Accessibility presentations at WordCamp UK 2013

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WordCamp Lancaster UK 2013This year’s WordCamp UK weekend took place at Lancaster University. WordCamps are gatherings of WordPress developers and users and an opportunity to meet WordPress people from all over the UK (and further afield). The weekend was both enjoyable and informative, and I learned a lot.

I delivered two presentations this year on accessibility and this post gives a brief summary of the points I covered. Slides for both the presentations have been uploaded to Slideshare.

Beginners guide to web accessibility

Beginners Guide to Web Accessibility

Beginners Guide to Web Accessibility

The first presentation was aimed at people who hadn’t heard of web accessibility, or were unsure what the term means.

What it is, and why do it

As well as proposing a definition of web accessibility I also looked at reasons why I believe it’s important – both business case reasons and the legal framework.

Who is affected

After that I talked about the groups of people who can be inconvenienced by poor accessibility. To do this I discussed a series of ‘Accessibility myths’ – things that I’ve heard said over the many years I’ve been involved with web accessibility. I used a series of statistics and some real life examples to counter each of these myths.

Education about how people with impairments interact with websites helps to give others an understanding of the problems faced. So I covered examples of assistive technology that some people may be using (screen readers, screen magnifiers, voice recognition software, braille displays, switches, etc) and how the cost of these items can be a reason why it’s not safe to assume that everyone will have the latest versions of the technology.

What can be done to improve accessibility

It’s impossible to cover all ways of improving accessibility of web sites in one presentation, but I did take some common accessibility issues and outline the coding and content authoring best practices that should be employed to avoid them.

I also wanted to underline to people that every accessibility improvement they make to a website will help someone. A series of incremental steps is usually better than waiting until perfection is achieved.

The final section of this presentation contained links to a series of useful resources and websites – including tools that can help measure the accessibility of your website.

View the Beginners guide to web accessibility slides here.

WordPress and web accessibility 2013: Where we’ve got to, and where to next.

WordPress and Web Accessibility 2013

WordPress and Web Accessibility 2013

During this presentation I wanted to outline the progress that has been made on making WordPress more accessible in the last year. At WordCamp UK 2012 in Edinburgh I presented on the relationship between WordPress and web accessibility, and I gave a short recap on this presentation.

What happened last year

Whilst in theory it is completely possible to produce an accessible website with WordPress, this depends on the theme and plugins chosen and what the content authors did afterwards. The same is not true of the WordPress admin screens, which have many accessibility ‘gotchas’ that can hinder or even prevent some people running a WordPress site successfully.

In 2012 I’d identified some key parts of the WordPress admin screens (in WordPress 3.4) that had significant accessibility issues. The problem areas were:

  • Confusing tab order and empty links in admin screens
  • Tab focus visibility poor
  • Not being able to log out without a mouse
  • Adding and editing pages and posts
  • Accessing the screen options for each admin page
  • Custom menu builder – keyboard operability, meaningful content for screen readers
  • Theme customizer – keyboard operability, meaningful content for screen readers

What happened after that

After last year’s presentation I got more involved with the WordPress Accessibility Group and as a result of the accessibility trac tickets that I (and others) raised, significant accessibility improvements were made within the development of WordPress 3.5. I thanked the developers who got involved with these issues.

WordPress Add Media panel

WordPress Add Media panel

Unfortunately WordPress 3.5 also introduced the new Add Media Panel. This panel is impossible to operate without a mouse and sadly it felt as though accessibility was never thought about when it was being developed. The trac tickets I raised on this issue were overlooked in 3.6 development until very late in the process. The pragmatic solution that I proposed has been dropped from the release version of 3.6.

What should happen next

The latter part of my presentation this year focussed on some of the ideas that the group is developing to move WordPress forward in accessibility.

It is clear to me, and other members of the WordPress Accessibility Group that the situation has to change. It is not sustainable for WordPress to continue to apply sticking plaster solutions to the poor accessibility of new functionality that is being built. Accessibility has to be thought about by everyone, and at every stage – from Design through to Testing.

The Make WordPress Accessible group intends to formulate an Accessibility Mission Statement – similar to the efforts being made at Drupal and Joomla, and within many other large technology suppliers like Microsoft, Apple and Yahoo.

Make WordPress AccessibleWe are also going to explore different routes to try to improve communication between the accessibility group and the core WordPress developers, and between WordPress users and the accessibility group – so that we all may more fully understand the types of access issues that people are facing when they use the world’s most popular content management system.

The accessibility group also intends to bolster the resources, coding and style guidelines for the WordPress developers so that they may have all the tools they need to build accessibly, and ask themselves the right questions when they are designing user interfaces.

Unless WordPress gets this right, there is a danger that some people will be excluded from Matt Mullenweg’s vision of open source democratising the web.

What do you think?

Got some views on WordPress and accessibility? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Maybe you’d like to get involved with the push to improve accessibility within WordPress. If so why not add a comment below.

Other Accessibility posts

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