WordPress goes WCAG – what does it mean?

March 21, 2016

Topics: Accessibility, WordPress.

I would love to be able to say that the recent announcement that WordPress has embraced WCAG 2 level AA as a guideline for new code means that WordPress is going to instantly become amazingly accessible.

But that wouldn’t be true.

In fact, it doesn’t even guarantee that every new bit of code released will actually conform with WCAG AA. What it means is that our principles and our goals are to meet the standards required by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines at level AA. Whether we will succeed is a completely different question.

This doesn’t make the announcement any less important. Having a dedicated principle that WordPress needs to meet a certain level of accessibility standards is incredibly powerful. But since it doesn’t change the fact that the WordPress Accessibility team consists of a relatively small group of part-time volunteers, we have to realistically acknowledge that we won’t catch everything. Compromises will be made. Mistakes will be made.

But that still leaves us with an overall arc that leads to a future with a more accessible WordPress, and that’s an unmistakable win for accessibility.

I’m going to be giving a talk at the CSUN Conference on Technology and Persons with Disabilities on some of the challenges WordPress faces moving forward on some long-standing accessibility issues. They aren’t trivial, and they’re going to take a lot of time and effort to address. But with this principle to grasp and embrace, the future is bright, even if the path is long.

What’s next? Embracing the guidelines in the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines. It’s not enough to make it possible to succeed; we should be trying to make it impossible to fail.

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