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#156: 5 Tips for Creating an Accessible Business and Course

Introduction

Welcome back to the Entrepreneur Mindset podcast. Today is going to be just a little bit different. We have been talking a lot about course creation. We’ve been talking about how to build an audience so that you actually have someone to sell your course to. We’ve been talking about the mindset that you need in creating a course. And today we’re going to talk about accessibility, because too many course creators do not think about accessibility. This week, I got an email from the administration at my college saying we are going to be focusing hardcore on accessibility. We need you to go into your courses. You need to run this accessibility report and then begin to make changes. And everyone kind of got upset because it’s the middle of the semester. Some of us have classes that are actually ending next week, so we’re dealing with final exams. And there was the general feel of, oh. 

Ah, but here’s the thing. For me, accessibility is front and center. Because I want to make sure that every single student, whether it’s in a college classroom, whether it is in an online college classroom, or if it’s in a course that I have created as an entrepreneur. I want to make sure every single student is able to use the materials and have the experience that they deserve, that I’ve created for them, that they’ve paid for, that they need. And so today, we are going to talk about accessibility. And then later this week, I have a guest coming on to talk with us about engagement inside your course, and she is an instructional design expert. 

This week is all about really making the absolute best experience for your students, for your clients, whatever you call those people that come into your course and absorb all of the wisdom that. You have to share. This is all about them this week.

Why Does Accessibility Matter?

I told you that this week. We got an email from our administration at the college where I teach, and it basically said, get on board. We’ve got to fix the accessibility issues. We need you to go into your course and start looking at the things that come back on the reports saying, oh, not so good. This is not going to be accessible. So why is accessibility so important? Well, one in up to one in four adults in the United States have some type of disability. According to the CDC, it’s about 27% of individuals. So think about that for a minute. One in four. So if you were to sit down with three other friends for dinner, one of the four of you likely has some type of disability if you’re here in the US. 

And the CDC breaks this down a little bit, they say about 12.8% of people have cognitive disabilities. 12.1 have mobility disabilities, 7.2 independent living, 6.1 hearing, 4.8 vision, and 3.6 self care. Today what I’d like to focus on is vision, hearing, and even somewhat the cognitive disabilities. Because as course designers, as course creators, we are going to have students with all kinds of needs, and we need to be able to make sure that our course is actually doing what it’s capable of doing. So we have to provide the materials in a way that are going to be accessible to all. 

I want to talk you through five key things to keep in mind. This is by no means a comprehensive list. Let me just put that out there. Right now, I’m going to talk to you about five key things to keep in mind when you are exploring your own content. And so I want you to think about this not just in terms of your course content, but your sales pages, your landing pages, your lead magnets, your social media posts, your videos on social media, your videos on YouTube, your carousel posts, your stories that you post. I want you to think about this in terms of every piece of content that you create inside your business. If it’s a PDF, if it is a Word document, if it is something else, a PowerPoint slide. I want you to start thinking about all of the different pieces of content inside your business and apply these five concepts to those pieces of content.

5 Key Factors to Consider in Accessibility

Factor 1: Captions

First up is captions. I was on a call with a client just yesterday, and we were talking about this one. So it comes to mind front and center for me, and that is captions. When you create a video, for example, this podcast will also go to YouTube, and so there will be a video associated with it. When you create a video, you want to make sure that there are always captions available. Now, in part, this is because a lot of us watch videos silently. We tend to read them. 

You’re standing in the grocery store line. You see the cool reel that pops up on Instagram, but you don’t want to blast everyone in line, so you read the captions that are running on the Instagram reel. Okay, so a lot of people actually read videos rather than listen to videos. But remember, we have 6.1% of our population with serious difficulty hearing, or deafness. And so for those individuals, simply listening to your video is not going to be an option. You need to make sure that that content is accessible to them. It’s available to them in a format that they can take in. This is one of the reasons why every single podcast episode that I put out there has a full transcript available of the entire podcast. Because I know that for some people, they aren’t going to be able to listen to this podcast, but they still want the content. They still want to be able to consume it. And that means in written form, I know that for the YouTube videos I always put up Captions, I also still include a link to the full transcript. Okay, so Captions, first and foremost, keep in mind that this is going to be the course videos that you create, the audio messages that you send, the video on your sales page, the case study on your sales page. Any of these things that have video, make sure that there is a transcript available as well as captions. 

That is tip number one. I want to make sure that you have those captions available at all times for all of your content. Now, this is so easy in today’s society. We have apps galore that will help you to do this. So please think about things like Kapwing, Descript, and CapCut. There are so many different things out there that will put closed captioning onto your videos for you for a very reasonable price.

