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Creating More Accessible Course Experiences with Erin Perkins



Erica Nash 0:01

Listen, this episode is so good. I had the chance to sit down with accessibility educator Erin Perkins of MABELY Q to talk about accessibility and course design. And wow, did she drop some incredible nuggets of knowledge. She answers questions like, What do accessible courses look like? What are best practices for course creators wanting to make their course experience more accessible and so many more. This is a topic I'm super passionate about. It's close to my heart because my daughter is neurodivergent and I've seen firsthand the need for accessible education. And I know this isn't just going to magically change when she becomes interested in online courses. Erin talks about how the fight for equality in accessibility is our fight. It's not just one person's fight. It's a fight for all of us. So grab a notebook and a pen and settle in for some incredible insight. You're gonna want to hear this. Welcome to next level course creator.





Erica Nash 1:07

My name is Erica and this is a podcast about creating premium online programs that participants never want to leave. If you want a program that serves the whole person satisfies participant needs, and creates brand ambassadors who tell all their friends about how awesome you are, this is for you. Listen in as we go beyond conversion numbers, sold out launches and five figure months to get to the heart of the matter. Taking care of the people who have already said yes, let's go.


Erica Nash 1:43

I have so been looking forward to today's episode. I'm here with accessibility educator, Erin Perkins. Erin, thank you so much for saying yes and coming on the show to talk about accessibility and course creation. Please tell the listeners a little bit about you, your mission, and the work that you do.


Erin Perkins 2:02

Yeah, thanks, Erica for having me. Like, I'm really excited. I love talking with people who like teach others how to create courses. There's so many of you out there. And there's so many ... there's no one way. And that's like what I really appreciate. So I'm the founder of MABELY Q, and I started off as a graphic designer, that's my background. And when I started my business, I realized how ... I started taking courses. And then I was like, oh, none of them are captioned. And the reason why I need captions is because I'm deaf. And I can get away with talking one on one with a lot of people. But when I'm taking courses from different people from all across the world, I couldn't necessarily follow them. It's like when I watch TV, I can't follow anybody on TV without captions, it is something that I need. And I will reach out to the to the course creator and say, Hey, like, you know, I paid for the course. Do you have captions? And they're like, Oh, I didn't know. Ah, but I can't do that now, it's too much money. I don't have time. And and it just kind of made me sad because I bought these courses because I really want to learn from these people because I saw value in what they were teaching. But they obviously didn't see value in me. And that's how I took it in that sense.


Erica Nash 3:44

Wow, thank you so much for sharing that. And that is a really, really powerful thought that that's how it hit you... that that's how it felt.


Erin Perkins 3:55

Yeah, it was 100%.


Erica Nash 3:58

Yeah. So the online education market is a billion dollar industry and expected to grow at a rapid rate. You know, every day, we're seeing more and more new courses that are launched. But personally, from what I've seen, it's pretty rare to see a program that's intentionally created to be accessible. And I know that's a very broad statement to make. Because participant needs are so wide and varied. And accessibility can look like a lot of different things. But as someone in this world, like advocating for better, more inclusive courses is something that really sticks out to me, as a parent of a neurodivergent child. This is something I'm very passionate about. And even though she's not an adult yet, like her experiences with education has really opened my eyes to just how important it is to be intentional about accessibility. So I'm really looking forward to this conversation and the conversations that this is going to start and hopefully create orbit At least begin to create change. So to get us kind of oriented to the topic, what do accessible courses or programs look like?


Erin Perkins 5:09

So I think one of the things I've noticed, like, I had no intention of creating my course to start off with, because I was like, Oh, God, it's so much work to do, there's so much out there. But the pandemic, kind of like forced me to do it. And I feel like in the real world, where parents have been like struggling with Oh, my God, my kid at home, learning online, and they're realizing that the certain way that kid don't get engaged. And the same applies as an adult, when you're an adult, that you're so used to learning in person in school, like to your teacher and stuff like that. And now, you have to learn every thing online is very different.


