🎙️ Podcast

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In today’s episode, Joe talks to Ahmed Khalifa of Hear Me Out! [CC]), a place where hearing people can learn how to connect and engage with deaf people better, plus work together to bridge the gap between the hearing and deaf worlds.

Joe and Ahmed discuss the level of accessibility of content in the deaf community, what makes a website more accessible, importance of Alt Text and descriptions in images, how to possibly improve WordCamp conferences, and optimizing websites with good transcripts. 

Listen in for more insight on global accessibility and transcription machinery!

What to Listen For: Accessibility of content

  • [00:01:15] Today we have Ahmed Khalifa on the pod!
  • [00:02:57] Ahmed’s deafness spectrum, backstory, and wonderful journey
  • [00:07:14] Hearing impaired is not the right word for it!
  • [00:10:34] “My accent is just my upbringing.” – Ahmed Khalifa
  • [00:12:14] Accessibility of content for people hard of hearing 
  • [00:20:35] Easy action items to make content more accessible, captions more readable
  • [00:24:40] Good audio quality is crucial to get good transcripts
  • [00:28:43] What makes a website more accessible?
  • [00:31:46] The power of Alt Text in images
  • [00:35:50] How to make WordCamp conferences more accessible
  • [00:42:24] How about post-production sponsorship to improve accessibility?
  • [00:45:05] Where to find Ahmed Khalifa

Episode Resources

Podcast Transcript

Joe:

Hey, hey. Joe here. This week on the podcast I had the chance to speak with Ahmed Khalifa. Ahmed and I had a truly awesome conversation. I always know when I do an extra good episode because I learn a lot and Ahmed and I just really hit it off and some people you just have really good on podcast chemistry with. You’re just like, he has a point, I have a point. It really ran smoothly. So I thought this episode turned out great.

Ahmed is a WordPress SEO freelancer, or at least that’s one of the things he specializes in but he is also an advocate and deaf awareness public speaker and trainer. So we talked a little bit about SEO content marketing but definitely a lot about accessibility, deaf awareness, the deaf and hard of hearing community and also the overlap between the two. For example, when it comes to alt image descriptions, when it comes to SEO. That stuff is super interesting. Without further adieu, please welcome the one and only Ahmed Khalifa.

Yo, good WordPress people, welcome back to the WPMRR WordPress Podcast. Today we have Ahmed Khalifa with us. Ahmed, super nice to meet you. Tell us a little bit about what you do online. I was super interested to see all the stuff you’re working on. Some stuff I’m actually not super familiar with but I think that’s one of the reasons I like to have guests like you on the podcast to talk to me and maybe some of audience about stuff that I don’t know enough about. So why don’t you tell folks a little bit about what you do online.

Ahmed Khalifa:

Of course, I’m happy to do it. Well there are two things that I do online. The main thing that I have my background is I focus a lot of my work on WordPress SEO. I’ve been in the industry for over a decade. I’ve been doing it on the side for a long time and I enjoy it. I love it, part of a community and it’s great fun. Then on your other side I am very vocal about deafness because I am deaf myself and I talk a lot about deaf awareness and this could be in various sector of the world. It could be in a workplace, it could be at school, it could be university. Whatever it is I give examples of what you could do to make things better for other people, make better for me and I share stories and tips and advice on just helping the world to be more deaf aware and that allows the communication to be as smooth as possible.

Joe:

Yeah, very cool. I have a background in SEO and content marketing and stuff. So we can chat a little bit about that as well but I usually like to start off, because I’m selfish. I want to hear and learn about the stuff I don’t know as much about and I’d love to dive into some of the work you do in the deaf community but first I’d actually like to hear a little bit more about your personal background. Is being deaf something you were born with? Is it something that happened when you were young? Was it an event? I guess I’d like to hear a little bit more about the background so I can really know what eventually brought you into working in this community online, really helping others.

Ahmed Khalifa:

Yeah, of course. It makes sense. I want to set the tone and make sure you understand it from stories.

Joe:

Totally.

Ahmed Khalifa:

So basically I am classified as moderately to profoundly deaf. I’ve been like that since birth. I’m wearing hearing aids as well and it’s under my headphones. I should wear it all the time but I’m quite stubborn. I’m just like, nah, don’t want to do it. Sometimes it’s a personal thing. It’s like don’t feel comfortable with it sometimes or other times just too much noise, not great. Everyone has their own experience with it but it’s been a challenge all of my life. It’s pretty much a challenge every second of your life. Really there’s no getting away from it. You have to live with it and you can’t hide from it but that’s the problem. For a few decades I’ve been hiding it. I’ve been just pushing it aside and not taking it seriously and of course, I’ve been growing up in a mainstream environment, mainstream school, mainstream world. That is all I know but then I realize I’m really making things more difficult.

