Dufferin Media Cares

Introduction

Local Digital Marketing Firm Pushes Online Accessibility

Local Digital Marketing Firm Pushes Online Accessibility

Josh MacEwen
I’m Josh MacEwen here with Dufferin News. Today we’re here to talk with Sarah Clarke, the founder of Dufferin Media. Founded in 2012. Dufferin Media is a team of online professionals that specializes in social media management, internet marketing, and public relations. Dufferin Media has grown to service numerous organizations, both locally and internationally. The team believes in helping businesses grow through branding, strategy, and implementation. Their passion for business and entrepreneurship is the primary focus in helping clients establish and achieve their goals. Today, we are here to talk about accessibility, nonprofits and a new division of Dufferin Media, Dufferin Media Cares, which ties it all together. To discuss this with us, like I said, is Sarah Clarke, the founder of Dufferin Media. Hi, Sarah, thank you for your time. Can you tell us a little bit about Dufferin Media Cares?

Sarah Clarke
Hi, Josh. Thanks for having me here today. Absolutely, Dufferin Media Cares is a new division of Dufferin Media that I have been dreaming of for over a year. And I’m super excited to finally be implementing the launch of the division. We’ve always believed in giving back through either volunteering or giving programs or our Adopt-A-Charity Campaign, which we have run over the last three years. This is taking that concept one step further. We’re launching a division that will specialize in nonprofit and charity organizations, both locally and internationally. The goal is to have a division that offers digital marketing services at favourable rates, so that piece is an extension of Dufferin Media services. Then it will also include more than that. My vision is to include a membership area for the key players and nonprofits, where they have a place to learn, network with each other, support each other, and have a networking opportunity. So that membership piece, I think, is really exciting and different. It’s sort of like one place where everyone can come together and help each other grow their own organizations. And the third is going to have a giving program. Built into the business plan is that a certain portion of all of the income that comes in will be split equally amongst all of the organizations that are part of the membership. So there’s a continual flow of not just information, but also of funding, of support, and I’m just, I’m so excited.

Josh MacEwen
Wow, that’s quite a bit. The giving program that’s exciting as well. So I wanted to hop over now into the accessibility piece. How does Dufferin Media Cares fit into this? You’re launching a whole new set of services, right? Around accessibility?

Sarah Clarke
Yes. As a natural development that happened as we were getting ready to launch Dufferin Media Cares, I had a conversation with a nonprofit organization, a smaller nonprofit organization. Literally, I don’t think they even have any employees. They were denied the opportunity to apply for a grant because their website was not considered web-accessible or up to the web accessibility standards. So that had me step back for a second and just learn, as much as I could, in a short period of time, everything to do with web accessibility. How it might apply especially to nonprofit organizations. How Dufferin Media and Dufferin Media Cares might be able to help these nonprofits become web-accessible so that they can apply for those grants. The law in Ontario is that all nonprofit, businesses, and public organizations with 50 employees or more must have their websites fully compliant. What’s missed in that opportunity is the discussion about the smaller nonprofit organizations, not to mention the businesses. There’s a whole other discussion here that has completely opened my eyes to how important web accessibility is.

Josh MacEwen
It is. I saw some of the stats. A lot of people, if they have accessibility needs, like many, if it doesn’t suit their needs, if it doesn’t help them, they’re going to just turn away immediately. It’s extremely crucial to make sure it is accessible for everybody. It’s surprising. I mean, it is, and it isn’t. It’s surprising to see how many are not accessible. Do you come across many websites that are actually as accessible as they need to be?

Sarah Clarke
A few of them you can tell are really close. I don’t know if any website can be truly compliant because things change so quickly, but you can tell the ones that have been working on it. If I run them through my ‘sort of free’ audit program that I’ve installed, some have very few errors. Those are government organizations that have known about this for years and have been programming it into their websites. But I mean, other businesses and nonprofits, they’re just not. The reality is, is that it’s not on their radar at all. One of my biggest goals right now, short term, is to bring as much awareness to this topic as we can, and start really talking about it and educating nonprofit organizations, educating small business owners, and just getting the word out there that accessibility, it’s not just becoming law. It makes it easier for users to consume and interact with your content, and it’s just the right thing to do. Right? It makes so much sense from a social responsibility point of view.

