WordPress 5.5 Core Editor Accessibility Improvements

In an effort to better communicate the specifics of what’s coming to the editor in WordPress 5.5, this post is meant to list the various accessibilityAccessibility Accessibility (commonly shortened to a11y) refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people with disabilities. The concept of accessible design ensures both “direct access” (i.e. unassisted) and “indirect access” meaning compatibility with a person’s assistive technology (for example, computer screen readers). (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accessibility) improvements shipping with this upcoming release on August 11th. Going forward, the “What’s Next in Gutenberg” posts will have clearer accessibility-related callouts to make it easier to follow relevant issues more regularly. The work to improve WordPress is never finished, and with more releases will come more improvements, but it’s encouraging to see progress in so many areas. 

Thanks to everyone who worked hard to get these improvements in place in time for 5.5! 

In most sections, explorations are shared of specific high impact improvements. Please view individual issues for more details. 

New Editor Design

WordPress 5.5 brings numerous changes to the look and feel of the editor, informed by the goal of reducing complexity by simplifying iconography, color palette, focus, and general interface. As more features are added to the blockBlock Block is the abstract term used to describe units of markup that, composed together, form the content or layout of a webpage using the WordPress editor. The idea combines concepts of what in the past may have achieved with shortcodes, custom HTML, and embed discovery into a single consistent API and user experience. editor, a simpler and clearer design allows the interface to scale more gracefully. Examples include: the effort to create a single toolbar to have fewer tab stops, work done to make the single primary toolbar bigger (more tappable with a larger touch area), and higher contrast. Some changes, such as removing borders around selected blocks, have inspired spirited debates, and it’s been great to see so many people involved. As always, discussion, iteration, and collaboration are our best tools for moving forward together.

Keyboard Navigation Improvements

Below is a screenshot highlighting the new keyboard option mentioned above that can be found in “More tools & options > Options” modal. Checking it will stop arrow keys from navigating between blocks in edit mode. You can also programmatically auto-enable it with this code snippet: 

if ( 
  ! wp.data
) {
    .dispatch( ‘core/edit-post’ )
    .toggleFeature( ‘keepCaretInsideBlock’ );
Screenshot showing the “More tools & options > Options” modal where the new option lives.

The following video shows a walk-through of arrow navigation between nesting levels while in Navigation Mode mentioned in the above section: 

Video showing a walk-through of arrow navigation between nesting levels.

Screen Reader Improvements

Focus Improvements

The following video demonstrates the roving tabindex across block toolbars. Of note, the APIs to achieve this improvement in wordpress/components are listed as experimental for now and should ship in 5.6 so third-party developers can use them as well.

Video showing the roving tabindex across block toolbars.

If you’re interested in improving accessibility in the coreCore Core is the set of software required to run WordPress. The Core Development Team builds WordPress. editor, check out the accessibility team, review the current open issues related to accessibility, provide accessibility feedback on issues, and help test GutenbergGutenberg The Gutenberg project is the new Editor Interface for WordPress. The editor improves the process and experience of creating new content, making writing rich content much simpler. It uses ‘blocks’ to add richness rather than shortcodes, custom HTML etc. https://wordpress.org/gutenberg/.

#5-5, #accessibility, #core-editor