Core Editor Improvement: Continued progress on accessibility

Improving 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). ( requires ongoing effort and this post seeks to highlight some of the ways in which the project continues to make strides in this area. If you’re interested in helping with this work, please join the #accessibility channel in Make SlackSlack Slack is a Collaborative Group Chat Platform The WordPress community has its own Slack Channel at and check out how you can get involved. There’s plenty of important work to be done including testing, giving accessibility feedback, and creating PRs to address feedback. 

Ensuring accessibility from the start with the Navigation 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. [planned for 5.9]

The Navigation Block is a key milestone for the full site editing project that focuses on the experience of editing a site’s navigation menuNavigation Menu A theme feature introduced with Version 3.0. WordPress includes an easy to use mechanism for giving various control options to get users to click from one place to another on a site., both in terms of structure and design. This is a big effort that includes how to make it easy to add submenu items, how to create a responsive navigation experience, how to support multiple different inner blocks, and more. While work is underway to simplify the experience for all (ex: reducing the number of steps to add a page link), this section covers three big pieces of the work, thus far, that have had a particularly strong impact on accessibility:

  1. The first is that when implementing submenus it was intentional that they would open on explicit click rather than focus, when navigating with a keyboard and/or screen reader. The changes made ensure that screen reader users are better informed when tabbing submenus, and can choose whether to enter them or not. Previously it was necessary to tab through every submenu item to get to the next parent item. For a deeper look into the behaviors of the navigation block and submenu items, check out these visualizations that provide more context but have not yet been fully implemented. 
  1. When building the responsive navigation feature in the navigation block, work was done to ensure the hamburger menu was built using proper modal behavior from the start. This means that when you open the responsive burger menu, the tab is kept inside the responsive menu experience until you press Escape. A quick demonstration is shown in the video displayed in this section.
  1. Finally, the markup for the front end was changed to ensure that the Navigation block contains fully semantic markup, no matter what its contents are.

Accessibility benefits with the Gallery Block Refactor [planned for 5.9]

Ahead of WordPress 5.9, an update to the Gallery Block was shipped that essentially allows you to have all of the tools you’re used to with an Image Block for each image in the Gallery Block. Thanks to this change, the Gallery Block now benefits from improved keyboard navigation and the ability to add alt text right within the block sidebarSidebar A sidebar in WordPress is referred to a widget-ready area used by WordPress themes to display information that is not a part of the main content. It is not always a vertical column on the side. It can be a horizontal rectangle below or above the content area, footer, header, or any where in the theme.. This will make it easier to both produce accessibility friendly content and for those navigating what you create when viewing your site. To learn more about the Gallery Block Refactor, you can check out this WordPress News post dedicated to it

The new gallery block with an alt text field for each image within the gallery block itself.

Other noteworthy updates/fixes [in the 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. pluginPlugin A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites. WordPress plugins are written in the PHP programming language and integrate seamlessly with WordPress. These can be free in the Plugin Directory or can be cost-based plugin from a third-party today]

There’s a lot of high-impact changes that can be overlooked when not shown altogether. To help capture additional accessibility improvements, here are high impact changes in the editing experience: 

Thank you to @joen who helped provide wonderful insights about the navigation block, including the featured video. Thank you to @kellychoffman @priethor @daisyo for the content review. Thank you to @javiarce for the lovely Gallery Block refactor screenshot.

#core-editor-improvement, #gutenberg