Erin Perkins 5:58

So when you think about a stressful question and program, the number one thing in addressing as accessibility is in the frequently asked questions. Like, almost 95% of the time, if I want to like check out a course, I will go to the frequently asked question to see what kind of thing they're addressing and 95% of time they do not address anything about accessibility. Like that being captions or transcripts. Whether or not the PDFs are like accessible, like just a little thing like that. That's never addressed. I know, some people might think it should be like a natural thing. If you think about movie, growing, you know, when we're gonna go to video store back in the day, when you have to go to video store, me and my sister would always have to flip the back of the box to see if the closed caption symbol was there. That should be the norm for all courses. Having symbols that represent what kind of accessibility featured are included. And by the way, I just literally came up with that on the fly.


Erica Nash 7:22

It's brilliant.


Erin Perkins 7:23

Yeah. And then the other thing is having a flexible way of structuring your course. My, I want to give an example ... for my accessibility made easy course was designed based on how I think each persona ... I design, I think, seven personas, and how they would each one go through the course. And the flexibility is they can go through each topic as they desire. But I'm often giving them a guideline saying, hey, I think if this is your persona, this is the way you would probably want to go through there to speed up your accessibility in your business, that kind of thing.


Erica Nash 8:08

I love both of those things. And I and what is simple way addressing the accessibility in the FAQs? Like what a brilliant and simple way to just let people know right up front. So then there's no more, you know, kind of wondering, am I actually going to be able to access this content or not? And I would think that that would also signal like, Oh, this is a course creator that I really want to be in contact with. Because not only are they seeing, you know, like they're they have this process or something that I really believe in. But kind of what you alluded to earlier, they also see me and my value as a person. Yeah. And then what a brilliant way to structure your course by persona. That is That is very cool. How did you come up with these?


Erin Perkins 9:01

I actually struggled when I was creating my course I was like, well, if they are just a podcaster, they don't necessarily want to go to everything I'm teaching them, they might actually want to just go straight to the transcript module. And then they want to go to the social media module. And maybe those are the two things they want to focus on right now. But if you are like a coach, you probably want to focus on like how you want to address the live like zoom settings kind of thing. Like how do you address that? So that's how I came up with that. I was thinking about my different like people and what was really important to them and what I thought they should do first.


Erica Nash 9:55

I love that so much. That's such a great way. I just love that strategy because it Really, I mean, and that's what this whole podcast is about, right? Like that really takes care of your people. And that really shows them like, Oh, she really knows who I am. She really kind of sees me as a person, which is beautiful and brilliant, and really kind of leads me into my next question.


Erica Nash 10:14

So I truly believe that, you know, people create courses, especially at the level of our listeners, because they want to make an impact. They really want to help people, and perhaps they don't know how to make a course accessible. Or maybe they're even worried that if they do attempt to do that, they might do it wrong. So what are some best practices for course creators when it comes to intentionally designing inclusive and accessible programs?


Erin Perkins 10:42

So I have three best practices 1. caption caption caption. Like, I cannot emphasize that even more than I can emphasize it. So there's a report that PR, p reply.com. They said 70% of Gen Z, 53% of millennials, 38% of Gen X and 35% of baby boomers regularly use subtitles. Like that is such a high number, especially Gen Z. I feel like multiple, like the people we're teaching are primarily Gen Zs and millennials. You're losing all those people if you don't include captions in your course. And Netflix also said that they found more than 80% of their members use subtitles or closed captions at least once a month on their streaming platform. At the moment, I feel like nearly everybody in the world had Netflix. If it's 80% and your course did not have captions, you're missing out on 80% of your audience that wouldn't buy because you don't have captions.


Erin Perkins 12:02

Because like I understand that subtitle and captions were really intended to help people with hearing loss. But it became so much more essential to the younger generation because they multitask. They're using multiple devices. And they are also watching shows and movies in public because we have mobile devices and the subtitles allow them to continue showing up.