When I became more vocal online in terms of website and creating content around SEO and content, all of these things. That’s all well and good but then I realized one day I wanted to let go. I wanted to come out of my closet, if you like, and just declare it to the world. It made me realize that if I was more open about it, actually make things easier for me and the other person. It took me a long time to realize it. So by being open about it I did a video on YouTube a few years ago and I said, “Here I am. This is what I am.” That kind of kick started the whole thing.

When I did that and then I did a few videos after that, the reaction and engagement and the comments has been amazing from people that I know and people I don’t know and even the people who know me, they didn’t know about this at all because I hide it very well. I decided to be more open about it using the help of content. So I do it on videos, which is captioned obviously, and I do on podcasts. I put transcript on that and of course, I write, type my blog posts on top of it as well and I do all of that on my website which is hearmeoutcc.com. CC stand for closed caption. I’m a big caption advocate.

Thankfully the content has been working so well that I get people around the world reaching out to me saying, “Thank you. This helped me a lot and to hear from a person who’s deaf, I feel less alone.” Or from another person who says, “Thank you. I’ve got a student in my class and I want to help that person. I didn’t know what to do. Your content has helped me a lot.” It’s a really nice thing that people really take good use of my content and they find it beneficial.

From a selfish point of view, yes it feels good but it’s very therapeutic and that’s why I enjoy talking about it a bit more. As you say, you want to learn about it. I’m happy to teach you about it and the listeners about it as well.

Joe:

Yeah, it’s a beautiful story. I love hearing stories about how people use the internet to become more comfortable in their own skin because there’s this … You can put out content and video without necessarily being one on one with someone just talking about this stuff and it’s … That can put more pressure on situations. I’ve been in situations like that too and being able to write a blog post about something or do a podcast about something, it creates just that little bit of separation that makes it, I think, a little bit more comfortable maybe once you’ve gotten to do it … Maybe the first time you do it it’s a little scary but once you get into the rhythm of things, a little more comfortable. 

One thing, we were actually offline before we started recording this podcast we were just chatting and I mentioned the terminology, hearing impaired, when I was just asking about some of the stuff you do and you actually gave me a little course correction there, which I super appreciated. But can you talk a little bit about some of the terminology people, or I guess terminology you feel comfortable with people using. Obviously I thing people use terminology … I personally use that terminology. I didn’t mean anything bad by it, of course, but I think people always prefer people to use certain terminology. I know I prefer people to use certain terminology when they talk about people maybe of our skin color, right? There’s obviously preferences around these things. 

So talk a little bit about that, I guess that course correction you pointed me towards and maybe some of the other terminology that you and maybe other folks in your community feel comfortable with folks using and what people should use to describe folks in your community.

Ahmed Khalifa:

Yeah, of course. I know it came from a good place. I don’t take any offense from it.

Joe:

Right, of course.

Ahmed Khalifa:

I want to clarify that for everyone. Don’t worry. I’m not having a go at Joe and say, dammit man, what are you doing? No. Not about that.

Joe:

I told Ahmed, I told you to be hard on me. I told you to make sure you course correct me. If I say something, hey maybe isn’t the right way to say something so totally but appreciate it.

Ahmed Khalifa:

Totally. The idea is that people don’t realize that the word deaf can mean a lot of things. It’s a huge, huge spectrum and it can be broken down into many things. One thing people should understand that there are people who are proud of it. It’s not a negative thing. Some people don’t see it as a disability. It’s a culture. There’s a big history around it and because of that the terminology of the word impaired implies that there’s a negative thing about it. There’s a negative connotation to it and there’s a growing movement now, people saying, “We don’t want people saying hearing impaired.” Not everyone. There will be people who don’t mind it.

Joe:

Sure.

Ahmed Khalifa:

But it seems to be more vocal now. People say, “Hearing impaired is not the right way to say it because it just adds a negative stigma to the word deafness and it’s not necessarily a bad thing”, and that’s what I’m trying to come to terms with and I’ve gotten better at is I’m accepting it as a good thing because I used to see it as negative. Because of that then the idea is you can use the word deaf. Deaf is not a bad word. It’s not an insult. It’s totally fine. 

Then there are people who want to maybe break it down. Some people prefer hard of hearing, which technically I also go under that category as well. So I’m happy with deaf and/or hard of hearing. Both is fine for me.

Then you can break it down even further. You can go [inaudible 00:09:36], you can go deaf/blind. Then you really get into the small details about the personality of a person, the deafness, the spectrum. You will then realize that no two deaf people are the same. Everyone has their own way of dealing with it. Everyone has their own identity and I think, I know you talk about that a lot on the podcast about your identity, how you label yourself, how you describe yourself. It’s up to you to decide that. Other people don’t decide for you. It’s the same thing with the topic of deaf and deafness in general. It is a proud thing and that’s what I’m being better at that’s why I’m being more open and showing my face is that I’m not ashamed of it. I’m not ashamed of it all. I’m being vocal about it because I want to talk about it.

So it’s great that people, like you said, want to learn from me about these things and that’s what I’m getting for my content. People want to learn and I love that. It’s really awesome.

