28 Comments


  1. Rand-Hendriksen believes that the accessibility-ready tag should be required for all WordPress themes.

    Um, no.

    Yes, there’s an “accessibility-ready” tag. But behind it are a set of draft guidelines that only one or two people know how to use to review Themes, and that are still being worked out, because there are no established, best-practice ways to implement them.

    We’ve gotten a ton of pushback on implementation of the existing Theme Review guidelines, from the initial Guidelines to the revisions/improvements made over the past four years. But we have operated under a very effective approach: first establish best practices, then focus on education (teach developers how to implement those best practices), then make the best practice Recommended, and then, once the practice is in common enough use that we think it feasible for everyone to follow/implement, make it Required.

    Rand implies that implementing the accessibility-ready Guidelines is all but a trivial matter for Theme developers. I beg to differ. And the crushing workload of forcing what is currently a one-man accessibility review team to review every single Theme submitted to WPORG would grind the Theme Review and Approval process to a halt.

    Do we need to get there? Yes. And eventually there should be a set of accessibility-related Guidelines that are Required – either a revision to or a subset of the current draft Guidelines. But it’s going to take time.

    Given the reaction from Theme developers that I got to the suggestion that we make implementation of Theme Options into the Theme Customizer Recommended (not even Required; just Recommended), I can only imagine how Rand’s suggestion would go over.

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    1. I agree, his suggestion is quite radical. However, if we don’t start moving aggressively in that direction now, I wonder if we’ll be way behind when mandates are adopted in more countries. What steps are currently being worked on to advance theme developer education in general? Just curious, as I’m not very much in-the-know about everything behind the scenes.

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      1. I agree with movement now (and we’re doing that); but why does that movement have to be aggressive? What would it help? Right now, I could not teach someone how to implement the accessibility guidelines, nor could I teach a reviewer how to review against them. I really don’t see how universally frustrating developers and reviewers is going to help the cause.

        Joe’s doing a great job of getting the Guidelines implemented, but we’re still very much in the alpha stage. And as far as Theme-Trac is concerned, the workflow is entirely manual. Trying to make it required right now would be like taking a bleeding-edge core Plugin, and forcing it onto everyone’s production servers.

        We’re trying to get there, but we have to start somewhere. Most designers – and especially, most (Theme) developers – aren’t accessibility experts. An oversight? Sure. But we can’t undo decades of accessibility education negligence overnight.

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        1. There is a very good reason why the movement needs to be aggressive: We (the entire web design and development community) have been resting on our laurels and ignoring a large portion of the population in the process and now governments across the globe are taking the necessary steps to force us to shape up. In Norway and several other countries laws are kicking in as of June 30th that mandate all websites except personal blogs and certain media-specific solutions to meet WCAG 2.1 standards. If new websites do not meet these standards the owners (usually businesses) will be on the hook for it. These owners will immediately turn around and blame WordPress. This will be especially nasty for WordPress.com which markets itself to small business owners.

          That’s just the tip of the iceberg. In Canada several provinces now mandate anyone working for or with a government agency to meet WCAG 2.1 in all their projects. Same goes for several US states. If we as a community don’t get on this right now we will be left behind for other solutions like Drupal who are already ahead.

          I understand the argument that we need practical standards and application and education, but if we are going to wait for developers to educate themselves on this we will have to wait a very long time. And that’s time we simply don’t have. Accessibility is not a feature. It is a requirement if you want to make the web accessible to all. And as far as I’m concerned that is the mandate of WordPress as well.

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          1. We’re volunteers. We have no magic wand to wave and *poof*, workable guidelines, a manageable workflow, knowledgeable/educated developers, and an army of reviewers suddenly appear.

            Your approach leads to situations like the SAFE ACT in New York, where police officers’ service pistols became illegal overnight, because idiot legislators didn’t know what they were doing, and in their rush to pass gun control legislation banned all magazines with a capacity greater than 10 rounds.