Factors 2 & 3: Color Contrast + Text Size and Font

Now onto number two. And this one, a lot of times when I’m in groups, I will offer to review lead magnets for people and so they excitedly send me their landing page and their PDF that they are planning to send out. That’s the actual lead magnet, the way to generate emails onto their email list. And so I look at the landing page and I look at the PDF separately. 

Now, the Bureau of Internet Accessibility says that the most common issue is low contrast text. And in their own research, they say that 83.6% of homepages are not color contrast appropriate. So what do I mean here? Color contrast is about whether there is enough difference between your background and your foreground. In terms of a landing page, what does this look like if you have a really light colored background? Maybe your background on your landing page is white and one of your brand colors is a baby blue. And so you put the text for your heading in baby blue on a white background. There’s not going to be enough contrast between the two colors for someone who has low vision or color vision deficiencies. And it said that about 8% of the US. Population has some kind of visual impairment. Would you want to exclude those 8% of individuals from your content simply because of a color contrast issue? 

My guess is, if you’re still listening no, you genuinely care about making sure that. Making sure that everyone has access to your content. So when I’m reviewing landing pages, the most common feedback I give is, I need you to make more color contrast between your background and your foreground. So oftentimes it’s the background and the printed words, right? A lot of times, this is because we tend to put words on top pictures. Again, if there’s lots of color in that picture and maybe it’s darker and you’ve got black text, guess what’s going to happen? It’s hard to find that black text, so please notice color contrast as you continue to create your content. 

Thinking about the PDFs that I get when I get a lead magnet, same issue there. How is it going to print? I want you to think about what it prints like in color and in black and white, because a lot of people print in black and white. When that beautiful PDF converts to black and white, is there still enough contrast? And there are lots of different tools out there. I actually have an app on my computer called Colour Contrast Analyser, and color is spelled with a U. Analyzer is spelled with an S, not a z. So you get to actually drop kind of a little eyedropper. You get to put an eyedropper over your background color and an eyedropper over your foreground color, and it tells you if there is enough contrast.

There’s really no excuse for not creating enough contrast because we have apps that do this. We have apps that tell us instantaneously if this is a good color choice or if it’s going to be an issue for our audience members who have color vision deficiencies or low vision. 

Please put this into action today. Take the idea and put it into action today. You know, a lot of times the designers that you might be hiring to do your website or to create that beautiful PDF, they’re going to choose color pairs that are really pretty. They are visually attractive, but they are not accessible. And not every web designer thinks about or knows about accessibility. So be aware and take this into account. Please make sure that you are taking into account contrast. 

Next up, kind of in the same vein of things, is font size and color. So, again, let me go back to that example of reviewing lead magnets. A lot of times, I see these beautiful graphics that someone’s preparing to post on instagram, facebook, LinkedIn, whatever. Social media platform they’re using. And it’s beautiful. Don’t get me wrong. It’s got beautiful colors, it’s got an amazing graphic on it, a picture on it, and then the words on it are hard to read because either the writing is too small or the font is too, for lack of a better word, fancy. It’s too fancy. It is not easy to discern the letters that are being used in that headline or that text that’s on the graphic. The same is true of any PDF that you create. The same is true of any web page that you create, any landing page that you create, any email that you send to your clients or to your audience, you want to make sure that you are using fonts that are readable for someone who has low vision or vision disabilities. 

This is an easy fix. Yes, you might need to say goodbye to some of your really fancy fonts. But again, when we have up to one in four adults in the US. Being impacted by disabilities of some kind, isn’t it more important to create content that they can consume than content that might look pretty but is not consumable? So, when in doubt, choose the clearer font and make it a little bit bigger. Okay? Make it bigger, make it clearer. And you can do a quick web search on fonts that are accessible. That is the beauty of the wonderful. World Wide Web. We have these resources at our fingertips when we know to go look for them. And so today’s episode is truly about not just giving you these ideas. And so far, we’ve talked about three of the five that I want to touch on, but it’s also to raise awareness for the fact that we have a responsibility as entrepreneurs to create content. That is accessible to everyone. 

As a quick recap, so far we’ve talked about captions, color contrast, and font style and size.

Factors 4 & 5: Progress Indication and Alt Text

Next up, let’s talk about progress indication. This goes alongside our screen reader kind of accessibility. So someone with low vision or vision impairments is going to employ a screen reader. And what a screen reader does. Is it’s going to go through the actual web page and read everything out to the person. It’s going to read those header images. It’s going to read the words that are actually on the page. It’s going to read the menu titles. It’s going to read the description for the pictures that you have. It’s going to do all of this stuff. 