Joe:

Yeah. Super cool, man. I appreciate you sharing that. Before we forget, tell folks also where you’re from in the world because you have a super interesting accent and I want to dig into that too.

Ahmed Khalifa:

Well, I’ve got a very confusing accent. So I am currently in-

Joe:

I didn’t say that.

Ahmed Khalifa:

Well, no, no, I will say that. I’m going to put my hand up and say, dude, I’ve got a confusing accent and there’s a reason behind that. So I live in Edinburgh, in Scotland. I grew up in the UK. I grew up in Northern Ireland near Belfast. So I’ve got that accent thrown in there. Sometimes it comes out depending who I’m speaking to. I lived in England and then I lived in Scotland. So I moved around quite a lot to the point where easy for me to pick up the accents whenever I go somewhere. When I speak to a certain someone, like for example I was speaking to my friend recently from Belfast, the accent just comes out and it’s a different accent to what you hear right now. So it’s just my upbringing. I don’t know why I pick up accents and then it just get all mixed together. It’s a confusing one. My cousin called Escangladish accent. Scottish, English and Irish accent. I don’t know if that’s the word but that’s what they call it.

Joe:

Sounds right. Cool, man. Okay. Going back to some of the stuff you were talking about earlier. I would love to hear a little bit about maybe some of your experiences either attending online events or trying to honestly, even independent of events, just trying to use the internet, browse the internet and maybe some of the negative experiences you’ve had being someone who’s hard of hearing to either attend maybe an online summit or watch a YouTube video that doesn’t have the right transcripts or captioning or things like that because I think a lot of folks think about accessibility in the grand scheme of things and I think a lot of folks think of it as something that’s not always in their financial benefit to add some of these helpful things so that everybody can absorb their content. At least that’s what I’ve seen. If I’m just being honest I think I’ve gotten that vibe around … 

I’d love to talk a little bit about maybe some of the experiences you’ve had trying to absorb content online and not really being able to because something wasn’t accessible to you because I think that story is really important. So anything come top of mind or just in general? Are there some areas that you’re just like man, this totally sucks when it comes to accessibility for people who are deaf?

Ahmed Khalifa:

Totally. I think a lot of people can relate to what I’m going to say about accessing content and when I say content it could be videos, it could be podcasts, it could be a person speaking on stage, that type of content, and they are all challenging in their own way. 

so if we talked about, for example, videos in terms of either YouTube or even the cinema. A huge problem for me in terms of being able to understand what’s going on. When someone like me tries to listen to someone, your brain’s working extra harder because you are listening extra harder and it requires extra cognitive energy to listen to that person. So for example, we’re talking right now but I deliberately limit the number of calls per day because I know I will be exhausted from overworking my brain just trying to listen really, really hard. 

That happens for me when I go to the cinema. I come out from a cinema exhausted because I try to listen and most of the time I don’t. In my time of spending so much money and going to the cinema so many times I’ve only been able to understand it once in my life. That was only when they have got a screening with captions on it and that was for Star Wars, the last Star Wars movie. It’s a problem that happens everywhere in that when you look at the timetable of when they are caption screened in a cinema, it’s very limited and not only it’s limited. The options or times are not very social times. For example, a Tuesday morning or a Thursday afternoon and they just assume people can go there but like all of us, we have jobs. We work during the day and we want to be able to go on a Friday night or a Saturday night but I’ve never had that option. So for this occasion, to watch Star Wars, I watch it on Sunday night, which is okay but not Friday night or Saturday night. So there’s a problem with that alone with cinema. It’s just a big nightmare.

In terms of YouTube it’s another story. It’s a constant battle against YouTube themself and the creator to encourage them to caption their videos. You don’t realize that you get a lot out of captioning videos in terms of getting more people, more engagement and it’s better for video SEO as well because Google can’t really see what you’re saying in the video but the uploaded SRT file, which contain the captions, they can read that and they’ll understand what your video is about. That’s the benefit as well. It’s really beneficial for me.

So when people [inaudible 00:15:47] by auto caption then they say, “Oh no, you’ve got auto caption.” I admit auto caption is getting better. Google announced it back in November 2009, I believe, when they first announced it and people were making a big deal about it. It was okay and gotten better but it will never be perfect. People are really frustrated auto caption because in the deaf community it is known as craption, literally because they’re crap and that’s the whole thing. It’s just they’re crap and they’re not accurate, they’re not easy to follow and people assume that’s enough but I can promise you from someone who depends on captions, they’re not enough. They will not do at all but you have that as your draft and you can edit it and make it work really well.

Then podcasts is another problem. I can listen to some podcasts but that will be depend on audio quality and background noise and also my sanity. If I have the energy then I’ll do it but sometimes I would rather just prefer to read the transcripts. So that’s another way of doing it and again, if you have a transcript that can be converted into a blog post and that blog post will be readable by Google. There are so many benefits to it.

