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Siteimprove at CSUN – Andy Waselchuk Interview Transcript

During the CSUN Assistive Tech conference I spoke with Andy Waselchuk in business development from a company called Siteimprove (siteimprove.com), and he talked about how they work with companies to analyze their web presence for accessibility and SEO, and provide training for on how to fix their problems. I was intrigued and asked Andy to come on the show to explain a little more about the SiteImprove platform for businesses.

Below is a transcript of our conversation created by the service https://otter.ai and corrected by Steve Sheridan. You can also listen to this interview at 13:25 into NosillaCast episode #828.

If you’d like to contact Andy about Siteimprove, you can email him at awas@siteimprove.com.


Transcript from Otter.ai:

Allison Sheridan 0:01
Last week I talked on the show about tools and processes that have been developed to help the federal government ensure that all of their websites are accessible to those with disabilities. But, you know, what about regular companies? How do they ensure that their websites and other digital assets within their company and are accessible to their employees and customers? During the CSUN, assistive tech conference, I spoke with Andy Waselchuk, who’s in business development for a company called SiteImprove at siteimprove.com. He talked about how they work to help companies use technology to make web accessibility the new norm. I was intrigued with the approach that SiteImprove takes that that isn’t all salesy and get you addicted to their service, kind of a kind of thing. So I asked Andy to come on the show to explain a little bit more to us. Welcome to the show, Andy.

Andy Waselchuk 0:48
Hey, thanks for having me. I appreciate your time. And it was great connecting with you last week. And here we are.

Allison Sheridan 0:52
Yeah. Now we got to figure out how to recreate the magic of our conversation, because I remember being really inspired.

Andy Waselchuk 0:58
Yeah, let’s give it a shot. I’m here for it.

Allison Sheridan 1:01
All right. So talk about what SiteImprove is hopes to do for companies.

Andy Waselchuk 1:06
Yeah, so SiteImprove is a holistic digital marketing suite, where we’ve seen a lot of success with accessibility initiatives from a variety of companies. You had mentioned, the regulations that are cracking down on kind of the federal side. But what we aim to do is empower organizations to make the website or their websites and the web itself more accessible to all, more inclusive in nature. And our approach has helped a variety of teams to achieve their accessibility initiatives, which can be a daunting task if you’re not sure where to start. So I’ll be happy to go into a little bit more depth of who we work with, what we do. And, you know, I’m appreciative of your time here and looking forward to chatting.

Allison Sheridan 1:47
Sure. So you got a lot of buzzwords in there, you got all the right kind of phrases. Let’s dig into exactly what you do. So you come in, you come into a company, and you look at my website, and you tell me, what, what do you what do you do? Do you run automated tests? Do you have people to do stuff? What do you do? Yeah,

Andy Waselchuk 2:05
so we offer a variety of areas of support. And accessibility, obviously, is one of our main focal points. What we’ll do is automatically crawl or scan all your public facing web content, and report back to you on any accessibility issues, any SEO shortages, any analytics-type metrics that need improving. But in accessibility space, a lot of times there’s a tough, you know, gap on where to start, how do we fix these things. And the teams that we work with aren’t necessarily the most technical and have all the time and resources to devote to achieving compliance. So we make that process a lot simpler for teams that are maybe siloed across departments, but helping them get to a common goal, to achieve their initiatives where we provide the framework and support to go about those things.

Allison Sheridan 2:55
Now, part of what intrigued me and what you we talked about at CSUN was that you don’t really just go in and do it for somebody. Because if you go in and do it for somebody an hour later, they’ve created another website that’s not accessible, right? So you guys have a little different approach. Talk to how you do that. How do you get people to know how to do this right?