One of the things that we often don’t think about, especially as course creators, is that we have maybe eight modules of material, and in each module, there are 8, 9, 10 lessons. If you do not purposely label everything in a way that a screen reader can say, you are now entering module one, lesson one of eight. Module one of ten. Lesson one of eight. The person that is using that screen reader isn’t going to have that same experience. 

Let me give you an example. When I log into some course Hubs that I’m a part of, I can see very quickly that the creator of the course Hub has given me eight modules. I can visually see that as I scroll down the page. And so I go, okay, great, I have eight modules. I can divide that up. All right? So I’ll divide that across three weeks, and then I can click into module one, see that there are ten lessons in here. And all right, I’ll divide that accordingly. But someone who isn’t able to see that visual representation of how many modules and lessons there are is going to rely on the screen reader to give them that information. 

As you are creating courses, keep in mind progress indication, please keep in mind progress indication. Let me just give you kind of another example here, and this leads me actually into tip five, which is for all of your images, I want you to create an alt text, an alternate text, that can be read by the screen reader. 

I was reading a Wired.com article recently, and it was posted on October 24 of 2019. So it’s a little bit older. And it says, the Internet is for everyone, right? Not with a screen reader. And so, taken straight from the article, I’m going to link this so that you can go read the article for yourself. It says, “a few weeks ago, Lucy Greco heard a story on NPR about more closing retailers, shuttering their stores and moving online. Oh, great, she thought, recalling some of her past experiences with online shopping. ‘Clicking on something that says graphic, graphic, graphic, or some numbered file name or some gibberish like that.’ The internet can be like this for Greco, who is blind and uses a screen reader to wayfind online.” 

From that quick little snippet from the Wired article that I’m going to link in our show notes so you can go read it for yourself, we see that what we actually put into our course has to be detailed. When I was going through my college course this week and cleaning up some accessibility issues, one of the things that I had to do was to make sure that every single picture was labeled clearly or that it was marked as decorative. 

Let me give you an example. I upload my slides for my students so that they can print them off, they can take notes on them and they don’t have to worry about writing things down off the slides. I’d rather them take their own ideas down than what I’ve put on a slide. And so there were these slides, mostly from the publisher. There was a decorative thin line box outlining some text on the slide. And I got a warning saying that I had a picture that was not labeled with an alternate text. And I went in and it was literally this thin line box around the words. That was it. Now, you and I know if you are not using a screen reader, we think, okay, it’s just pretty and we move on. But if someone who is reviewing that slide and is using a screen reader gets to it, there’s nothing to let them know if they are missing a key detail that maybe I’ve taught or they’re going to be tested on. Or maybe if you’re thinking about your own course, they’re wondering, was that the magic key that’s going to make all of this make sense? And now you are amping up anxiety. And worry and stress because they don’t know if they’ve just missed something important. For the things like a little thin-line box around the words, you can say that that box is decorative. And then the person using the screen reader knows, okay, no big deal. I don’t have to worry about it. But if that box had actually been a picture with the words, I would have put the words into the alternate text so that they would not miss out on the content that was in the picture. 

Or maybe it’s a graphic that describes the flow of your course. Maybe you’ve created a beautiful graphic and loaded it into your course. And it is a roadmap for your whole course all in one place. S but you don’t label it. So now your course taker has missed out on having the big picture. It’s because your picture didn’t have an alternate text. So you can see here that we want to make sure in particular that we are making it easy for individuals with especially as course creators, especially with visual and auditory disabilities, to be able to really move through through your course and your content with ease and with complete access to what it is you’re sharing and what it is you’ve promised to give them. You are maintaining your promise to share all of this information with them, especially if it’s a course for a price. You need to hold up your end of the bargain. That’s what it comes down to. 

We want to make sure that everyone has the same ability to access the content, regardless of whether they’re using a transcript, whether they’re using captions, a screen reader or some other assistive technology or device. Now, at the very beginning, I gave you a statistic that said 12.8% of individuals in the CDC numbers where I said one in four adults of the United States have some type of disability, actually ends up being about 27%. And I said 12.8% have cognitive disabilities. So they have serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions. When you create course content that has overviews, has summaries, has key learning points bulleted out for them, has a transcript, has a way to take notes that’s maybe Madlib style. They follow along and put in the key terms that you’re sharing or the key ideas when you provide handouts that have examples listed out for someone, they aren’t going to have to remember what you said in that 30 minute video. They are going to be able to look at that handout or look at the transcript and find what they’re looking for.

Please, as you think about the content that you are putting together for your clients, for your students, I want you to keep accessibility top of mind.

