WordPress Accessibility Team to Host Hackathon with Deque Systems at WordCamp US 2018

WordPress’ Accessibility team will be hosting a hackathon at Contributor Day on Sunday, December 9, at WordCamp US in Nashville. The team will be joined by lead developers from Deque Systems, a widely respected accessibility firm in the industry, with the goal of setting up automated accessibility testing for WordPress core.

The event has been in planning since JSconf EU 2018 in June when Jenny Wong met with Caitlin Cashin from Deque. They discussed how Deque could help WordPress with their accessibility expertise at WordCamp US. Rian Rietveld worked with Aaron Campbell, who is organizing the WCUS contributor day, to put the hackathon in motion.

Deque’s site is built on WordPress and the company specializes in helping teams get hooked up with automation tools. The company created aXe, an open source library and testing engine that can be customized to integrate with all modern browsers and testing frameworks. Deque open sourced aXe in 2015 and the team was invited to contribute the library to the W3C WAI Evaluation and Repair Tools Working Group, when the group worked to develop a normative set of rules for evaluating WCAG 2.0 conformance.

Deque is volunteering their lead developers to help WordPress make improvements to its development workflow. The company has hosted similar hackathons in the past.

“By focusing primarily on projects with broad adoption, accessibility fixes have potential to trickle down to every website or web application including that library,” Deque Developer Advocate Marcy Sutton said after the 2017 aXe hackathon in San Diego. “Ultimately, this kind of work will have the most impact on the lives of people with disabilities, as it contributes to the creation of a more accessible workplace environment. A more accessible web also means a better user experience for everyone, part of the reason why digital accessibility is so important.”

In order for the hackathon at WordCamp US to be successful, Deque will need to connect to contributors who can collaborate on setting up automated testing.

“From the WordPress side we would like to invite core developers to join in and help find solutions to set this up,” Accessibility Team rep Jean-Baptiste Audras said. He and contributor Rachel Cherry will be representing the accessibility team during the hackathon and they need help from core committers who know their way around the automated testing system in WordPress core. Audras also said the team will need help from Gutenberg contributors.

“The tools can/will provide automated tests for the block editor since it’s based on testing the DOM (Document Object Model) of each admin screen generated by WordPress,” he said. “But we have to build it together with the people involved in Gutenberg to see how we can handle it the best way.”

Audras said the Gutenberg phase 2 release leads have already been in touch with the accessibility team and communication across teams is improving.

“If we find a technical solution, there should ideally not be technical problems to implement it,” Audras said. “As usual, it will be a question of priority and communication. I am confident that Gutenberg developers will be interested to add some automated checks to the Gutenberg stack.”

Audras said he doesn’t know when the automated tests for accessibility will be operational but he believes they will be very helpful in the future, especially in cases where new releases are being put out quickly. Anyone interested to contribute to the effort can get in touch on WordPress Slack’s #accessibility channel.