So a constant battle across all of these mediums. I’m trying very, very hard to talk about it and tell me about. FYI, I need it, millions of us need it but you will also get the benefit out of it because you’ll get more people who can access it and by the way, it’s not just deaf people. There are so many people who will benefit from it. That person can be, maybe have a learning disability or maybe attention deficit disorder. Maybe that person is learning the language and doesn’t know your language but with subtitles or captions, they can follow it. Or maybe like a lot of us, we’re just watching the video in silence and I’m sure we have all done that at least once in our lifetime, to watch videos in silence. So having captions just makes sense.

It’s a constant battle but hopefully the more I talk about it, hopefully people will understand that it’s beneficial for many people as a creator and as a consumer.

Joe:

Yeah. I think a lot of the things you said really rang true with me. We have a YouTube channel that Ali on our team has started and grown and she’s big into making sure all our content is accessible so we do a lot of … We do captions on all of our videos and transcripts. We get them done through a service. I think it’s Rev.com or something. I can’t remember the exact service, maybe that’s it, but we get them done there. Our podcast has transcripts. If you go to wpmrr.com/podcast and go to the page where podcast is on, we have the transcripts on that page and also, we do a YouTube video. This will be on YouTube. They’ll do a YouTube video on every podcast we do and then the transcripts and captioning is also there on those videos. 

I really like what you said about how you can expand your audience by doing this is well because I think that of course, I would love everybody to caption and to do transcripts because it’s the right thing to do and you want to make … The internet, everybody needs to be able to access everything and so just based on that it’s important that everybody, if you’re doing a podcast, you do transcripts, you do captions and with YouTube, movies should have captions more accessible to people. I’m thinking like an AR. Maybe some people have some goggles that they can watch with captions or something, I don’t know, but I like also the idea of on top of that this is what you should do because it’s the right thing to do. That’s not going to get everybody. Let’s also add a business benefit to that, which is you’re going to expand your audience and you’re going to expand your audience of people who are really going to appreciate what you did because if I-

Ahmed Khalifa:

Oh yes.

Joe:

… put captions on YouTube and you come to my YouTube channel and you’re like wow, this channel WP Buffs went out of their way to make content that was accessible to me. You’re going to have that heightened level of like for my channel. You’re not just going to like it. Maybe you’re more likely to subscribe. Maybe you’re more likely to share my YouTube videos because hey, you have this community. I want to share it with my community because it’s accessible. Your content’s accessible. I think that’s a really solid way to think about the added cost of doing some of these things but the return on investment you could also get from it in terms of building your audience, in terms of putting your content out to more people.

Ahmed Khalifa:

Totally.

Joe:

I’d love to hear, maybe a little bit also about I don’t know if I want to just say least expensive because I do want to give people like, you could go and probably spend 10s of thousands of dollars making all your content accessible but that is not possible for every small business but I think every business should at least be dedicating a small budget to making sure their content is accessible. Where are the areas that you see that people can, I guess for a good return on investment, maybe the somewhat less expensive option. Where can people go and what are the easy action items people can do to make sure their content is as accessible as possible or the most accessibility bang for their buck?

Ahmed Khalifa:

One thing people don’t realize that when you think about YouTube, for example. If you upload your YouTube video then the auto caption will then be created. That auto caption can then be edited manually and then you can just correct it, the grammar, the spelling, all the things that you need to do and that’s it. That is there for free. Now of course, for certain videos if it’s quite long then yes, I appreciate that it will take a bit more time to do it but if it’s not that long, if it’s a short video then there’s no reason why … You don’t go through the classic studio. You go to the subtitle section. You edit it there and it’s free from there. So that’s one option that if you’re doing YouTube videos it’s there. Also, you can download the file and convert it into a tech file but using any online convert assembler. You can download the SRT file, which is what you can get, convert it tech file and then that can be your transcript as well. That’s also for free. So that’s an option there for use as well. 

One thing that we say when you get your transcript, make sure you structure it and make sure you treat it like any article. Put in the heading, put in your bullet points, put in the paragraph and the spaces, images in between and embed videos. Just treat it with the love and respect of your transcript. It’s not a copy and paste and then that’s it. You will get a lot of engagement out of that because it’s not just one big long text. So from that, it’s free. That’s YouTube. You can do it from there, it’s free.

Joe:

Cool.

Ahmed Khalifa:

If you want to pay for it, you’re right you can use services like Rev.com and other places. For a short video again, it’s fine, but for the long, long videos the cost will pile up but the cost will pile up if you use the human generated version. So there’s someone there manually doing it for you. But if you can use … There are so many artificial intelligence tools out there that can caption your videos and create transcript. So Rev is one of them. Another one is [inaudible 00:23:05] AI. Another that I’m using at the moment called Happy Scribe. They use artificial intelligence to caption your videos and transcript and the idea is just like auto captions, they will give you the draft and then you go in there and edit it, check it just like you would normally do for any content and that is done much, much cheaper. I think most places it’s between 10 cents a minute or 25 cents a minute for your content. It’s affordable. Much more affordable than a dollar 25 that Rev charges for a human to do it for you because that’s expensive. 

