State of WP Accessibility

The following is a post by Adam Soucie (@adamsoucie)


Yesterday was Global Accessibility Awareness Day! In celebration, the WordPress Accessibility Team (WPa11y) would like to present the State of WordPress Accessibility for 2017. The WPa11y is always working towards making WordPress more accessible. We have several active projects, and are currently planning larger goals for future WordPress releases. Here’s a breakdown of what we’re looking at for both the present and future of WordPress.

Current Projects

The WPa11y has several active projects, ranging from small changes that the average user wouldn’t notice like color contrast in the admin or removing title attributes to larger projects like making sure the new Gutenberg editor is as accessible as possible before launch.

Tag Cloud Widget

Andrea Fercia, Sami Keijonen, and David Kennedy are currently reworking the tag cloud widget, as it has several accessibility issues. The tag cloud project involves not only reworking the widget, but updating the bundled themes as well. Each theme handles the HTML output slightly differently, and the team is working on standardizing them. This project was born at the first WordCamp US (Philadelphia 2015) and hopes to see release in time for 4.8.1.

Enhanced Settings API Plugin

The Settings API could use some work, so Felix Arntz and Andrea Fercia have created a plugin that ties all of the patches together for easier testing. This enhanced version of the settings API improves on the default render callbacks and proves a more accessible layout. The plugin is available on GitHub and is ready to be tested.

 

For more on our current projects, review the April 5th meeting notes where we unveiled all of our current projects.

Future Plans

The future of accessibility in WordPress is bright, but filled with work. Just like the rest of WordPress. We have a few big targets including: media, the Customizer, themes management, menus, and plugin management.

A Media Rework

The WPa11y’s biggest future priority is a rework of the media system, particularly the Media Library. To be blunt, it’s a mess. It really needs to be rebuilt from the ground up with accessibility in mind, instead of having the team try to graft on accessibility to what’s already there. Because this will be such a labor-intensive project with input and assistance from nearly every group involved in contributing to WordPress, it will take months of planning to accomplish. Still, media is a vital part of WordPress and a vital part of the web experience in general. We’re committed to making it as accessible as possible for a future release.

The Customizer

Like the Media Library, the Customizer needs a lot of work. With the Customizer getting more and more focus, now is the time for the WPa11y to be making sure that future updates are accessible while improving what’s already there. It is clear that the Customizer is the future of WordPress. It needs to be accessible.

How You Can Help

Accessibility can be scary. It seems like a foreign, complex concept. It isn’t. Testing for accessibility is as simple as using your browser’s inspector to check font sizes and color values or using browser settings to make sure fonts resize. If you’d like to learn more and help contribute to making WordPress more accessible, join the WordPress Accessibility Team for our weekly Slack meetings at 1pm EST on Mondays. We’ll show you the ropes and have you up and contributing in no time!

 

If you’re a developer who already knows accessibility, even better. There’s a lot of code that needs to be written or refactored to make each of these projects an accessibility success, and you have an opportunity to impact a large part of the internet, from a user as well as a development perspective. You have the opportunity to create code other WordPress developers can and will learn from. The core WordPress Accessibility Team is very small, and the number who are developers is even smaller. Add to this that every one of us are further constrained by the amount of time we have available to devote to WordPress, and you have a recipe for glacially slow accessibility improvements.

 

To be sure, we’re not asking for all of your free time. But wouldn’t it be excellent if everyone who is a developer, already knows web accessibility, and uses WordPress either in their side projects or as part of their business contributed five percent of their working time, or code, back in order to make WordPress more accessible, faster? Right now, there are one hundred and thirty-four accessibility ready themes available for free in the WordPress theme repository, and reviews for the accessibility ready tag can take months, because there’s more demand for the tag than there is supply of reviewers. Imagine how many themes we could have for people to build accessible sites with if there were no cue?

 

Please consider contributing to the efforts of the WordPress Accessibility Team if you are able. If you’ve written accessible components for WordPress themes, consider contributing them to the WordPress Accessibility pattern library on GitHub. If you know of a translation of WCAG and its associated documents in a language other than English, send links our way so we can spread them around. And if you can help with any of the projects listed above, please do so.