Josh MacEwen
Just from a business perspective too. These people are customers; you don’t want to turn away customers, especially these days.

Sarah Clarke
Exactly. One of the case studies that I watched during the course that I took was a perfect example. It was a travel booking website, and it basically showed an older person who was having declining vision, which I mean ‘Hello, I need bifocals soon’ so I’m not far away from that. They had the worst time trying to navigate the forms because of how the text was. So instead, what they did is they just went to a different site that was much easier to read, and they booked the travel through them. A perfect example of a real-life situation where if your website isn’t designed for everyone, you’re going to potentially lose some customers.

Josh MacEwen
Yeah, and to be honest, it’s going to be the bigger guys that get on this first because they have the money to do this. But I mean, that’s not preventing the little guys. That just tells you that you need to get on it fast because these guys are going to get on it, and you don’t want to lose this business to them.

Sarah Clarke
Yeah, it’s an incredible competitive advantage. When I think about it in terms of a nonprofit organization, I imagine most of them have users that they’re trying to help. Whether it be a food bank or a group that helps seniors, the end-users they’re trying to help, they want them to consume the website content, find their hours, and find their contact page. Whether they’re using any sort of assistive devices or they have vision issues, there are so many potential people that they’re not going to be able to help if they don’t have the accessibility features on their website.

Josh MacEwen
100% and like a lot of nonprofits, I don’t want to synonymize getting older with losing some abilities, but more of the population is becoming older, a lot of these people volunteer or use the services or a lot of the other things you mentioned or alluded to. You need to be accessible for everybody. That’s just the way it goes. More and more people need these accommodations, especially as more of the population ages. And again, I don’t like synonymizing these things, but I mean, it’s just a reality of life. Some people need extra accommodations as they grow older, and we need to help them, and we want to make sure we’re still servicing these people. This is great. I love hearing about this. It’s really needed in our community, everywhere. Still, it’s great to see that it’s happening in our community, and we are not going to be left behind. We really appreciate what you guys are doing because we don’t want to be left behind. We’re actually rather progressive in a few areas in this county, so we shouldn’t be left behind here.

Sarah Clarke
Absolutely.

Josh MacEwen
So I want to make sure this is clear. Are companies, not just nonprofits, able to hire Dufferin Media for assistance in the area of web accessibility?

Sarah Clarke
Yes, absolutely. There’s going to be a lot of communication going out from the DufferinMedia.com website to build awareness of how businesses of all sizes can implement certain accessibility strategies in their marketing. We’re also going to be offering, to any business or nonprofit organization, the ability to create accessible websites and do accessibility audits. So that piece is ready to go. We’re building our first two accessible websites right now; Dufferin Media Cares, of course, is going to be one of them. So the beautiful thing is, is that we use WordPress for all of our websites. And there are thousands of WordPress themes, and a lot of developers have created accessible themes that our team can get started with. We can customize them so that the basic coding and structure are built with accessibility in mind for screen readers or for vision and contrast. All of those things are built into the theme. Part of it is just keeping that in mind when choosing how we will start building that website. So, definitely to answer your question, yes, we will be offering these services to everyone.

Josh MacEwen
That’s awesome. You mentioned this as well; there are some templates out there and even a few plugins designed to increase accessibility. From what you’re saying, though, those aren’t good enough. They’re starting off point.

Sarah Clarke
They’re a starting off point. So having a website that’s fully accessible, definitely having it created in a program that has the theme, and the structure and the plugins are great. But you’re always going to have to have that last human check of everything. To go through and do user testing so that if there’s anything that the technology is not telling you, that you catch it.