You can do it free on YouTube but then you can also use these AI tools that does it for you at very, very cheap. Then you have all this content that you can repurpose into many ways and there you go. You have so many different things to dispose of, to put on your website, on YouTube, whatever it is.

Joe:

Yeah, I love that advice because it’s already created for you and it’s just waiting there for you to use and it’s just something someone may not know about. Hey, when you upload a video to YouTube, that’s already created for you automatically. All you have to do is go grab it, download it, I guess adjust text file, edit it, watch the video right next to the content, hey just go back maybe once or twice just to correct a couple things and re-upload it and you’re good to go. It probably takes, if you have a 10 minute video it’ll probably take 15 minutes to make sure that it’s correct, something like that. So it’s not an enormous … I wouldn’t even say it’s a small thing to do. It’s a tiny thing to do to make sure that your content’s accessible to everybody. So that’s really good advice.

Ahmed Khalifa:

It would make it easier. When you say a 10 minute can take 15 minutes to caption it all. One thing I would say, if you want to make your job easier for you, just make sure the audio quality is really, really good because if the audio quality is not great then obviously the tools will not be able to pick up the words correctly and that means it will take more of your time to correct it. So just consider that option. For us to focus on improving our microphone and we make sure we’re in a quiet environment. That is the basic you can do. I’m not saying you have to have a studio or have acoustic panels around you. If the audio quality is good and you can speak into the microphone then you’re more likely to get the words come up correctly on the tool that we’ve mentioned and then you have less chances of editing, less spelling errors, all of these things. It will never be 100% perfect. That’s one thing I can promise you. I promise you that but you will go a long way if you have good audio quality.

Joe:

Yeah, thanks for bringing that up. Honestly, until 20 seconds ago I had never connected audio quality with accessibility before. I just had audio quality as a thing that was like, I want to have good audio because it’s a podcast, right, and people want to have good audio and that was the end of my thinking but that is super illuminating to me because I never made that connection and it’s obvious but until someone said it to be explicitly I hadn’t made that connection. So thank you for saying that. The audio quality is so important for accessibility because it allows potentially AI powered tools or auto transcript tools to hear you more easily and to give you a more accurate transcript or captioning and then to make it so you don’t have as much time you have to spend to manually go through. Maybe you can get it from 80% accuracy to 97% accuracy and you only have a few words to correct as opposed to a few paragraphs or something so that can make a huge difference.

Ahmed Khalifa:

Yup. It’s very, very true and even it’s not just about high quality transcript and caption. The good audio will help me to hear certain things better for some people. I will guarantee you that if your audio quality on a podcast is poor, I will not even attempt to listen to it but if it’s good quality then I will try. Hopefully I feel okay and fine then I will attempt to listen to it. So good audio quality, as you say, it can be accessibility for many, many reasons and at the end of the day, who doesn’t love good audio quality?

Joe:

I’m making even another connection here because you mentioned if there’s a video or audio that doesn’t have good quality you’re immediately going to leave because you need that quality to listen to that audio, that podcast or watch that video. We all know, you do SEO and analytic stuff. Google takes this thing called bounce rate into account. If you’re trying to rank something and someone comes on to your content and then leaves immediately, Google sees that as a bad sign. So if your content isn’t accessible to everyone maybe you’ll have a higher rate of people like you come onto this content and you’re like, oh this is okay audio but I know I can’t listen to it. Immediately I’m going back. Hey that’s not good for again, from a business perspective in terms of making your content accessible to everyone. So I’m making a lot of connections. This actually a super, wow, enlightening conversation for me. So thank you for bringing that up as well.

I’d love to chat a little bit about accessibility WordPress plugins. I’m not sure if you’re super familiar with this area. You’re nodding like maybe you have some knowledge. I’ve seen some plug-ins like accessiBe. There are other plugins out there. That’s just one that comes top of mind that what it does is it’ll give you a little button that floats in the bottom corner of your website and you can click on that and it gives you a ton of accessibility options. You may not be an expert in all accessibility across every nook and cranny of it. Maybe you’re more of an expert in the deaf specific accessibility options but just wanted to know if you’ve ever encountered a website where you’ve either used that or maybe you’ve been on a website browsing and used that and if it’s been helpful to you as a user who needs some additional accessibility options.

Ahmed Khalifa:

Well, you’re right that web accessibility, it’s such a big topic, isn’t it? It’s such a huge, huge topic that you can get into so many details and you’ve got experts out there doing that for you. So that’s why I will never ever say that I am an web accessibility expert because there are so many things that we don’t think about it in terms of what makes a website accessible. For me, I just focus on anything related to deafness, which means being able to access content most of the time. I have experimented with these tools that you’ve mentioned and I’ve even attended talks at WordCamps about accessibility just to open my mind, to learn more about how screen reader work and one thing that I’ve learned for example, which can benefit in terms of SEO as well is how important it is to make sure your images are accessible using the alt text. 