Andy Waselchuk 3:19
Yeah, so that’s a great point is, this is, you know, SiteImprove is more of a long-term sustainable option where we empower your team to take accountability to make those changes. So we’ll provide all the framework and suggestions on how to go about becoming accessible, but will really give you the resources and the training that your team can then use to address the challenges that come up either now or in the future. We see a lot of teams that have high turnover in this space. So having a solution that has the ongoing support, to go ahead and change these things and fix them is where we can come in. We also offer an academy program, which is geared for all sorts of, you know, directions that our platform can help with, but more specifically in the accessibility space, training and resources and tools for teams to go ahead and make this process a lot easier. So hopefully, that kind of brings it up to speed a little bit better.

Allison Sheridan 4:14
So still a little bit on the buzzwordy side for the depth I’m looking for. So if you’ve come in, you’ve come into my company, you’ve run the crawler, you say, Okay, you guys make all these kinds of these kinds of things need to change in order to make your website accessible, then do you use that knowledge of what you’ve learned about the way we’ve been doing things to train us to do it better in the future?

Andy Waselchuk 4:39
Yeah, so it can be as granular as you’d like. If it’s something as simple as an alt tag to an image, we can show you how to do that and how to train people on preventing that thing from being caught by our crawler and what we see on our side.

Allison Sheridan 4:54
Again, an alt tag is the alternative text that is the description of an image that gets read out loud when a screen reader finds an image. So it doesn’t just say “image,” it tells you what it actually is.

Andy Waselchuk 5:06
Yeah, exactly. And that’s one of the common issues that we have. But again, there’s a lot more complexities and things that some companies don’t have a reliable process for identifying and fixing, and we illuminate where those exists on the site, how to go about fixing them, so their team can go in and have that knowledge, both now and in the future.

Allison Sheridan 5:27
How about not doing it wrong in the first place.

Andy Waselchuk 5:31
Yeah. If that was the the one tell, one I’ll do, I think we’d all be in a better space. But again, these things are, you know, if they don’t have a strictly accessibility consultant, or someone on staff to go ahead and fix these things, it’s often hard to know where to start and where to get the training and support to make a more inclusive environment.

Allison Sheridan 5:52
Yeah, I would think that building it into everybody who touches the websites processes, as opposed to having an accessibility consultant. I mean, accessibility consultant can test and tell you, you’re doing it wrong. But training people up front is a better way to make it not go wrong in the first place. Where people understand that when I’m doing, you know, you teach somebody how to put an image on the website, well part of that training is, and here’s where the alt tag goes, and this is why you do it to make sure it keeps happening.

Andy Waselchuk 6:22
Yeah and that, that can be a large challenge. Like I said, earlier, for siloed teams or teams that don’t collaborate a lot is they want to make sure things are in inside there consistencies across departments. So having a single source of truth, through our platform to not only illuminate the issues and show them how to fix them, can really empower teams to be on the same page with how they’re going about achieving their accessibility initiatives.

Allison Sheridan 6:46
Oh, you just taught me something I didn’t hadn’t heard you say before. You have a platform that people use at their at their company?

Andy Waselchuk 6:54
Yeah, so the SiteImprove platform offers a comprehensive approach to everything digital, and we’re just diving into the accessibility portion of it. But we do offer, you know, more things outside of just accessibility, which I think is important to note. But the platform itself will report on any issue on the site, whether it’s readability or usability or things of that nature to flag and show you how to correct them or suggestions that we would make based on our our standards, I guess you would call it. So yeah, I’m not sure if that answers the question. But there, there’s a lot more to it.

Allison Sheridan 7:32
Yeah. Okay. So that’s interesting. So is it constantly monitoring?

Andy Waselchuk 7:37
Yep. So we can set things up the way you would like reports to be run for specific departments, either prioritizing, you know, traffic pages that are receiving a lot of views and clicks, you’re gonna want to go in there through the eyes of our platform, look at any accessibility issues, look at any quality issues, such as a broken link or something of that nature. And we’ll be able to get that all in the same platform. Again, there’s that word. But yeah, it’s been helpful for for teams to prioritize, get a good starting point, and have that ongoing support and training that they need both, you know, now and a more sustainable approach in the future.