Josh MacEwen
100%, it’s good to have when you’re installing these plugins, anyways. It’s good to have a final set of eyes and run through the code just in case you kind of know what you’re running, what you’re putting on your website, and where everything’s going and all that. I see the value of that, for sure, and again, that final set of eyes is key. That’s great. So I heard it mentioned that Dufferin Media is going to have an accessibility officer. What’s that? And what do they do?

Sarah Clarke
Yes, so our accessibility officer, her name is Miglena. She’s fully certified in web accessibility, and her specialty is in the website creation area. However, she’s very skilled at everything else, too, when it comes to digital marketing, graphic design, social media. She’s going to be able to help us with the web accessibility audits that we’re going to offer, and she’s going to be helping spearhead the creation of websites that are accessibility compliant.

Josh MacEwen
That’s awesome. From what I understand, some of the other teammates are also going to be trained in this area and become certified?

Sarah Clarke
This is so incredibly important to myself and the entire team at Dufferin Media. Every single team member is going to take the web accessibility course and become certified by the end of May.

Josh MacEwen
Wow. Wow, you guys are really going to be living and breathing this stuff.

Sarah Clarke
Yeah. So the entire team will be able to answer questions. At least at the basic foundational level about web accessibility and how it applies to our clients and our own organization when it comes to websites, social media, any other digital content that might be going out there. E-mail marketing, that sort of thing. So I’m really excited. And the whole team was 100% on board; there was no discussion about it whatsoever.

Josh MacEwen
That’s awesome. It’s great to see everybody on board. I know full well, you have a very caring team there. So I’m not surprised, but it is awesome to hear regardless. That’s great. You guys are dealing with a lot of people, just in general, that really are getting started with their websites, and they really kind of go into it not knowing much, if anything. A lot of us are in that same boat—even these days. The pandemic has emphasized how important it is to have a website, and there are quite a few people that are just getting to those stages. But I mean, now is the time to make sure that you don’t have to go back and do things twice, three times. If you just did it, get it done now, don’t push it off. This is important stuff. Again, you don’t want to have to come back. You’re going to always have to update your website, and that’s important. Still, you don’t want to have to do a fundamental redesign or anything like that. Especially when you just started. I think this is extremely valuable. The timing of this is great. This is awesome. I really love hearing about this. So you guys actually have a social media checklist. I’d love to go through a couple of things that I saw on there if you don’t mind.

Sarah Clarke
I don’t mind, and I still don’t consider myself an expert, so I’ll answer the best I can. This is going to be coming out in a blog post in the next few days. It’s an infographic, and it’ll be a blog post as well.

Josh MacEwen
Awesome. So I saw a lot of things around hashtags, and I see a lot of people using hashtags. I use hashtags. I don’t really like them, but people use them. And they’re helpful for social media posts. I saw something in there about camel case. What is camel case, and why is it important?

Sarah Clarke
So camel case is when you create a hashtag, and the first letter of each word is capitalized.

Josh MacEwen
Makes sense, makes it’s easier to read.

Sarah Clarke
It makes it easier to read. So when we’re talking about social media and making social media content more accessible, I think the main thing to take away from it is, try and make it as user-friendly as possible for everyone. Using that camel case style in the hashtag is one of the ways that you can do that. Because if you’re using a hashtag that has, say, three words, and you put those three words, and they all have the same lowercase, it’s hard to pull apart what it is. But if you use a capital letter for the first letter of each word, it makes it so much easier for anyone to read.

Josh MacEwen
You’re right; it’s a lot easier to process, a lot faster. And you don’t have to put in as much brain effort, which I mean is never a bad thing, but you don’t need to be doing it for a hashtag.

Sarah Clarke
Yeah, 100%. Then the other quick tip for accessibility and user experience is in a social media post. Try not to use the hashtags in the middle of your text. It can actually be quite hard to read, for anyone, to have to process that hashtag in the middle of your text. I’m going to be honest; I do this all the time. They suggest that for accessibility purposes, you only add the hashtags at the end of your social media post. Not in the middle.

