Podcast – Accessibility

February 17, 2023

  • Lenght: 12 Minutes

In our first GREYD.Podcast we welcome our guest Anne-Mieke Bovelett. As an Accessibility & Possibility Advocate she is a real expert in accessibility. We talk to her about this exciting topic and give you a first insight into the complex subject, which we will be exploring in more detail in the coming weeks.

[00:00:00.090] – Thomas

Hi together, we are happy to broadcast our first GREYD podcast to welcome our special guest, Anne-Mieke Bovelett. Anne-Mieke, great to have you here.

[00:00:08.480] – Anne-Mieke

Thank you.

[00:00:09.890] – Thomas

We’ve chosen a very important and also very present topic for our first episode – web accessibility. You are an accessibility and possibility advocate. What does this exactly mean?

[00:00:23.330] – Anne-Mieke

It basically means I’m a flag bearer for online accessibility, and my role is mainly educational. So I teach people about online accessibility and where they can learn about this, what they can do. And the possibility advocate part is to explain to people that they don’t have to be afraid, that they have to know everything at once. It is possible to start step by step, because perfect is the enemy of good.

[00:00:55.810] – Thomas

Ah okay! So I wonder, why did you decide to focus on that topic?

[00:01:02.450] – Anne-Mieke

Well, I’m very community minded. So if you do something that is good for you, just for you, and you can make a living with that, I mean, that’s perfect. But if you can do something for a living that benefits thousands and maybe even millions of people, I mean, that’s bliss. And I didn’t know anything about accessibility until two years ago when I read a very tear jerking tweet from a lady who said: “My father called me today. He was crying on the phone because, again, he couldn’t use the web because he’s blind”. And I’m quoting this all wrong, the exact quote, you can find it on my website. But that kind of hit me so hard, it made me cry. And I decided to learn everything I know today, and I know there is still lots more to learn.

[00:02:02.630] – Thomas

Okay? So for me, accessibility – I have to be honest – before dealing with the topic of accessibility myself, I was thinking it’s more or less about making websites accessible to blind people. But as I’ve learned, it’s so much more. Could you please explain, in short words, what accessibility in the web world really means?

[00:02:28.190] – Anne-Mieke

It literally means that the information that you convey on your site can be accessed by anyone, in spite of having their personal barriers, like being blind, being deaf, having cognitive issues, any kind of issue and that even if you have to rely on assistive technology, that you are free to use the web as anyone else would.

[00:03:03.050] – Thomas

This also means that web accessibility is not just a niche topic – I think. But should definitely be top of mind of all website owners. I mean, it’s also part of Google’s ranking system, and of course, they’re also the social aspect of making your website accessible to everyone. But it’s really also about losing so much potential when you don’t have accessibility on your mind, isn’t it?

[00:03:31.160] – Anne-Mieke

Well, if you take online accessibility at its core, in a technical sense. It makes the web accessible to people who don’t even know that they depend on accessibility. Because it’s not a question of when we have to face our own disabilities if we have to face them. But when, like, I am 51 and there’s a lot of stuff I can’t read, but it’s also if, for example, font sizes are very small, a lot of people can’t read what you’re trying to convey on your website, and even someone who is tired will just jump off your site and leave. And this is really bad for your conversion.

[00:04:17.890] – Thomas

Yeah, about that numbers I’ve read, that are about 8% of men have some kind of colorvision problem. So let’s think about the barbecue web shop. So when there are a high percentage of potential customers is male, would you want that 8% being part of your potential customers so they can see the colors, right?

[00:04:45.690] – Anne-Mieke

Yeah. I can make this number more concrete for you. It’s actually one in twelve men.

[00:04:51.870] – Thomas


[00:04:52.780] – Anne-Mieke

And one in 200 women. And if you don’t act upon that, it’s like color contrast, for example. It’s like a bad smell. I wrote an article about it where I said bad color contrast is like this lingering bad smell in a shop. You go to a shop and someone steps in, duck poop. Before you, or maybe there’s a sewage problem, and this smell is not so present that you are like, whoa, this is a stinky store, I’m getting out of here. But the longer you’re there, the more it starts to become a nuisance to you. And then at some point, you are in the line, you already have this product in your fingers, and then you just start to think, I can put it back. I can order this somewhere else, I can go somewhere else, or I don’t really need this right now. That would be a very conscious process. But for most people, this is a very unconscious process. You just you just feel like walking away without even knowing why you’re doing it. But as a shop owner, you’re screwing yourself if you don’t make your website accessible to people who are color blind, or to anybody for that matter.