            We understand the issue, and are working to implement it. But we’re not going to make something Required overnight, when we’re not even certain on how to implement the requirement. Instead, we’re going to do it right. If you have ideas to help that process along, I’m sure Joe Dolson would love to have your input.


          2. We’re actually on the same page here Chip. The work the theme reviewers are doing is great and the work the Accessibility Team is doing is also great. My approach is to make the community aware that while we are in a holding pattern the world is moving forward very quickly.

            Of course the accessibility-ready tag can’t be mandated overnight and of course the standard needs to be established and routines need to be put in place. To propose otherwise would be idiotic and I know you know that’s not what I’m saying. However, waiting for the community to educate itself on this issue is not going to get us where we need to be fast enough. What we need to do, together, all of us, is to put Accessibility front and center and make it something people not only know about but care about and make part of their process. And part of that process should be to draw a line in the sand and say “beyond this point accessibility is a requirement”. Where exactly that line should be depends on everything being in place, but if we stake it too far into the future we will be left behind by other platforms that are moving ahead full force on this issue.


    2. Chip, who would you suggest I chat to to figure out what I need to change to meet accessibility guidelines. To the best of my knowledge, my theme passes all of them, but that’s just a guess on my part, so not keen on tacking on that tag until I’m sure.

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      1. Joe Dolson is your man.

        Just post a question to the Theme Reviewers mail-list; I’m sure he’ll follow up with you.

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        1. I met Joe few days ago at WordCamp Chicago and we pretty much covered the basics. Great guy by the way!

          TRT supports the accessibility however at this time there is no need to make any requirements or proceed aggressively.

          You can find Joe here https://twitter.com/joedolson/ and his Theme https://github.com/joedolson/accessible-twin-cities as well.

          Joe is our theme accessibility reviewer and if anyone wants to join him, please ping me on the list and I’ll add you in :)

          This is good news and I like where we’re heading.

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          1. All set David.

            If you have any TRT questions please ping me in the ticket directly, or just e-mail the list and @emil.

            Thank you!


      2. Just submit it. Worse comes to worse you have to submit a new version without that tag. At least you’ll learn from it. :)

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    1. That’s because the accessibility Guidelines are so new, and in such a draft form, that Joe is still working on how to revise them so that they can actually be followed by someone who isn’t an accessibility expert (including developers trying to implement them, and reviewers trying to review against them).

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  2. What about dealing with accessibility via plugins?

    One thing many Toronto newspapers have is the – | + (font sizer buttons).

    On most browsers, you have CONTROL and + buttons to make the font bigger. you need to two hands since both keys are on opposite sides on keyboard.

    Another issue….that not everyon calls it an accesibility issue is language barrier…google translator plugin.

    A client of mine that deals people that have different accesibility issues had a town hall in the community. 7 town halls to be exact.

    Two of the biggest issues were font size and how not everybody can do CTRL + buttons.

    second one was language accessibility (their words not mine).

    So client wrote things down at town halls (which I attended all) and was decided to put a font size plugin on the sidebar and below it google translate.

    I know this doesn’t deal with ALL issues with accessibility.

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    1. The ability to increase and decrease font size is one of the elements required in new legislation in Norway. However the wording is a bit vague on this point so I’m not sure if it actually requires dedicated buttons or just the ability (so essentially em or rem sizing of fonts). Plugins do a good job of some of the accessibility concerns, but other items like skip to content links, accessible menus, and so on need to be built in from the ground up. And like I’ve said in the interview and elsewhere accessibility shouldn’t be an add-on feature that requires a plugin. That puts the onus on the user to choose to activate it. The onus should be on the developer to make sure the product ships to current standards which means with accessibility built in.

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      1. My understanding is that no buttons are required. Just supporting the built-in browser resizing is all that is necessary.

        Anything else would be silly too IMO.

