WPCampus’ Gutenberg Accessibility Audit Finds “Significant and Pervasive Accessibility Problems”

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.

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11 Comments


  1. “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.”

    Whoa. That’s significant.

    If VIP struggles to book new business, this is going to hurt.

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    1. Hi Keiko,
      If you’re using Windows High Contrast, you can’t see selected text in Firefox due to a combination of a Firefox bug and the fact that some parts of the editor use a custom CSS colour for the selection highlight (besides, Firefox also doesn’t change links, though it seems maybe that can be set locally on your Firefox to work better: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=697836)

      You’ll want to use Edge browser instead.

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  2. I’m tech lead for the Norwegian Government WordPress multisite, we have to comply with WCAG 2.1 and can’t use Gutenberg.

    Btw, I have nothing against Gutenberg but must follow the law.

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    1. @Per Søderlind, similar here, we also can’t use Gutenberg due to GDPR issues, every page edit loads an external Google webfont and leaks the current user IP to Google, no opt-out possible, no information anywhere about that. The webfont actually would not be necessary at all, it is not used in front-end, but all tickets everywhere about this tracking die silently…

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      1. If your theme doesn’t use the font, then you should add editor styling to it, so that the theme tells the editor what font to use instead, as well as to set the correct widths and other settings. Themes have control over the editor styling. They have for a long time.

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      2. Styling is not the issue here. There is no way to disable the loading of Google webfont and leaking current user IP to Google in WordPress backend editor at every page edit. This voids GDPR. And this excludes Gutenberg from our options.

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  3. coming in 5.2, Site Health should be audited as well.
    Too many questions about security and accuracy.

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  4. Wow, amazing and thorough work by Tenon! This document is a wealth of information for building accessible interfaces.

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  5. I really enjoyed the completeness with which the report was written. Anybody can do an audit and come up with conclusions, but the fact that they cited issues and then gave recommendations for how to resolve them really makes this a valuable thing to have. I wish I had one of these for every piece of software I’ve ever written.

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  6. I am a screen reader user & I just started using the Gutenberg editor… I felt that adding blocks is easy but rearranging them was very difficult to me… I used HTML editor to realign the content & some of the blocks are very new & I would prefer a help tooltip explaining me what exactly that block does. While I haven’t explored every feature of the editor, the basic features required to output a post seems accessible to me.

    Gutenberg got lot usability problems & takes time for the users to get used to. As a person with disability I can say that this needs a learning curve, time & energy.

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