Josh MacEwen
I’m guilty of this too, especially on Twitter, because Twitter only gives you so many characters, and you want to try to save space. I know a lot of people probably don’t use Twitter, our viewers, but those of us that do, we know those character constraints, especially when we’re trying to get our posts for all the different platforms. It’s a hard thing to do. That one is tricky. I completely understand that. Like you said, just processing ourselves, if there was text to speech, having to read that in the middle of an actual body of text. That makes a lot of sense. I think with a lot of these, if people actually think about it and put yourselves in somebody else’s shoes, you understand a lot of this; this makes a lot of sense, a lot of it. There was another one too, about hashtag clouds and that going in the first comment of Instagram posts. I think that’s in a similar vein, right? Just getting it out of the whole post because why does anyone actually need to see that? That’s more for the purposes, generally, of discoverability is not?

Sarah Clarke
Yes, I mean, on Instagram, you can see, what is it, 30 hashtags or something? It’s a crazy number that some people use. If you’re using that in the text of your posts, there’s going to be certain accessibility devices that are going to just struggle through trying to read that content for the user. If you think about just good business practice, it’s harder to read or consume when there are that many hashtags. So I think it’s a good suggestion. I don’t know how Instagram users, in general, might feel about this, but it’s a suggestion if you’re specifically trying to make your social media more accessible to everyone. Definitely, keeping that in mind, I think it is important. If you’re going to use like 30 hashtags, it’s going to be difficult for people with accessibility issues. So why not just put them in the comment below.

Josh MacEwen
That makes complete sense. I’m sort of reassessing how I use hashtags, too. Yeah, putting the hashtags in the first comment, I don’t think it is a burden on anybody. Really, I think that makes it’s easier. If there is text-to-speech having to go through 30 hashtags, and you’re rushing to try to stop it because ‘I don’t need to listen to 30 hashtags.’ No. It just makes it easier. It makes it a lot easier. I completely agree. Nobody needs to put up with that. And then also alt-text. That was something else that came up, alt-text. So can you tell us what alt-text is? I think there are a few people that don’t know what that is.

Sarah Clarke
So alt-text, or alternative text, is basically when you add an image anywhere on the internet. It tells the internet what that image is in words. So it’s the text that explains what that picture is. So in you may have heard it in relation to search engine optimization. They suggest that when you’re creating your website, you always use alt-text when you’re adding the images, and that alt-text is suggested to be a keyword that you’re trying to rank for. So using alt-text is an SEO strategy. Taking that one step further, when we’re talking about accessibility on websites or social media, alt-text is a way that certain accessibility devices will tell the user what that picture looks like or what that picture is of. So if it’s a picture of a cute puppy, and the alt-text is completely different, then the user won’t get that context. The alt-text should actually say, ‘this is a cute puppy playing with a ball’ or something like that. It should actually explain, in clear words, what that picture is. It is an incredible strategy, not just for accessibility concerns but also for SEO. So if you’re using these two things combined together, you’re going to actually benefit from a couple different things.

Josh MacEwen
Yeah, I mean, I know whenever I’m putting together my blog post, my articles, and anything I put together with Yoast. That’s always the thing they tell you to do. Make sure you include your alt-text. And I also think it comes up with, I mean, I don’t think this happens too often anymore, but when the picture doesn’t load properly. I think it shows alt-text instead.

Sarah Clarke
Yes. That’s a very good point, too.

Josh MacEwen
Yeah, there’s a lot of advantages. And on Facebook, it’s great to see it on social media because I think that’s a relatively new feature on a lot of these social media sites. I think Facebook had it, but I see it on LinkedIn. I know I see it on Twitter; it’s probably on Instagram, too. Yeah. That’s great. That’s great.

