, but you could, you know, do better going forward. The concept of progress over perfection is so key to all things accessibility. If you're doing something, you're doing the right thing. None of us can stop all of our businesses to go, you know, fix the website necessarily, or, you know, fix other things that have happened in the past. We can certainly go forward understanding what we should be doing and try to just work that in to what we do.
James Blatch: Yeah, perfection's always the enemy of any, any kind of progress, isn't it? So trying to overreach Michael, when you look around author, particularly in the author community, I know it's not your, your home community, but you've obviously been introduced to it in the last year or so. But
when you look around at, at websites, at at Facebook adverts, at book covers, at blurb and stuff, how often do you look at them and think they could be more accessible? Is this, is this the vast majority of what you see, do you think?
Michele: Yeah, it's probably the, the vast majority. But it is non-intentional. Intentional. I I'm sure it is not. If, if you consider the I mean let's not ignore the cultural aspect. If I consider the way disabilities are largely seen, for example, in, in Europe, so accessibility is too much too often associated to volunteering. Accessibility is too often associated to somebody that needs to help these people doing something. While in the us in the, in, in, I mean if you look back into the number of years, accessibility has always been associated to independent living. Meaning that the cultural aspects for the population for the country is fundamental. So this is factor one to explain why the vast majority of website books covers are not accessible. Second point is what Jeff was alluding before. We have an heritage from the past that accessibility means flat design, very trivial look and feel not sophisticated.
That excuse is no longer acceptible. The technology that we have nowadays, as Jeff said, allow us to innovate thanks to the accessibility guidelines. Thanks to the accessibility requirements. So that's the second factor where the designers needs to do, I mean, in mind switch, dealing with a new requirement is not a constraint is a requirement. And it, it is not easy because you live in an environment where accessibility becomes an additional cost. One more thing to do, one more thing that will slow you down. And it is, it is a complicated exercise to make sure that accessibility is no longer a, an accessory like I mentioned before, but it becomes a requirement. So just what you have to do. And, and then I think that the third aspect is the methodology. People, companies, individuals are dealing with accessibility very often. Too often accessibility is a final test you do after you already have done everything and then you have to go back and fix backwards what the test that you did. I like that was wrong. There's not a sustainable way to handle accessibility. It could be good the first time as a learning process, but the, the, the overarching goal for somebody that needs to embrace accessibility and needs to transform accessibility from a, let's say a project into a requirement is to bring access accessibility as early as possible in the life cycle of the product that they are developing.
James Blatch: Yeah. Which is a perfect advert actually for the book, I think, isn't it? Because you familiarise yourself with the guidelines and the the framework before you start our project.
Michele: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And I think he's familiarising with the guidelines and it is something that we try to do with the book. Hopefully we, we manage to do it. Jeff is right. Progress over perfection is the main message we want to send, but we didn't hide how much actually you should do. If you want to fulfil in entirely big island. There is a lot to a lot to do. Everyone needs to, to be aware about that hiding and trivialising acc access, trivialising accessibility only to few things. It would've been the wrong message. So you can adapt yourself, you can create a pipeline for, for your remediation strategy or the things that you want to yeah, to do on your next projects. Only if you have a good understanding of the bulk, the entire bulk of work that you should do. So next time you can add another piece, another brick, another brick and another brick improving ongoing your the accessibility of our products.
Jeff Adams: Yeah, it, it definitely connects to my own accessibility journey with my websites. You know, my husband and I both have author websites. There's the website for the podcast there's now the website for this book which I certainly built accessible Cause it needed to be that way. I,
James Blatch: Oh my goodness, you had to be really careful. That was,
Jeff Adams: But it built on what I'd already knew from building the other websites. All the websites existed as I was getting into this accessibility work. And even for me, cause I'm not technical, I'm in the same boat that a lot of these entrepreneurs are maybe a little more technical than some of them, but you know, it's a matter of updating my colours and getting the homepages right and getting my book pages right. You know, blog posts from, you know, like 2004. I'm not going back there to fix those. They are what they are in the past. If you think about the podcast, we didn't start doing any kind of transcripting until about episode 180. So we were a long way in and we're going backwards as we've got the money to be able to fund transcripts in the back list. But there was a point where we started and it was just to the interviews and then we evolved again, dozens of episodes later to doing the entire show as a transcript.
So even me who works in this space day in and day out, I had to evolve and be able to plug it into the sites that already existed. These days I feel pretty good about where all the sites are. They could all be better, but since I don't work with a developer and nor do I have the resources to work with a developer, you know, I can't fix some of what's there, but it is the best I can make it. Some of that means leaving platforms too. I'm in the process right now of moving the store. I had set up to sell my eBooks to a different platform because the platform I was on was not accessible to the point where I was comfortable giving that to my customers. So sometimes it's, you know, just deciding to pull the plug on something and doing the work to make the move. But all these things, as you read the book, you'll start to develop your, your checklist, if you will, of what you want to do and how you want to do it. Because one of the, the extras that's built into the book is a download you can do to help you take notes about what you want to do, how you want to do it. So you kind of conform that, that plan that Michele was talking about.
