I occasionally send a personalized thank you gift to vendors or clients… in fact would much rather do that then send out a package to get lost among all of the typical holiday corporate packages. (Although, Seth, keep those cookies coming in December, they are to die for.)
Today we sent out one of our favorites: Women’s Small Business Training through Rescue.org. If you want to make a difference in the world, considering browsing through the micro donations you can make at this amazing site.
Advance on this post: I recently had the opportunity to design a website for a client that works with individuals and families that have experienced a traumatic brain injury. Different from our typical client, this pro-bono project was made possible by Mockingbird 1% for Good — part of our ongoing effort to make the world a little better for everyone.
This project has been a welcome doorway into the world of web accessibility. I quickly learned how little I knew, and how strongly the lessons I learned applied to the legal industry. Thanks to the patience and assistance of a great client, we were able to design a website that appeals and works for everyone, including those with disabilities.
Without further delay — or in case you happen to be a skim reader — please help yourself to any of these website accessibility tips. And don’t be shy, implement them and keep a sharp eye on your analytics.
You might be amazed how people engage with your website when they can see your content.
Why Legal Cares About Accessibility
Let’s just start with the easy stuff. People with visual, motor, cognitive, hearing impairments, or any type of disability deserve to be treated equally. Everyone should care about accessibility.
It’s not being accommodating, it’s being decent.
Do you have any clients who are elderly? Clearly, with age comes wisdom, but so too comes vision and cognitive changes.
Do you have clients that have been injured in say, a car accident? The workplace? Affecting cognitive, visual, auditory, or motor impairments?
All for one, and one for all. Designing with disabilities in mind only enhances good, classic, design techniques for everyone.
Legally, it’s the law…well almost. You know the old Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and how it currently only requires government websites to comply with accessibility standards? Well times are changing. In some cases, the DOJ has ruled that all websites must comply with the ADA, even if the current regulations are not explicit.
These are some pretty convincing punch points. But now let’s get technical, so that we can start to make changes that are inclusive and a win for everyone.
20.6 million people are estimated to be visually impaired in the US. Imagine you are blind or visually impaired, how will you interpret a website and its content? Even more important, how can you make critical decisions like, who to choose to represent you in a legal case?
caption: How does a screen reader work? Try installing and activating Chrome Vox, to view your website as a screen reader would. Now, don’t cheat, close your eyes!
Some people will use a screen reader. All the text, links and images in a website will be read out loud, from top to bottom. Some good practices here are to make sure all of your text is text, rather than images. Be sure to have a page hierarchy that makes sense: important, broad info at the top, clear navigation, and also clear divisions on the sections of your site.
Other people won’t need a screenreader, but will use a text-only zoom. This is set in their browser accessibility settings. To help them out, you just need to make sure that all your text can be enlarged without breaking your site. To test this, try opening your website in Firefox. Select Options, Content, Fonts & Colors and try increasing the font size. Is your site still readable and useable? Is all the content still on the page?
If you have a website, at some point, some designer, somewhere, has probably hit you over the head with the battle cry, color matters. I firmly agree, but not in the way you think. Better stated here, contrasting color matters. Genetic color blindness affects about 8% of all men and about 0.5% of all women.
Contrasting color is a fascinating topic — placing two colors together can actually change the way you perceive each color (see image below). But color can also determine whether or not information will even be visible to people. To see what I mean, try running your website through various color deficiency filters to experience your site through different eyes.
Even people without visual impairments struggle with content comprehension when there is not sufficient contrast in colors. Changes in vision that occur with age can make it more difficult to read a computer screen as well. People experience reductions in the amount of light that reaches the retina, loss of contrast, and loss of ability to discern details.
So, what is the golden color contrast ratio that will magically allow more people to see your content (and thus increase your pool of potential clients)? Properly known as contrast ratio, the minimum current standard is a ratio of 4.5 to 1. Test your site’s color contrast ratio and adjust to make things readable. Many visually impaired users make use of highlighting as a quick trick to increase contrast and visual focus. Now, onto those lovely hero images you’ve got on your site…
Alt Text for Images Matters
With visual impairments in mind, alt text for images becomes very important. Rather than a tool for SEO or text to look at while the page loads, alt text may be the entirety of information that a potential client has to conceptualize, visualize and interpret your message. So, make it good!
Providing strong alt text can be helpful for both people with visual impairments and those with some types of cognitive disabilities. There are tons of articles on how to provide strong, descriptive, alternative text for images — so I’ll let you Google that for the complete list. But one I‘d like to highlight: don’t use the phrase “image of…” or “photo of…” in your alternate text as that is redundant information in an image tag.