Erica Nash 12:30

I love that one. Especially because in I mean, my husband and I watch with subtitles and sound like we ... Like we just ... it's almost like we can't hear it if we don't have the subtitles on. And so I can see how that number is so big and I love that you brought out how or you brought up that they're multitasking and they're they're watching in public. And I mean, the same would kind of also hold true that if they're watching TV public, they're probably also consuming course content in public. They don't probably don't want everybody to, to hear all of that or whatever. Maybe they don't...


Erin Perkins 13:11

And if you're a mom and you're trying to like breastfeed your baby, you still want to consume content, you have the subtitles on, you don't want to deal with like headphones or anything, you have your subtitles on. It's just like, it's just the norm like, even my nieces do. They have the phone all the time? And, and they'll be like, they still have the sound on really quietly, but they have captions turned on. They look at me like I'm crazy, because I watch stuff without any sound though, like, but how do you understand the emotion. I'm like, one, I watch the body language. And two, I create it in my head. They can't understand that concept. But for me, it's fun because I used to be so enamored with having to hear everything. Now. I'm actually okay with it. I'll set on my iPad and watch movie TV show and my husband will watch it on the big screen. And we can still coexist in the same room without having to be stuck because we want to watch different thing.


Erica Nash 14:25

That's amazing. So do you have a favorite tool or resource that you would recommend?


Erin Perkins 14:33

Mine is otter.ai And the reason why is because it is so low cost and if you pay when you pay for it, you can export it as an SRT file and then upload it to most course platforms that I know of.


Erica Nash 14:51

Okay, and that was otter AI


Erin Perkins 14:53

Otter o t t e r . a i.


Erica Nash 14:57

Amazing and I will definitely link that in then.


Erin Perkins 15:00

And then the other thing about what a best practice is knowing that you don't have to include everything and nothing in your course. You know, there's really a limit. I know I teach about accessible visual design, with the premise that if the most basic thing about design, knowing that not everyone in my audience is designer, but they still want to learn about the design aspect. And also knowing that the other question that designers can pay to be to ensure that their like reaching the top level of accessibility with design, but my question is really just like the surface as a graphic design background, I could totally go into like hours and hours of everything. But I'm not because that's not my target audience. So it's like understanding your audience and knowing what the cap is, of what you should choose. It's so easy for all of us to want to teach everything, but sometimes everything is too much.


Erin Perkins 16:12

And then my The other thing I also like to talk about is you need to consider learning style. Not everyone learns the same way. I'm very much a visual learner. I get completely lost when someone is presenting and they don't have any slides. And I'm like, What did you say? What were your bullet points, I'm not capturing that. While my husband, he picks up thing audibly. And when we work, so here's like a really great example, when we work together on home project, I really instructions out loud to him, so he understands what he's doing. If he had to read it, he wouldn't understand it. Like he, he just doesn't doesn't understand it. So I read it, I see the visual. He listens, I kind of explained it to him, it was really well, we barely have any fights, when we're doing home project. It's awesome. It's like that's like magic, how we come together it I really think out loud, he listen to them.


Erica Nash 17:18

I love it. So I want to go back for just a second to your second one where you don't have to include everything. I love that you included this as a best practice. Because, you know, like you said, you know, we do what we want to teach everything. And we want to give everyone everything. And that's kind of the mindset that it's giving. But sometimes too much is too much, like there is a there is a line where it becomes just more than a ... becomes overwhelming more than people can handle. And so you know, you said it's just really important to understand your audience. And I just kind of wanted to visit this really quick just to say like, understand ... like just ask them questions. And that's really all it comes down to like, you know, you don't necessarily have to guess at what your audience needs, you can simply ask them questions.


Erin Perkins 18:08

Yeah. Do Intagram to surveys as you build out your course, like, ask people, like when they appeal to you, you might have two people that really want it, but everybody else like, I don't really care for that. If I want to buy your course, I don't need that. That kind of thing.


Erica Nash 18:29

Amazing. These are so good. And so just as a follow up question to that one. What should course creators not do that maybe they're unaware of or don't realize this harmful?