So if your images are not including an descriptive alt text then the person who’s using a screen reader or maybe your page is not loading the way you want it. It’s going to be blank and it’s not going to describe to the person what that image is. On top of that, then Google will not know what the image is supposed to be about either. Now I think Google’s gradually getting better about recognizing image but why not make it easier anyway? For example, if an image that you have of a black Labrador running on the field on a rainy day, then put that as your alt text and people will then realize that the more descriptive about your alt text then one, people access it, those who are using the screen readers, whatever and two, Google will be able to read that image and it might even come up when people search on the Google images section and then they find that image and then they will check out your post that way.

Again, we’re talking about the benefit of having accessibility. I don’t want to say you should have benefit because I should get the benefit from it but at the end of the day it’s a win win. So you win as a creator, I win as a consumer, Google will win as trying to understand what your page is about. Why not consider it? So accessibility is such a big topic but little things like that can make a difference to a lot of people.

Joe:

Yeah, I totally agree. I’d be interested to even dive a little deeper into that because talking to you who’s someone who has expertise in deaf accessibility and also SEO and on page SEO stuff. Do you run into websites where … Because the image alt tag is a factor of on page SEO. Not sure it’s an enormous factor. Probably pretty small factor but it’s a factor that people know as oh maybe this will help a little bit with my on page SEO but I don’t think most people know how to use the image alt tag. In fact, I don’t think a lot of people know that that’s what the image alt tag is for. I knew that. Just giving myself a little credit. I know that it’s for people … It’s for accessibility, for people to be able to make sure they know what an image is through something like a screen reader but it also has potentially some SEO impact as well. Do you run into websites where it’s like this is totally the wrong description and people clearly are using this as an SEO tactic and not something for accessibility. I don’t know if that’s something you run into as someone who’s in the SEO world and the accessibility world.

Ahmed Khalifa:

Well, I have seen it in two ways. One, that it’s done over the top and then the other one, they just didn’t do anything at all. 

Joe:

[crosstalk 00:32:36].

Ahmed Khalifa:

So over the top is where obviously they spam it, they stuff it, they just put in words that doesn’t make any sense. So the image example I’ve told you about a black dog, you just write in black dog or small puppy or big puppy. It’s just really, really annoying. That is not right. You’re actually annoying the people who need it properly done. I’ve seen that. I’ve seen people abusing it. It’s a very old school SEO thing isn’t it? Keyword stuffing.

Joe:

Yeah.

Ahmed Khalifa:

Very old school but people do it. Then on your other hand there are people who don’t even do anything at all with the images. You’re right that in terms of on page SEO it is a factor. I’m not going to say it’s the biggest but it’s one of many but why not do it because we’re going to do everything at the same time. So there are people out there, they just upload the image and then they’ll leave it but what people don’t think about is image SEO in general, you should have your file name should include the keywords and the description. So don’t use a default file name like jpeg01264.whatever. Don’t use that. Be descriptive and separate the words with dash not underscore and that’s important. That’s one way of making sure that’s readable.

Then use the alt text when you upload the images. But even then before you upload them make sure you compress the images as well. If they’re really heavy, really big you’re just going to slow down the website and we’re not going to go into the topic of site speed. We know site speed is important but if you have images that are 1,000 pixels by 1,000 but it’s only really covering the small space. Well then you’re making the job really hard for the browser to render that page and then you’re just going to make your whole page really slow down and it’s just not going to help anybody. That’s another factor of SEO but in a way kind of related to accessibility because the image is not loading properly. It takes ages. The information is not there.

As you say, it’s all connecting together. Accessibility can have an impact on SEO and then vice versa and engagement in Google Chrome. It’s a win win. Like I said, it’s a win win for everyone if you take it seriously.

Joe:

Yeah, cool man. Last topic or I don’t know, wrapping up topic. You mentioned here that you’ve spoken at WordCamps before. It looks like you spoke in a WordCamp Europe before, which is a pretty big deal. Most people listening probably know about the WordCamp circuit. Very sad that we won’t have any WordCamps through 2021 but WordCamp US, WordCamp Europe are probably the two biggest WordCamps every year. There’s WordCamp Asia, which will be among the biggest but we’re still getting that rolling, probably 2022 we’ll talk about that again but yeah. In terms of WordCamp speaker, you’re not just a WordCamp speaker. You’ve spoken at one of the biggest WordCamps in the world and you’re also a organizer and you were lead organizer of WordCamp Edinburgh and that was, I guess, a few years ago. 