[00:06:15.270] – Anne-Mieke

And there’s actually a fantastic article written by the a11y-Collective and it literally says, blind people don’t visit my website. And it’s a fantastic article because – Rian, who wrote this article, asked people, those who do not depend on assistive technology, could you list your irritations and your nervousnesses on the web? What bothers you? And she got a huge list of things and listing those in her article. The end conclusion was, if you had created your website in an accessible way, these problems would not be there, which is incredibly interesting, I think.

[00:07:00.950] – Thomas

So. I think one reason why many web designers are still afraid of the topic accessibility is that there are lots of prejudices, for example, that an accessible website can’t work with colors. But I’ve just seen your new website, Anne-Mieke, which is of course accessible and it has also a lot of colors. So how does it really work?

[00:07:29.650] – Anne-Mieke

Is where my rule is possibility advocate comes in because you can use all the colors of the rainbow if you like. It just depends on how you use them. So, function has to go over form and if you know that, then you will understand that if you want to use that cute pink in your baby club store, then you can use the pink wherever you like. But don’t use it for your text or your headlines because the contrast will be bad. So you have to get very creative and how am I going to use it? How am I going to give that same feeling? Because that is what web design the visual design is about. It’s about emotion, about a sense that you want to give someone on your site. And I know a lot of designers, they are like “I feel like I’m castrated when I have to create an accessible design”. But I think the castration happens because of this sense, like being Bambi on ice. If you don’t know the rules, you are not sure if you are doing it right and then you get scared and then your creativity goes down the toilet.

[00:08:52.570] – Anne-Mieke

And if you know the rules like I’ve been in a process where we were designing an app for a world cleanup day that comes out and the designers also were like oh shit, you keep telling us don’t do this or don’t do that. And then I decided to create a color chart for them and I said, okay, if you put text on this background, it will work. If you put text on that background, it will only work if it is larger text, bold text. And so I made it visual to them and then they knew which tools they could use or what they could do and they got very creative and the design was fantastic.

[00:09:35.370] – Thomas

I think as well that for the most designers it’s impossible that you show them visually, not only on chart. So you have to match this contrast number or stuff like that. Okay, so your new website is built with GREYD.SUITE. How was your experience with the GREYD.SUITE in terms of accessibility?

[00:10:01.970] – Anne-Mieke

Well, one of the best things was whenever I ran into an accessibility issue, I could just write to you guys and say hey look, this needs to be keyboard accessible or this needs to change, or this needs to work. And you changed it immediately, which is fantastic because in the end we all need to be able to build something where we can at least rely that the code output is clean. Because this is the one thing that we as webcreators usually can’t influence unless we’re coders ourselves. And this is again about the possibility of good stuff. It’s not a matter of having to be perfect from the start when you create a product where other people can build a website with, but the fact that you are willing to listen and to progress in this again. Perfect is the enemy of good. And so it was an immense joy to work with GREYD.SUITE. And I’m going to build a lot more sites with them. Am I going to tell a lot of my customers, you have to use this product if you want to be sure that the code output is clean. And then of course, you have to listen to the people who know about accessibility, for content, for images, for all the stuff that you can put in there and break.

[00:11:26.010] – Thomas

Yeah, nice. Well, I think we could talk for hours about this very interesting topic and we will surely. With Anne-Mieke on our side, we’ve decided to put a big focus on accessibility with the GREYD.SUITE. We want to become the number one tool for building accessible websites. As you’ve heard, we’re already doing a lot of things right, but we also want to work with other parts where we can still improve. And we want to take you with us on this very interesting journey. Let’s take a part in our learnings, talk more about in depth, about that topic, etc. So that’s why you will hear a lot more from us on this topic in the future. Stay tuned. And thank you Anne-Mieke again for joining us today.

[00:12:14.650] – Anne-Mieke

Thank you for having me. It’s a joy.

More Podcasts


Podcast – Sustainable Websites

We talk with Anne-Mieke Bovelett about sustainability – a topic that is often underestimated when it comes to websites.

Thomas und Anne

Podcast – Accessibility

We speak with Anne-Mieke Bovelett – Accessibility & Possibility Advocate – about the very exciting topic accessibility and give you a first insight into the complex subject, which we will be exploring in more detail in the coming weeks.

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