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  3. That client as of 2 years ago is having yearly townhalls on accesibility.

    Toronto’s transit company TTC has an annual accessibility forum.

    TTC is not the client I mentioned in previous comment.

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  4. I second pretty much everything Chip said about the theme review process.

    While I’m a firm believer in providing equal access to everyone, I would fight tooth-and-nail any law that required personal Web site owners to meet accessibility guidelines. In the U.S., I’d consider such a law overstepping the bounds of what the government is allowed to do. Of course, that wouldn’t be anything new.

    But, I want to make this clear: I agree with the movement to make accessibility a standard. I disagree with the government getting involved.

    With all that said, accessibility is one of the top things I’m looking at right now. I want my themes to be as accessible as possible to all people. I’ve already been making themes friendlier for non-English users. The next step is all about accessibility. I like what I’m seeing with the updated theme review guidelines for the accessibility-ready tag. They’re a bit clearer than they were before.

    It’s really all about education and having the proper tools. I’ve been building Web sites since 2003, and I’m still not familiar with everything I need to be doing. Anyone who says this is easy has lost touch with what it means to be a noob when it comes to accessibility.

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  5. amcgall

    What are the penalties for not being in compliance with a country’s Accessibility laws?

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    1. That depends upon the country and the legislation.Historically, Europe leads the way on legislation but lags behind the US in implementing it in a high profile manner. You can find a pretty comprehensive list on accessibility polices by country on http://www.w3.org/WAI/Policy/

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  6. Morten describes a future goal here. Certainly, it won’t nor it shouldn’t happen overnight, but I think the pace at which we get there lies somewhere between how fast we’re going now and “radical,” “aggressively” or whatever you’d like to call it.

    This post and its comments have a lot of seeds for future growth around accessibility in WordPress:

    If you’re interested in accessibility, join the WordPress Accessibility team. You can do that here: http://make.wordpress.org/accessibility/ You don’t have to be an “expert” either. Beginners welcome!

    We know the current draft guidelines need work. Joe has been working hard on that. We’d love to get feedback from designers, themers, developers, theme reviewers (read: everyone!). Do that here: http://make.wordpress.org/accessibility/2014/06/12/theme-review-accessibility-guidelines-update/

    Do you want to see more accessible WordPress themes? Joseph Karr O’Connor, the WordPress Accessibility Team rep, leads a project called Cities, meant to increase the number of accessible WordPress themes available in the theme directory. Join a team building one, or build one yourself. More info here: http://accessiblejoe.com/cities/

    Justin: You’re a well-respected WordPress developer and it’s great to hear you’re striving to learn more about accessibility. You’ve helped me a ton over the years with your excellent blog posts! I’m glad to return the favor. I’d be happy to review any theme you want to have the accessibility-ready tag and provide feedback from an accessibility perspective. The only catch? You have to blog about it! :) I think it could help a lot of developers in the community.

    We just need to keep doing what we’re doing. Making progress. There are many things that annoy me about WordPress – not just the fact that it’s not as accessible as I’d like. I hate that we don’t have a way to do content blocks. I wish the editing experience happened more in-line. The theme on-boarding process kind of stinks. And man, I wish I could output content in some other formats beside HTML so other apps can benefit from WordPress. But you know what? All of those things are being worked on or have been worked on recently. Let’s keep moving.

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    1. I might just take you up on that offer. The theme I’m looking at doing first is Stargazer, which just so happens to be the theme used here on WP Tavern. So, if I get the theme where it needs to be, we can kill two birds with one stone.

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      1. That would be awesome! Let’s do it. Feel free to contact me whenever you’re ready. You can find my contact info on my site and/or get me via Twitter.

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  7. Nice tips for making themes more accessibility. Thanks David for helping Joe out. Morten, you should join too:)

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    1. I’ve been talking to Joe about joining the accessibility-ready review process. My intention is to set aside time for it on a permanent basis starting later this summer.

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