Erin Perkins 18:43

So I really want to share the quote, it says, "Being disabled is the one group you don't have to be born into." You can become disabled at anytime. So my fight for equality and disability justice should be your fight. Because you may very well become a person with a disability one day, we all can become disabled at any time. And the reason why I share her quote it because before I focused on being an accessibility educator, I knew I wanted to learn everything about what I was doing. And I wanted to but the best way to do that was to learn from others. And to I didn't want to learn from the big names. I wanted to learn from the smaller businesses, because I felt like I related to them better to what they will teach. Like, I felt like I had more of a connection. I am a much more personable learner. I don't follow the trends. I'm like, so far out of the trends. I'm like, Wait, who that person everybody loves this like big name and I'm like she teaches tens and tens of thousands of people. Yeah, great. But I don't want to learn from her, I want to learn from smaller coaches that are like so much more incredible. And when I wish off to them, it often was something that they were like, Oh, I never thought about this until they came across someone like me with a disability that I needed a different way of accessing thing.


Erin Perkins 20:27

And very often, I would always be that first person for them. And then let me tell you that I did reach out to some of the big names because I was testing out to see what the response would be. And often they said, Oh, yeah, we'll make our videos accessible, but it's not something that we're focused on at the moment. And that was a hurtful thing for me, because I was like, you have 10s of 1000s of people, hundreds of 1000s of followers. And yet, you're telling me that, oh, it's not something that is so quick. Like, that's why I've always been more drawn to the smaller businesses to like, Oh, my God, what can I do to make this happen for you?


Erica Nash 21:16

Yeah, so a willingness to, to learn and to grow and to just, you know, kind of that once, you know, better do better kind of thing. Yeah, I could, I could definitely ... and I can see how that would be really hurtful, getting a response back.


Erin Perkins 21:33

I just applied to be part of a summit that's happening sometime next year. And I told her my topic and everything. And then she fully disclosed me that she had transcripts but none of videos were captioned. And she was like she was aware of that. But she's not willing to change platform. So I was like, Hey, let me know what platform you're using. So I went and found, I did the work. And I was like, Oh, here's what you can do. And she was like, oh, that must be new because platform, they're always changing tool. Now she's going to do it. So now I feel better about being part of that summit, because she, like I showed her something like, I'm willing to do the work to help people make it happen. But sometimes there's a limit.


Erica Nash 22:23

You know, and it's so ... we live in such a time where there are just so many resources. And so you know, everything's a Google away. There aren't any excuses. We get to we get to ...


Erin Perkins 22:32

Yeah, there isn't any issues. It's just like, whatever.


Erica Nash 22:36

So let's say that if course creator has some of these accommodations in place, maybe they have, maybe they do have transcripts. And if they wanted to go above and beyond for their students who do require accommodations, what are some things that they could do?


Erin Perkins 22:55

If you are doing live group learning, because I know a lot of people get into it that ... One of the things ... you want to call out specific things to make people aware like, hey, just so you know we're on zoom, the captions are available, if you need it, you can click it and open it, you can move it around the screen, but really say that, that way it actually registers with everyone every time, then it leads everybody else to do it as well when they host their own zoom meeting.


Erin Perkins 23:27

Um always repeat questions before answering them. Because I know sometimes somebody will ask a question. And maybe a couple of people don't catch what they're saying. It helps when you repeat things, because some people just can't, it doesn't register with them if they don't, because we're meeting people all over the world. And there are accents involved. Some people do struggle, but they don't want to admit they need help. And it's okay. I think if you're leading this group, you want to make sure that everyone understand so repeat questions. Like just keep open communication.


Erin Perkins 24:13

Um, do not charge people more because they have a disability. You'd be surprised how some people do do that. And really welcome them into the fold just as much as everyone. If you find that they have a learning disability, they might need more of a push or explanation for a specific thing. You're gonna need to ask them for their feedback. And sometimes the way ... think about ... you might have gestured something that makes perfect sense to you, but it doesn't make sense to them, so you might have to adjust it.


Erin Perkins 24:50

I have a really good friend of mine. She's a bright woman. But sometimes I have to like slow down with explaining How things work, because it's just the way her brain was slow in like processing, like ideas. So I have to really like outline the stuff be like this. And then she gets to it. And that's okay. It's just how they learn. And I know a lot of people like that. So I think we have to be really mindful of not everyone wants the same way.