A Side Note on Font Awesome
Let’s jump to an example where I felt sheepish. I have always been a fan of Font Awesome: scalable vector icons where you can easily change the size, color and other appearances. For a website mockup, I used a Font Awesome icon, over a button, over an image. I assumed that this layered approach would be good for multiple types of users on the site, and for providing good visual cues and separators. I also assumed, as a sheep might, that since Font Awesome is popular, that it would be well-versed in current accessibility practices. Well bah-bah-bad idea. Ok, done with the sheep thing, really.
I looked into font awesome accessibility, and the verdict is, it’s not that great — on it’s own. Their website says: “Screen Reader Compatible. Font Awesome won’t trip up screen readers, unlike other icon fonts.” Now this is fairly useless information, when there isn’t additional information to help us understand exactly how it interacts with screen readers.
There are many reasons that icons and font awesome are super handy for websites. Most browsers (used in conjunction with screen readers) expose CSS generated content through the accessibility layer. Meaning, screen readers may be able to describe your icon out loud. Using an icon on a button or call to action is good, just don’t forget to provide an alternate way for people to understand your content if the icon isn’t expressed.
So, general rule of thumb on this one: use CSS generated content only to supplement the design, not to create key page content.
Don’t Be Terrified: Best Practices Still Apply
That’s right, the world has not flipped over on it’s axis, oh wait, yes it has. But don’t worry about that, because all the great things that you are having your designer / marketing assistant / front desk person / nephew do on your website are still applicable to good, universal website design.
Great designs are built in a way that maximize aesthetic and functional appeal to everyone, regardless of age and ability. Wait now — you say you don’t have someone implementing great design, content, and accessible features on your website? Well, seize the day: call someone who cares about this stuff.
Or ruminate on this: how many potential clients are missing out on your legal services because they struggle to figure out who you are and how you can help them?
Last week, Mockingbird contributed to a small, but growing, 5K run/walk in support of the Colon Cancer Coalition.
This was my third year doing the race – the first year was with my son’s teacher who was fighting colon cancer. The most recent two years, Katie was not there. But Katie’s supporters were – wearing purple for Team Purple Power. For putting things in perspective . . . I’ve watched Katie’s young daughter grow up in annual snapshots at this race. This year, was the largest event yet and we raised close to $20,000 in support of colon cancer research.
Well, it’s been a year since we started the 1% For Good Campaign at Mockingbird – which provides regular donations to charities. Our first ever donation was to The Challenged Athletes Foundation. In support of my brother, who has made CAF a regular part of his life, this year, we’ve come back around to supporting CAF – contributing a small portion of the more than $1.1 million dollars raised at this year’s Challenge.
The San Diego Triathlon Challenge
Every year, CAF puts on The San Diego Triathlon Challenge – a fundraising race where a mix of physically challenged athletes and able bodied athletes complete a grueling triathlon on a very hilly course in San Diego. It’s a mile swim, 44 mile bike and 10 mile run. Imagine completing that on prosthetic legs, or with the help of a guide because you are legally blind.
A Note from Paul
The people we support in this endeavor are not the type to let a challenge or some discomfort stop them from achieving their dreams. It’s time for me to meet the challenge and raise critical funds for the military personnel who lost limbs in service of our county, the children who have had limbs ravaged by cancer, and the survivors of horrific accidents who refuse to hear “you can’t do that.” As I told you last year, I truly believe that outside of being a husband and parent, this is the most important thing I do every year.
Note the rainbow socks Paul is wearing – they were in the athletes’ goody bags and were a subtle tribute to Robin Williams, who was heavily involved in CAF.
our people must learn to do good by meeting the urgent needs of others – Titus 3:14
I received an email request from a friend the other day:
I wanted to see if you could do something for me. Well a friend. But he’s unaware that I’m trying to help him. He and a friend started what might as well be an orphanage for some children in Kenya a few years ago. I met him and was very fascinated with his story. I’m also inspired by what they do. I’m not Christian but I love what they’re doing out there.
His Heart My Voice was founded by Dave Richardson with the mission of turning faith into words and actions to help humanity. Through Dave’s work in Africa, he ran across a small group of very young children living on the street, and being Dave, he’s taken these kiddos in. His charity now provides seven very young children, who have no where else to turn to, with food, clothing, education, and safety. But its more than this – he is really providing them with a future. So, we’re happy to sponsor two of those kiddos – Henry Ndungu and Mary Wangui (whose smile and pigtails frankly reminds me of my own daughter, albeit without our overwhelming Caucasian genetics.)