Action Item

Now onto the action item for this week. What I want you to do is do a little bit of a self audit. I want you to think about our five key factors that I shared with you today. I want you to think about captions, color contrast, font size and style. Want you to think about progress indication and I want you to think about alt text, alt alternate text on pictures and I want you to do a self assessment. Choose one resource within your business. Maybe it’s your Instagram account. Maybe it is a lead magnet that you have just created. Perhaps it is your landing page, your home page. You heard that statistic that I shared with you on homepages? That let’s see it was huge, right? A huge. 83.6% of homepages do not pass the contrast text test. Let me say that again. 83.6% of homepages do not have enough contrast. It is low contrast. Now I say this. The article was written on June 20 of 2023. And so, at the time of print, at the time of creation of this online article 83.6% of homepages had low contrast text. And they note that was a slight decrease from 83.9% of websites in 2022. 

We are not making any inroads quickly. Be the change. Please be the change. 

I spent hours this week painstakingly adding in titles and headers and alt text and marking things if they were decorative. Because I want my students to have the absolute best possible chance of consuming the content in the way I intend and having access to every single thing that I’ve put out there for them. And so to me, it’s worth it. Because if you want to be accessible, have an access business for your clients and your students, this is what it takes. It takes intentionality, it takes time, it takes being comfortable saying, I don’t actually understand what you mean by contrast. And going and finding someone who does and having them explain it to you, show you the tools, implement the tools, the resources that are available to us on the internet. 

We have unprecedented access to be able to be accessible. There is no reason why our content cannot be accessible today. So your action item is to do a self assessment and then take it a step further. Choose one thing to fix, or if you’re not going to go back, I want you to choose one thing moving forward that you will commit to doing. That’s different. Maybe it is every time you upload a reel to Instagram or to Facebook it will have captions available. Think about how simple that is. Do you know that when I create a reel for instagram and I choose, I usually put up between four and seven reels a week? So you can understand how that multiplies over time, right? It takes me about 60 extra seconds to process my video go to add in captions. Because I upload my video to Kapwing, I delete out the beginning and the end where I’m pressing the button on my phone, and then I hit auto Subtitle. Then I have Kapwing setup so that I have the style that I want for my captions already ready, and it plops them in there. I drag the captions so that it’s not going to be covered up by the Description or Any of the buttons on Instagram across the top. I make sure that it’s not going to be hidden by anything, and then I hit export. And honestly, the longest part of the process is waiting for that export to be ready. But I told you it adds maybe 60 seconds total to my process at most. But that means that every single person who comes across my video can read what’s happening if they are unable to hear it or they’re unable to turn on the sound because of where they’re located. 

Take action this week.

Conclusion

Okay, let’s recap what we talked about today just one more time, because I know it was a lot, and for some of my listeners, this might be the first time you’ve really thought about accessibility, and I don’t want it to be the last. I want you to come back to this podcast episode time and again. I want you to DM me at Entrepreneurs in Flow, on Facebook, on Instagram and tell me if you have a question. Let me help you. 

Every single human being deserves to have equal access to this content that you’re creating. It is important, it’s powerful, and it’s the right thing to do. So here are our five things I want you to think about. 

  1. Start thinking about today captions 
  2. Color contrast
  3. Font size and style. 
  4. Making sure that your content is screen reader friendly by doing a few things. So number four on our list is progress indication making sure that you have set your stuff up so that we know there’s module one of eight and now we’re in module one, lesson one of ten, so that the person who is using your content knows exactly where they are. 
  5. Make sure you’re using alternate text on your pictures so that someone who has low vision or is using a screen reader, for some reason, they know what’s in that picture, because if it is not tagged with alternate text, they may be missing out on something that is is 100% critical to their progress in the course. 

I hope that this episode was helpful. I hope that it’s got you thinking a little bit differently about how we need to be accessible in our businesses as entrepreneurs. And I know there are going to be some people out there that say, but until I make a certain amount of money, until I’m a certain size of a business, until I’m in the public sector, until then these rules don’t apply to me. There’s the law and there’s doing what’s right. Do what’s right. Make your content accessible. 

I promised you that today was going to be about accessibility, and I promised you an expert episode on Thursday all about engaging your students within our course. And so I am very excited to welcome an instructional design expert to our Thursday episode.

I’ll see you back here on Thursday for another episode of the Entrepreneur Mindset Podcast, where we focus on mentoring, community and implementation. It’s all about taking action so that we can remove the overwhelm of building a successful and profitable business and add in a little dose of momentum.

Until next time, have a healthy, safe, and happy week.

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