James Blatch: Jeff's one more for you.
Do you, is there anything about the content of people's books that you touch on in, in the book here in terms of sort of like a sensitivity type advice? Or is it all about there's more technical aspect of presentation?
Jeff Adams: It's, it's, there's little in here about the book, you know, the actual epub of a book. And maybe that is the next book that we write, potentially is getting into things to think about as an epub. And you know, if you're just writing a fiction book for example, there's maybe not a lot of images in it and how to deal with that, where you're re really relying on the epub format itself to do the heavy lifting for you and you know, that velum is going to kick out the right formatting for the epub or whatever, you know, velum like thing that you may be using. It's certainly going to be something that authors have to pay attention to. And certainly I've seen in some of the author communities already looking towards 2025 with, you know, the laws that are going into effect in Europe around accessible eBooks and they must be accessible to be sold in the stores.
I think it's June, 2025. It's definitely 2025 when that is. And Michael and I were recently at the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference in Anaheim back in March. And there were a couple sessions about UBS and the things that are coming within the EPUB three standard and what those mean for accessibility and you know, platform testing that's already happening with like Cobo and Google Play and some of those players to make sure that it gets into their systems correctly and everything. So there's, there's stuff there and you know, Michele alluded to another book and maybe there's something around, you know, epub accessibility that becomes interesting to put out into the world around 2025. Because I think for some authors and publishers in general to meet those criteria, it's going to be going potentially backwards to deal with, you know, all the EPUBS that currently exist depending on exactly how that law is written, if there's any kind of grandfathering or not, which I don't currently know if there is. So don't anybody freak out that I just said that because it's kind of an unknown thing at the moment, but okay,
James Blatch: We're going to have a GDPR type moment, aren't we? When that it
Jeff Adams: Seems like it might be. Yeah, because GDPR was a huge deal when it came out and how we all managed our newsletters.
James Blatch: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Michele, you should probably tell us what the book's called, where people can get it.
Michele: Yeah. on, I mean we, we deliver on all the platforms that you can expect. We have also a website that is I mean as content that we are also regularly posting. We also we also produce a, a paper version and a large print version I think was in this dispute of making sure we're aware, accessible. yeah. And I don't know, Jeff am I missing anything?
Jeff Adams: There is an audio book still to come? Oh
Michele: Yeah, you're right.
Jeff Adams: In production on that. And the actual title of the book is Content for Everyone, A Practical Guide for Creative Entrepreneurs to produce Accessible and Usable web content.
James Blatch: Very nice. I'm looking at it now on on the world's largest book retailer. It's definitely there in paper and and ebook well really, really interesting interview. I mean, I think it's not a subject we've even come close to touching in our 300 and 400 whatever episodes we're up to. So I think that's really useful. I think the question I was asking you, Jeff, and it might be one for your next project, is, is about the sort of sensitivity stuff that's that, that, you know, people have a black character and they're not black, so they get a sensitivity reader and then there's a bit of a discussion about whether you should do that or not. And we've had Native American experts on the podcast about that, including Native American characters. Not, not to fall into cliche, there's probably a bit, there's without, without question a marker here. First of all, it would be nice to include more characters who have a disability of one form or another, but then getting that right, I can imagine that is a bit of a, an area that, that perhaps could, could do with expanding.
Jeff Adams: Yeah, like any, any group that you're trying to write about that you're not part of, there's always the steps you need to take to get it right, to not be exploitive, to not necessarily get into the hardships of being in that group. You know, I I would feel comfortable writing almost anybody's love story, getting them to an h e a with an external conflict. I would not want to delve into somebody's character who's who I'm not a part of inside, you know, and having that lived experience to get into any trauma or difficulty or angst around being a member of that group and living with that. And I think that's always the thing that people have to balance, at least in my view. You could write any character you want leaving to the side, perhaps their lived experience and really let the story of that lived experience come from those authors.
I've, I've attended some really great courses around that idea and how to also kind of put the critical lens even as a reader of like, how did that work? Treat that subject and, you know, was that the best coming from that author or did they elevate a character in a way that was, you know, perhaps not the most appropriate and sensitive way to do it. It's a really interesting area of fiction. And I know sometimes people are like, you know, I should be able to tell the story I want to tell. But then I think you have to deal with whatever criticism, you know, through reviews that you may get because of how you position something that, you know, even if you involve people who are in the community, it still gets dicey when you're dealing in that angsty Like lived experience area.