I’d love to know your thoughts on how the WordPress community potentially do a better job, maybe they’ve done a great job in all the WordCamps you’ve organized and spoken at but maybe there were a few things you saw. Maybe WordCamps can do this a little better to either make speaking more accessible or to make the actual content from WordCamps more accessible. I guess around speaking I’m thinking about the application process. Is that fully accessible? I don’t know. I never thought that much about it until a few seconds ago where I decided oh, this is a great time to ask. In terms of that contents, I know they do captioning and transcripts but there’s not always a ton of volunteer effort or funding potentially to get all those videos done. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts as someone who’s really in this world and probably just knows right off the top of their head, oh we could do this better, we could do that better. Any improvements from organizing/speaking that you think the WordPress community could make around WordCamps and making everything more accessible?

Ahmed Khalifa:

Sure, yeah. I love WordCamp. I love attending and I love speaking so I’m really lucky to get to speak at WordCamp Europe. Obviously I would’ve preferred on stage but circumstances, it just changes things. 

Making things more accessible. One thing that we tried in various WordCamps whether I was volunteering or when I was organizing several years ago, we tried to work out how to make it accessible when the person is speaking. So we know that everything is volunteer run, everything is … Budget is going to be quite tight for a lot of things and that makes [inaudible 00:37:39] really, really difficult. So one thing that we experimented with is use a tool call webcaptioner.com and basically it’s your live transcript tool where if you are connected with microphone then it will automatically come up, a live captioner on the screen. So if you have a screen, connect that with your laptop and then you get the microphone hooked up, then you could watch the live captioner. Obviously it’s artificial intelligence, not going to be perfect but it’s not bad. It’s not bad. As long as, again, all your quality is good, the person doesn’t speak to fast and just speak clearly and all of these things like anybody should do. It’s not bad.

So that’s something that we experimented with although when we WordCamp Belfast we did that because we have a certain accent in Belfast it struggled to pick up certain words and obviously struggled to pick up certain technical or WordPress related jargons. So it was never going to be perfect which raises a question about, we should have funding in place to make it more accessible because people who are attending, whether you’re paying money or you got sponsored or whatever, you want to be able to access it but I struggled myself at times to the point where sometimes I avoid going to WordCamp or a virtual event because of previous experience and because I know it’s not going to be accessible. 

Yes, they might put it in the whole application form in terms of the ticket system. You talk about you have inaccessible needs and that should always be there but people don’t really think about okay, if it’s there then what can you do in terms of, what if the person really prefers sign language interpreter. Well, that cost money and then if there’s enough demand for it, who should pay for that because the volunteers can’t pay for that. So should it go back to WordCamp foundation and WordCamp people and central whether we should talk about making that available for funding in terms of having it available for people who want life captioner with a human person doing it from virtual or interpreter wherever so there’s a lot of discussion about that. But the easy thing you can do is attempt to use a tool like webcaptioner.com and hook it to your microphone. Have it on a big screen and allow the front seat, for example, to be for certain people who require to be looking at the screen because you can’t see at the back. 

The other thing as well as what you could do, it would be really, really helpful if you could also caption your videos when it goes on WordPress TV. There are thousands, I think, of videos there and a Contributor Day a few years ago in Glasgow and myself and another person, Claire Brotherton. We attempted to look at okay, let’s have a look at WordPress TV and attempt to caption videos there and how many are captioned? I have found out that out of thousands and thousands, less than a dozen were captioned and if you think about how global WordPress is you can think about people who are learning English or don’t know English but they can read it then you’re denying them access to the WordCamps as well, not just people like me. 

So I would really encourage people to make use of tools like Amara. I think Amara’s encouraged every time by WordPress to caption either your videos when it’s uploaded in WordPress TV or consider contributing, if you want to contribute to WordPress. Go to wordpress.tv and caption videos there. There is a community based around in the marketing, make WordPress marketing group, they are talking a lot about subtitles and caption and the discussion there about how can we make WordPress TV more accessible? Well, it requires a lot of resources and people but every little bit helps and if you can do that it would really make a difference for those like myself who, if I don’t attend then I at least I can watch it on wordpress.tv hopefully with captions.

Joe:

Yeah, we threw the WPMRR Virtual Summit recently and we hired a company called White Coat Captioning to do all our captioning. We got a ton of great feedback from that both from people who used it and needed it but from a lot of people, maybe people who weren’t using it and needing it. Just being like, “Thank you for doing this. I don’t see everyone doing captioning and it was really nice to see that you’re making your event as accessible as possible.”

Ahmed Khalifa:

That’s awesome.

Joe:

Yeah. Thank you. You can just thank Ali for that. She’s the one. Her and Brian are the ones who pushed that so shout out to them. I really, I’ve thought about this before but I like the idea of because every WordCamp has sponsorships. You should have an accessibility sponsorship. Someone should just sponsor the video post production and maybe a sign language interpreter to maybe appear in the bottom corner of our virtual event or something. I don’t know exactly how that would work but to me, that’s a really nice way to like, sponsored by your company in the corner of every video. That’s good for you and you’re also doing a really good service for the community. So I think there’s some good business benefit people could get for sponsoring as like an accessibility sponsorship. I don’t know. What do you think about that? Is that something you think might work?