Sarah Clarke
It’s a quick win if you can put your alt-text not just on website images but on social media as well.

Josh MacEwen
Yeah, because I think that gets lost on a lot of people. I mean, including myself, I’ll be honest, like, I haven’t been doing that. And I mean, that just tells you how much what I was doing was strictly just for SEO and not for accessibility, which isn’t a great thing to do.

Sarah Clarke
And I suspect that once you start adding alt-text to your social media posts, you’re going to start seeing them on the Google Image results pretty quickly.

Josh MacEwen
That’s even better. That’s even better. So there are a few advantages to doing it. It’s not just for helping your customers. There’s always a benefit, which you should always be doing.

Sarah Clarke
It’s a win-win, Josh.

Josh MacEwen
That’s great. Again, I look forward to when the blog posts come out and the infographic. There’s going to be so much that people will learn. I know I’ve learned a little from the little I’ve seen. It’s great. It’s so helpful. I’m going to be definitely incorporating that, especially around the hashtags. That seems like a relatively easy thing to do, especially on the other social media posts besides Twitter, but we can definitely make it work on Twitter, too. If we just put a little bit more thought. I’ll make sure I do that. Then there was one more thing. Why so many tips around emojis? Why are those a concern?

Sarah Clarke
I think that people with accessibility and vision issues, maybe even cognitive issues, have problems processing what some of those images mean. Then take that one step further, and imagine what an accessibility device might do with those emojis. I think there’s a couple of different reasons why, for accessibility purposes, they’re suggesting that you reduce your emojis or try not to use them in the middle of your social media posts. I like seeing them in the middle of social media posts. For me, I feel like emojis make a social media post just more fun to read, more interesting, and more human. But there’s the other side of that. Some people will not be able to really process that at all or understand what that post is trying to say. In this case, for accessibility, this might be something that a nonprofit specifically would really be considering, how to present the text of their social media posts so that all of their users can understand it.

Josh MacEwen
That makes complete sense. There are a few emojis, I don’t really like them, but I find some of them confusing. I don’t know what some of them are. I don’t know what some of them mean. I imagine there are other people in the same boat as me, so I can completely relate to that one.

Sarah Clarke
People in the older demographic too, in the ageing demographic, don’t know. Even I would say I don’t know what half this stuff is my kids use for emojis. I often have to ask them, so imagine people in the older generation. They don’t necessarily know what any of them are, and they might take them out of context. So that’s part of the education that we’re looking forward to exploring and offering to the audience. I mean, each business owner can make their own decision. They can say, ‘okay, that’s great. I’m glad that I learned this information about emojis. I’m going to keep it in mind, but I still want to post with emojis, because…’ and that’s fine. They can make their own decision, but at least they’re making an educated decision.

Josh MacEwen
Yeah, information is key. At least people are aware of these things. And again, we don’t want to be left behind. We’re quite ahead in a few areas around here. We don’t want to be getting behind on that one.

Sarah Clarke
That’s right.

Josh MacEwen
Especially when so much of our population is probably going to need help in some circumstance when it comes to accessibility online, so I mean, this is great. Sarah, thank you so much. I really appreciate this.

Sarah Clarke
Think about the competitive advantage too, Josh. If a business, a small business owner can say, ‘accessibility is really important to me, and so for my real estate business…’ or whatever business they’re in. They’ve committed to creating a website that’s fully accessible. Their social media is fully accessible. They educate people, and they have an accessibility policy on their website. So even though they don’t have to be, they’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do. It gives them an incredible competitive edge.

Josh MacEwen
100%, especially with small businesses against each other, but I mean, even against the big guys. The big guys take shortcuts. I mean, they have lawyers and stuff, but I mean, they…

Sarah Clarke
Let’s not get Josh started on that.

Josh MacEwen
No, but yeah, it is 100% a competitive edge. It is great. I mean, I’m glad that somebody in this community is really pushing this forward. I think there’s going to be a lot of people caught off guard by this. I think so. Which is unfortunate, because again, it’d be great if we were ahead of this stuff, not behind.

