WPCampus has published the results of the Gutenberg accessibility audit the organization commissioned from Tenon, LLC. The audit was crowdfunded by the WordPress community and Matt Mullenweg and Automattic pledged to cover the balance to ensure it would be fully funded.
Tenon’s analysis includes a 329-page technical audit of the editor along with user-based testing that included people with various disabilities. WPCampus’ announcement presents Tenon’s findings in a measured and diplomatic way, encouraging the community to use the report for improving WordPress:
Please use this report as what it is intended to be: constructive feedback in support of the WordPress project. We hope this report generates discussion about accessibility, excitement about inclusive design, and action toward improving the editing experience.
Beyond its use for WordPress core, the audit is also a valuable resource for those extending Gutenberg and more broadly for developers who are building React-based projects.
Tenon’s report includes a 34-page Executive Summary, highlighting key findings from the usability testing and technical review. It’s important to note that the audit was conducted on WordPress version 5.0.3 in January 2019. Since that time the Gutenberg and Accessibility teams have resolved an additional 116 accessibility issues, which will be included in WordPress 5.2 next week.
As expected, Tenon’s results show that overall the markup generated by Gutenberg is “clean, semantically correct and accessible” but that “Gutenberg’s user experience is consistently poor.” The audit found that Gutenberg fails to comply with all 30 of the WCAG 2.1 Success Criteria.
Tenon’s findings confirm the statement WordPress’ Accessibility Team published in October 2018 regarding the editor’s overall level of accessibility:
“The accessibility team will continue to work to support Gutenberg to the best of our ability. However, based on its current status, we cannot recommend that anybody who has a need for assistive technology allow it to be in use on any sites they need to use at this time.”
At that time, many WordPress contributors urged leadership not to ship an editor with critical accessibility issues that prevented people using assistive technologies from moving forward with the latest version.
Tenon’s Executive Summary concludes that the new editor is a step backwards for people with disabilities:
Gutenberg has significant and pervasive accessibility problems, the likes of which amount to a step backwards for users with disabilities over the legacy editor. Our user-based testing – backed by data from our technical review – indicates that the accessibility problems are severe in nature. We feel concerned that Gutenberg’s current accessibility issues will prove problematic for website owners who deploy Gutenberg to content creators in protected populations or for website owners who are themselves part of a protected population. Therefore, organizations which have high risk profiles should consult legal counsel before using it and may want to choose to use the legacy editor instead.
Tenon recommended that Gutenberg’s developers aggressively tackle the issues uncovered in the technical report, given the size of WordPress’ user base. The full report essentially functions as a guide for anyone who wants to contribute to the new editors’ accessibility. It is an excellent resource that outlines each issue with solutions and recommended code, making it easy for developers to get started with meaningful contributions right away. Tenon has created a collection of 84 issues on GitHub based on the findings in the audit and six of them have already been resolved/closed.