At WordCamp Las Vegas, I had a watershed moment of privilege realization. I’ve had these before at WordCamps, like Portland where I realized how much I rely on my phone for the Internet, and what that actually means to other people (thank you Eric Mann for that one, you should post those slides!). This time it was as simple as AccessibleJoe asking my new friend, Rebecca, if she could help him. I glanced over and saw that Joe was sitting with Laura Legendary.
In that instant, the very second I saw her cane, my mind wiped out every single thought I had and focused on this. “Holy crap, my slides are worthless. Not just on the screen today, but when I give the URL out, because they’re all IMAGES.”
See, while I use SEO slides, my slides are a PDF imported from PowerPoint, which makes them a bit honking waste for her. No text. No tooltips. The deaf similarly were left out until they read the text posts I tend to make as a follow up to my slides, but since my slides are a counterpoint, or emphasis, to my speaking, I really greatly on what I say and how I say it. That means my slides are absolutely worthless to anyone who is differently abled.
When Rebecca needed to go away before Joe got back, I offered to take over, introduced myself, and said “I’m sorry, my presentation slides are worthless to you.” Laura was kind enough to explain to me the situation, demonstrate how she used her phone (before her own presentation where she showed everyone exactly how much running a website sucks. It blew my mind when she said there was only ONE theme she could find that was accessible on the front and back end so she, a 100% blind person, could manage her site all herself. And then she only had one plugin for an estore that worked.
If that doesn’t slap you in the face and make you think you’re doing something wrong with your programing, allow me to do this for you.
We suck. We are inconsiderate. We are selfish. We are ignorant. We have no idea how hard the web is for people. Even though I do spend a lot of time working on my site to make it easier to read for the visually impaired (that is people who hate small fonts), I have no idea how crap my site is for the actual blind.
Want to know how bad it is? Close your eyes and try to use your site. Go on, make a post. If you’re on a Mac, there’s a tool built in for this. I played with it the other night and was galled at how hard it was to get around the customizations of a theme. To write code, I rather expected to be hard, but the theme settings (not the customizer built in, the settings from Genesis) were not very easy, even though I knew what I was looking for.
So my pledge to this starts here. I’ll be making all my slides on SEO slides from now on, with long descriptions and alt text for everything, to make my slides more accessible. I will continue to speak clearly concisely, and more over, I will print up my slides notes in advance so I have them right there without having to use PowerPoint.
I love PowerPoint’s ability to have speaker notes, but it relying on them means I made my efforts fail for some people, then it’s time to do something new and different. I’m still going to keep my slides with few words on it, but with the SEO Slides features, I’ll be able to show the ‘notes’ (I hope, right guys?) so the deaf can read and follow along. It’s not perfect, but the only other idea would be to learn sign language, or get my wife’s up to the level where she can do that for me.