Sarah Clarke
Especially if you’re a nonprofit organization, and you’re applying for grants to help people in your community, but you’re totally blocked because they say, ‘Oh, no, we don’t accept grants from websites that are not accessible.’

Josh MacEwen
Yeah, like I never actually hit that. That’s what started all this. Yeah, that’s a competitive edge right there. I mean, they’re competing for grant dollars too, and also donors. I mean, donors like seeing that stuff. We all like seeing that stuff because it is helpful, and it’s beneficial to everybody. Especially when you think about nonprofits, nonprofits are meant to help people.

Sarah Clarke
So our goal is to make sure that they can help as many people as possible.

Josh MacEwen
That’s awesome. Again, thank you so much, Sarah; I really appreciate this. I love learning more. I think the community will learn a lot from this, especially the small business owners, anybody with an app or touches the web in any aspect—even our own personal posts. We can make our own personal posts a little bit more accessible, everyday people. It doesn’t just have to be businesses or nonprofits. We have friends, family, it’s for everybody, we can all learn from this stuff. So I mean, I appreciate it a ton. Thank you, Sarah.

Sarah Clarke
Thanks, Josh.

Josh MacEwen
Before we wrap it up, is there anything you’d like to say to the community?

Sarah Clarke
Just keep an eye out on the DufferinMedia.com website; we are going to be launching a free accessibility audit, which will be available to any business or nonprofit organization. That’s the first sort of launch that we’re having in April, and if you go to http://www.DufferinMediaCares.com, you can sign up if you’re a nonprofit organization. That’s what that site is specifically tailored for; you can sign up to be notified when our full site and the membership area launches, which we’re anticipating will be by May 1.

Josh MacEwen
That’s awesome. When it goes to the accessibility audit, how does that work? Like, do they contact you, and then you do the audit?

Sarah Clarke
Yes. We’re going to offer a free web accessibility audit that will take a quick look at 10 key areas of accessibility and rank that business or organization on how well they’re doing with accessibility. We’ll provide that to them. Then further audits, paid audits, that sort of thing, will be discussed down the road. But, right now, we’re just trying to increase awareness of accessibility issues, so we’re offering this free audit that our compliance officer will be doing. It’s just really to get a report of somebody looking at your website and saying, okay, you literally have no alt tags, so you rate 0/10 in alt tags. So all the different pieces, like the colour contrast, there are so many points that go into web accessibility. So the audit is going to try and cover and educate people about that.

Josh MacEwen
Yeah. We never talked about that. But colour contrast as, someone who’s colourblind, I can say that’s an important one too.

Sarah Clarke
Huge consideration. Josh, you are definitely. Like, there’s a huge population. I saw a stat the other day. It’s something like 8-15% of all men are colorblind. It’s a huge number. And colour contrast is an incredible issue when it comes to creating websites that I don’t think goes into the design process.

Josh MacEwen
No, it isn’t, but again, I can’t talk; I can hardly put together an outfit, coordinating colours and things like that. So I’m not going to be too hard on anybody. Still, I’m glad that people are working in this area to make things better for people, and again, thank you so much, because this is a huge help. I just know for my own personal stuff and other people I talked to as well, this is going to be a huge help to everybody. Whether you’re a business or nonprofit, or an individual. We can all get better when it comes to making our things, or even just our posts, more accessible. That’s great. And again, businesses and nonprofits have websites and a lot of other aspects too. Again, thank you so much. What’s the best way to contact you? I want to make sure I get that in there too.

Sarah Clarke
Definitely through the website, http://www.dufferinmedia.com, or you can e-mail me Sarah@DufferinMedia.ca.

Full Disclosure: Dufferin Media and Dufferin’s Spotlight created a strategic alliance in 2020. To learn more details, check out this press release.

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