Allison Sheridan 8:17
One of the things I remember saying to you and when we talked at CSUN, was that it seemed that your approach wasn’t to do things for people it was it wasn’t to fish for people it was to teach them how to fish. Would you say that’s a good description of the way you guys try to implement this?

Andy Waselchuk 8:33
Yeah, absolutely. You know, it’s one thing to have regulations coming across, saying, you know, we need to work towards accessibility, but SiteImprove really believes that, you know, making sure that the environment, the Internet, and the digital environment is inclusive for all is the right thing to do. So we want to make sure that teams have that empowered approach to proactively address accessibility on their own, and you know, we’re just there to help them and collaborate and offer any input as best we can.

Allison Sheridan 9:04
Interesting. I did like your approach, because I think I likened it to, I know a lot of people who love their chiropractor, and they say, Man, this person just does the world of good to me, and I say, oh, how long have you been going to them? And they say, eight years. Well, okay, so they’ve just gotten you addicted to what they do for you. But it sounds like your approach is more to help you stand on your own to have the tools and the training to keep that as a sustainable way to do business.

Andy Waselchuk 9:31
Yep, definitely. The breadth of topics that we help with are going to improve not only your accessibility initiatives, but also all of your other digital marketing needs. Through the eyes of one platform, one solution, and accessibility just happens to be a space where a lot of folks come to us across all different industries.

Allison Sheridan 9:49
I like that because it is part of the same competitive advantage, right? SEO is all about, you know, making sure that your business is seen up front and is seen as quality site. And that’s exactly what accessibility does for us. It gets you more people more, quote unquote, eyeballs to your site. Earballs.

Andy Waselchuk 10:08
Yeah, definitely. Yeah, whatever it may be. But yeah, there’s a lot of links and parallels between different aspects of how websites operate. And accessibility is kind of ingrained in the, I guess, nucleus nucleus, if you will. So what better place to start by looking at that and diving into, you know, other areas of website traffic, website analytics, things of that nature.

Allison Sheridan 10:31
You guys go beyond websites into things like PDFs?

Andy Waselchuk 10:37
Yeah, that’s a that’s a great topic. We just launched a next generation accessibility module, which helps address some of the more, I guess you would say basic things that most businesses use for, we offer several free courses on our website that help with you know, Microsoft Word accessibility, Microsoft PowerPoint accessibility, and PDF scanning has been a big, you know, area of emphasis that we can help with. So yeah, we do go outside of just public facing website content into more, I guess, unique areas that people look for accessibility, support and help.

Allison Sheridan 11:15
So that helps inside and outside the company – right?

Andy Waselchuk 11:18
Right. And I’ve been with SiteImprove a year and a half. And I gotta admit, I didn’t know a ton about website accessibility when I started here. And I still have a ton to learn. But it really is a cool, you know, topic to strive for, and assist others with and, you know, hopefully others can kind of take that same approach that we have, and we can collaborate one day in the future.

Allison Sheridan 11:41
I love to see accessibility just being kind of a mainstream topic now. You know, it comes up all the time. It’s not this little niche of like, okay, and then when you’re done doing everything else, go, go see if it’s accessible. You know, now, it’s now it’s in the mainstream. So I really appreciate you coming on end. If people want to find out more, they would go to siteimprove.com, is that correct?

Andy Waselchuk 12:00
Yep, that’s correct. We’re located in 14 countries across the world. I’m over in Minneapolis, we originated in Copenhagen, Denmark. But we do have a wide variety of offerings on our website that you can explore based on accessibility based on any other part of our platform. And if you have any questions, you know, you can get in touch with me or someone else and we’d be happy to help.

Allison Sheridan 12:23
All right, you want to tell them how to get in touch with you? Should I give them your email address in the show notes?

Andy Waselchuk 12:31
Yeah, that would be great. My email address is just awas@siteimprove.com.

Allison Sheridan 12:46
Great. Thank you very much for coming on Andy.

Andy Waselchuk 12:48
Yeah, you bet. Thanks a lot Allison. I appreciate it.

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