Erica Nash 25:27

Yes, oh, these are such good suggestions. I hope everyone is taking notes. Because Wow. And I love that you closed it with that, that not everyone learns the same way. And it is just so so important to remember that with everything going into course creation, especially at this level, that the way that the course creator, learned something that they are now teaching is not the only way that it can happen. It can happen in so many ways. So many people come in, everyone comes in with different experiences and different levels of knowledge and different needs and wants and goals and dreams and hopes and whatever. And we get to ask for feedback. And look at that feedback in a way that allows us to be better, more accommodating course creators.


Erin Perkins 26:21

Absolutely. Yeah.


Erica Nash 26:23

So for the course creator, that's listening who has an established course, but is maybe overwhelmed with the idea of making it more accessible. What advice would you give them as they try to move forward with that?


Erin Perkins 26:37

This is like my favorite question. Because like, I know so many people, like already have like hundreds and hundreds of video, but where you're at now, look at the video that is your most watched video and transcribe those. Start transcribing them and then, like I mentioned, use otter AI. If you need to upload, all you need to do is upload the audio and transcribe it for you. It's very easy to edit, then download the SRT and upload it to your platform that had video ... that's easy. So don't feel like you have to do everything like right away, but like, figure out what videos are being watched the most, and transcribe those as soon as possible. And just start like making note, hey, let's, let's make sure I transcribe the next five videos this week, then next week, do another five videos, just do it baby steps.


Erin Perkins 27:40

And then the other thing, you're doing social media on a regular basis, I mean, I would assume posting every single piece of content you have in social media, don't rely on the auto caption, I actually ended up turning them off to it was so annoying because more people have been captioning the video and the auto captions would overlay it and that tends to be wrong more than captions. So I just turned off the captions so now I want creators to make your own captions and start really building accessibility into your process.


Erica Nash 28:24

Amazing. Those are such great suggestions. And I think that you know, looking at it through the lens of like we can do this sustainably, like you know better, you want to do better amazing, it doesn't all have to be done right this second. We can start small and implement these changes in a sustainable way. The important thing is that you're doing it and that you're you know moving forward to serve this audience so that is awesome.


Erica Nash 28:56

Oh my goodness, so many good takeaways today so many good nuggets. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your willingness to come on here and educate us on accessibility and share with us just some of your thoughts and experiences. Please share with the listeners where they can find you and how they can work with you.


Erin Perkins 29:17

You can follow me on instagram I'm always posting on there at MABELY m a b e l y underscore q as in what? Queen yes Queen There we go. You can follow me there. You also catch me on my website www dot Mabely q.com But Instagram's where I really am most of the time. You can learn from me. I do have my course on my website, it's really like affordable. I just really want people to take what I teach and learn from it, apply it, and kind of spread the word.


Erin Perkins 30:05

And I think that's really important. That's why I love doing the podcast interviews. I love when people like you invite me. And I love that you're like, I can totally relate only because I'm going through this with my child. And I think that's usually that people first taste facing someone with a disability. You might have a friend that has a disability, but they might not share either. So if you connect with me like I would love to connect with so many people and talk to you about what you're struggling with what you want to how you can make things better. And I'm just excited to keep spreading the knowledge.


Erica Nash 30:49

Yes, I love that. We're starting this conversation. Hopefully, it carries on. I'm going to include all of the links and the information so that you can connect with Erin in the show notes. You definitely want to check out her resources and in connect with her. So, Erin, thank you again. This was amazing.


Erin Perkins 31:11

Thank you for having me. Okay.


Erica Nash 31:15

Well, I hope today's episode brought a little clarity and community to your next level course journey. If you enjoyed listening, please consider subscribing and leaving a review. And if you'd like to connect, be sure to find me over on Instagram at Erica Nash design or on my website at Erica nash.com I would love to hear from you. Alright, you guys go forth, educate and change lives. I'll see you next time.


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