James Blatch: It's
Jeff Adams: I would never want to tackle a book on that myself.
James Blatch: No, it's it's fraught and it's an, it's an area of active discussion we should say, but slightly different from our, our main topic today. But, but I've enjoyed that. It's been illuminating. We'll go back and I think I need to get the book and start thinking about what we're doing, particularly going forward, as you say, to make it sort of e e easier and more realistic.
Jeff, I think you've got a, a, a pdf a helpful guide for free that our authors just for listening to this interview can get. Do you want to tell us a bit about that?
Jeff Adams: Yeah, absolutely. We put together seven tips, so seven brief things that people can start to think about even before, you know, hopefully they pick up the book. We talk about alt text as we, you know, mentioned a little bit before we talk about caption to descriptions. Meaningful link text is a thing. Instead of just saying click here, read more buy now. Easy to read colour combination. So getting to that colour contrast situation. The challenges around using images that have text baked right into them. It's a whole thing that can be, you know, there's a world of ways to fix that problem that we put out in that pdf. We talk about emails a little bit and in particular balancing how much imagery, imagery you're using versus text. I see way too many emails that are just text or rather picture picture, picture picture, which can be very difficult to manage. Well. And then we wrap that up with a little bit about emoji usage too and how difficult it can be to parse emojis. What assistive technology will read out about emojis, which probably will surprise some people. Right. So it's just a little kind of primer, if you will, from, from the, from for the book itself.
James Blatch: There's so much doble entendre in emojis that I guess there's, they probably don't get that nuance in the way it's interpreted by the machine.
Jeff Adams: Not at all. Because the machine has the way that it's going to read the emoji and it has nothing to do with the context. Yeah. Cause the, the screen reader's not going to figure out the context of it.
James Blatch: Yeah. Okay. Well that sounds brilliant and that sort of introduction. I mean, some people won't know what we're talking about, we talk about alt text and stuff and other people will be more familiar, but this sounds like a really good way of just getting a, a foot into the water of this air. It's going to only become more important in the future.
Jeff Adams: Yeah, absolutely.
James Blatch: And that's great. Thank you very much indeed from Italy and the west coast of the US Thank you very much indeed for joining us and Michele, looking forward to your, your literary career. That's without question. Good Virgin in the future.
Michele: Great. Thanks for every Naz.
Jeff Adams: Yeah, thanks James.
Speaker 2: This is the Self-Publishing show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: There we go. That is Jeff and Michelle. Quite a niche topic I suppose, but one that you know, we deal with accessibility in physical world. There's absolutely something to deal with in the digital world as well. It's good to have people on hand who are experts and as I said, mark, there is a pdf, a hand very handy giveaway to get you going on that if you go to self-publishing formula.com/accessible, you will get that wingy as way to your email inbox.
Mark Dawson: Absolutely. Yeah. It's, it's an interesting subject and it is something that I'm, I'm guilty of not paying enough attention to.
James Blatch: Anyway, I quite like writing the little description under photographs. I don't know why I like that. But
Mark Dawson: Alt text, isn't it? Alt
James Blatch: Text. Yeah, yeah,
Mark Dawson: Yeah. No, you do see that on Twitter these days for people, people doing that. I think Lucy score does quite a lot, doesn't she? I've seen that with some of her social posts who know. It's, it's, you know, it is something that else that needs to be done, but it is, if you think about making your content more easily enjoyed by everyone and yeah, it's, it's worth the effort.
James Blatch: Yeah, definitely. Great chat. Thank you very much indeed. Jeff and Michelle, we fun talk, talking to you. Just a reminder, self-publishing launchpad open, I think four. Where are we now? I'm going to have to look at this one. Betwen. I think this is going out on the 20th, which means you've got a week and a bit to sign up at self-publishing formula.com/launchpad
Mark Dawson: Also means something else. It's a month to our conference.
James Blatch: It is a month to our conference. It's very exciting. We've had a rash of ticket sales recently and we're thinking selling the last part of party only tickets. I'm still, I'm going to arguing about that because we have a maximum file limit on the building. So however many people there are, that's the seats there effectively that everyone's allocated a seat if they take it or not. So we'll get to that point now, but if you want to come, I would, I would go to the website fairly quickly at self-publishing forum.com/sps live. It'd be great to see you in person in London. Come and have a chat with me and Mark, or even John. I know there are people who travel many miles to talk to John Dyer.
Mark Dawson: Absolutely. Why and why wouldn't you? The police please. Exactly, yes. The police. Yeah.
James Blatch: Good. Okay, look, that's it for us for now. Thank you very much indeed. To the team who put this together and for you for listening and especially if you enjoy the band, all the remains for me to say, is this a goodbye from him
Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me.
James Blatch: Goodbye. Goodbye.
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