Ahmed Khalifa:

I will always consider options of funding. It will make your job a lot easier if people want to get involved. I would encourage it. Obviously the basic thing is as I’ve mentioned and make sure that you allow the option of people giving their feedback about what do they require because there’s no point have for example, sing language interpreters, if nobody’s asking for it. So just open the conversation. Be open and receptive about it and then if there’s demand for people saying, “I require caption”, and there’s people doing it then let’s put the effort in but honestly even if it’s one person then let’s make that person feel welcome in WordCamp because that is the [inaudible 00:43:51] of WordPress, that’s the [inaudible 00:43:52] of WordCamp is that everyone is welcome and if we have people sponsoring that then that’s great. I would love to see that happen because I think funding would make a big difference and it would make it a lot easier for our volunteers.

Joe:

Totally agree. We did a pre-summit survey and asked people to fill out questions and a lot of it was about what kind of talks do you want, where’s your monthly recurring revenue right now so we can know where you are so we can help you get to the next stage. We didn’t actually ask any questions about the kind of accessibility needs people had and that was probably an oversight on our part. I’ll happy to admit if we didn’t do something right that we’ll do better next year. So that’s something I actually just took a note on. I’m going to shoot that over to Brian and Ali and make sure next year we have … We just make sure we put the effort into explicitly asking people, “Hey, what kind of needs do you have”, as opposed to being like, “Quick captioning, we don’t need to ask anybody.” You probably don’t need to ask anybody to do captioning. You probably should do captioning but additional things like, “What else do you need? Is there anything else you need?”, because, you’re right. If one person needs something and it just makes the events totally unaccessable to them, that’s a big problem.

So dude, Ahmed, thank you for hopping on. This has been super awesome. I always know when we do good episodes because I learn a ton and I’m super excited about them so I thought this was an excellent episode. I usually like to wrap up and have you tell people one, where they can find you online and two, if there are any special landing pages we can send people to.

Ahmed Khalifa:

Sure. Well, I’ve got consistent social media handles, which is @iamahmedkhalifa and I’m sure that will be available in the show notes. Really what I want to offer is for only limited number of people and limited time. I’ve got a page set up that if you want one on one conversation, talk about deaf awareness in anything whether it’s a workplace, events, maybe your videos. If you want to talk about that with me I’m willing to give you a bit of my time, which I normally charge but I’m willing to give you a bit of my time to discuss that and how to make sure that you’re getting the most out of it and make sure that you are deaf accessible as possible. So if that is what you want go to hearmeoutcc.com/bufftastic. Limited time, limited number of people. If that is something that’s of interest, check it out. I’ll be right there.

Joe:

Yeah. Very cool. I also have somebody else that I can potentially chat to in 2021 when we throw the WPMRR Virtual Summit volume two or year two, I guess. We may want to get a little extra help when it comes to accessibility and deaf accessibility so you may be getting an email from me or Slack message. So cool.

Last but not least, I always ask you are guest to ask our audience for a little iTunes review for us for the show. So if you wouldn’t mind asking the listeners for a little iTunes review I’d appreciate it.

Ahmed Khalifa:

Guys, come on now. Come on. Let’s give them love to WPMRR. Let’s give love to Joe and the team. You got to do it. Give some love simply by leaving a review in iTunes. It would be so awesome if you can do that. Even I would appreciate it as well. So let’s do it. Let’s all do it together.

Joe:

Yes, right on. Thank you very much. If you’re leaving a review in the comments leave something you learned from this episode. Leave a thank you for Ahmed so we can send him a screenshot and thank him for helping us get a little extra review. If you are a new listener to the show, were at I think this is episode 118 so we’ve got 117 old episodes for you to go and binge. It’s an easy time to sit around and binge Netflix of Hulu but come on. Why don’t you binge something that’s going to help you grow you business, grow your monthly recruiting revenue. Check out some old episodes. We’ve got a bunch back there. 

Oh, iTunes review. If you’re leaving an iTunes review, wpmrr.com/iTunes forwards you right there if you are on a Mac. If you’re not on a Mac I don’t think you can leave an iTunes review unless you have an iTunes account or I don’t know how that works but if you’re on a Mac you should do that. 

If you have questions for us at the show, Christy and I like to do our Q&A episodes. Yo@wpmrr.com is the email address. I got ahead of myself. Shoot us an email. Have any questions? We’ll do a live Q&A episode. We do them every once in awhile. We’d love to do another one. Now wpmrr.com. If you want to see the Virtual Summit, talks from the Virtual Summit, they’re all up on YouTube. Wpmrr.com. There are a bunch of links there. You can go check out the videos from the 2020 Summit and get pumped for the 2021 Summit as well. 

That is it for this week but we will be in your podcast players again next Tuesday. Ahmed, thanks again for being on.

Ahmed Khalifa:

Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

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