In the overall scheme of things, HHMV is a tiny charity making a tiny impact in a part of the world that I’ve never seen, nor probably ever will. And while everyone’s approach to faith may be different – the concept of doing good for those less fortunate is a common thread and should be a common thread among all of us. Charities like these are frequently more deserving of support than the massive fundraising machines that dominate the marketing battle over charitable dollars.
Last year, my son’s 1st grade teacher, Katie Tinnea died of colon cancer. She was a young mom, a great teacher and made sharing her experience the final lesson plan for a classroom of kiddos (and parents). Our family has been running in 5Ks supporting colon cancer research ever since we met Katie. This year, I was flattered to have some of my co-workers join the race.
Katie’s support group was called Purple Power – and Purple Power was out in force this year and I was pleased to contribute 1% of our revenue last month to cancer research on behalf of Purple Power. Ryan and Kennedy – all of us think of you on a regular basis.
This is a crappy post to write. Generally, I’m a few steps removed from Atticus’ 1% for Good campaigns – this time it hits home. Courtesy of social media, I recently learned that one of my earliest Seattle friends, Sig is undergoing treatment for Sarcoma – a connective tissue cancer usually associated with children, but occasionally cropping up in adults.
I played rugby with Sig at Old Puget Sound Beach – one of the premier rugby teams in the USA Superleague. He’s every part the rugby player, a huge dude with the body fat of a teenage cross country star. He looks like the love child of Ivan Drago and Arnold Schwarzenegger and specialized in laying our competitors flat on their backs. Even his name is tough – Siegfried Kohl. He’s also a paramedic and on many occassions was called to tape OPSB players up so they could get back on the pitch.
For this month’s 1% For Good – we’ve made a donation to The Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative – which dedicates over 97% of donations to sarcoma cancer research. Thanks to a slew of new clients, we had a record month in January – if you count among Atticus’ client base, thank you for making this possible.
I wanted pictures of the Atticus team with sweatshirts and flag from Sea Shepherd before I revealed them as our December 1% For Good donation, but today’s photographs and reports coming out of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary have forced my hand. While Sea Shepherd’s fulfillment for their online store may be very slow – their boats are much faster at intercepting and driving out the Japanese whaling fleet from Antarctic whaling grounds.
Sea Shepherd captain, Canadian Paul Watson has been combating the Japanese whaling fleet for years and has been featured on the show, Whale Wars. The Japanese fleet exploits a loophole in International Law to “harvest” whales for scientific purposes – supplying whale meat to the Japanese consumer market. According to yesterday’s statement by Sea Shepherd – they have driven the whaling fleet out of the southern whaling grounds.
Along with yesterday’s statement, Sea Shepherd released images of 3 minke harpooned whales, as well as the gruesome bloody video of a whale being butchered on the deck. Hardly “scientific study.”
Watson is facing numerous legal concerns – and while the organization may take heat from some within the legal community for their actions – we are very happy to offer a small piece of financial support to Sea Shepherd’s efforts to publicize and stop the slaughter of whales.
Update: Recently, the attorney who represents Sea Shepherd did an interview on KEXP to discuss his work with the organization and the recent U.N. court ruling to end Japan’s whale huntington. You can see it here on his blog article, ‘Why I Represent Sea Shepherd‘.
When I first heard that my son’s upcoming first grade teacher was dying of colon cancer, my immediate reaction was to do everything to shelter him from the experience. But I was wrong. Over the year, we met Katie, submitted homework assignments and had parent teacher conferences. Our family ran two 5K’s in support of Katie and cancer research – the first with her and her Purple Power support team (that’s Katie below on the right). At the second race, just a few months later, Katie stayed home as she was just too tired. But Purple Power was out in force.
The consummate teacher, Katie made her personal experience her final lesson plan. Parents in her classroom answered some very hard questions from their kiddos. The children started understanding their parents’ grief and learned that it was OK. We all finally had to find a way to explain that, “no, Ms. Tinnea is not going to be able to get better.” At six and seven years old, the kids learned a lesson about the preciousness of life well ahead of schedule.
Before the end of the school year, we found ourselves in a church packed with kids wearing purple. My kids saw me cry for the first time.
Yesterday, 49 members of team Purple Power ran the Get Your Rear in Gear 5K in memory of Katie. This month’s Atticus 1% For Good was contributed to that organization’s efforts to find a cure for colon cancer.
Katie’s husband, Ryan was there along with her daughter, Kennedy. Kennedy turned 3 this year.