Gutenberg 4.0 RC 1 Released, Testing Ramps Up Amid Critical Accessibility Concerns

A pre-release of Gutenberg 4.0 RC 1 is now available for testing. During today’s core developer chat, Matias Ventura, the project’s technical lead, said he plans to post a full changelog and a video tomorrow. In the meantime, a call for testing 4.0 RC 1 has been posted to the blog with a list of 15 specific testing items highlighted for attention.

Gutenberg 4.0 introduces several new features, (including but not limited to) the following:

  • Add ability to change overlay color in Cover Image
  • New Font Size Picker with clear labels and size comparison
  • New RichText data structure to allow better manipulation of inline content
  • Add Pullquote style variation and color palette support
  • Add support for post locking when multiple authors interact with the editor
  • Add support for shortcode embeds that enqueue scripts.

A running list of the enhancements, bug fixes, and other changes is available on GitHub in the changelog. Deprecations for 4.0.0 are outlined in the Gutenberg handbook.

Grzegorz Ziółkowski has published Gutenberg’s npm packages this evening, so the team can move forward on core integration with Gutenberg.

Accessibility has been one of the recent concerns with the project, as there are many outstanding tickets with this tag. One of the most prolific contributors to testing, Andrea Fercia, has stated that the editor in its current state is “barely usable” for those with accessibility needs. Joe Dolson, another WordPress accessibility contributor, wrote a reaction post that concurs with Fercia’s assessment.

“The leadership within the Gutenberg project has not taken seriously the scope of accessibility problems in Gutenberg,” Dolson said. “I do not want to diminish the dedication to accessibility issues at some levels. The dedication to producing accessible content is still very high. But I’m not seeing dedication to developing an accessible authoring tool. It’s as if there’s no awareness of the needs of authors with disabilities; only consumers.”

If WordPress 5.0 is released on schedule, Dolson said he believes it is “almost a guarantee that the first release of Gutenberg in WordPress will not be accessible,” as there are too many major accessibility issues left to resolve.

Matthew MacPherson, the new accessibility lead for WordPress 5.0, said he is willing to bet that Gutenberg is more accessible than the Classic Editor and that the perception of its inaccessibility is based on older evaluations of earlier releases:

I think there’s a notion of Gutenberg being inaccessible because of older accessibility audits that identified a lot of issues in the very early versions. Things have changed a lot since the early days, and when the plugin was labeled “1.0” it was hardly a ready-to-ship product. I worry that many of those sentiments haven’t been re-examined and updated, so there is a prevailing idea that Gutenberg is not accessible or is entirely less accessible than the Classic Editor.

What I’d venture is that Gutenberg is selectively less accessible, but overall more accessible feature-for-feature. Something like a date picker or a certain interaction being inaccessible does not make the entire editor inaccessible. Feature-for-feature, compared to a classic editor with similar capabilities (eg a bunch of plugins installed), I’d bet* Gutenberg is more accessible.

Despite his suggestion that Gutenberg’s current accessibility issues are likely not as critical as contributors have claimed, MacPherson is willing to coordinate an independent accessibility audit to get an outside opinion. Selection of the company to perform the audit is currently in process.

After the recent resignation of team rep Rian Rietveld, accessibility contributors are meeting next Monday to get reorganized and discuss the leadership and decision processes of the team.

Many have speculated outside of official channels on whether the recent shakeup in the leadership of the accessibility team is a referendum on the aggressive timeline for Gutenberg’s inclusion in core or simply the natural turnover in open source projects when friction cannot be resolved. A truly independent accessibility audit, with results that are shared transparently to the WordPress community, will reveal whether current perceptions of Gutenberg’s lack of accessibility are accurate.

In the meantime, a new “Needs Accessibility Feedback” label is available for use on the Gutenberg GitHub repository to facilitate communication between developers and accessibility contributors. There is also a label for regressions where changes broke accessibility along the way.


3 responses to “Gutenberg 4.0 RC 1 Released, Testing Ramps Up Amid Critical Accessibility Concerns”

    • If the audit is performed by personnel from the same team/organization that’s building Gutenberg, then it’s most definitely not independent and cannot be considered objective. On the hand, there’s the option of using the classic editor plugin until accessibility is truly ready. In some parts of the economy accessibility is required by law. This will put undo stress on some .gov and .org web admins.

      I feel that Gutenberg is the future, it’s just not ready for prime time.

  1. I like Gutenberg, its the future.

    However I just updated my Gutenberg plugin. Now I just get a blank white screen when I try to edit a Gutenberg page. Was working fine up till now.

    I really think they need to up their game and give us something more stable/finished. I’m now going to stop using Gutenberg until the official release.


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