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The first take-aways in the GREYD journey

Taking the overwhelm out of the job

We are taking you along in our journey to making the theme accessibility-ready.

How did we start? Had this been a new theme, that answer would have been obvious: at the idea. Creating a brand new theme that is accessibility-ready is easier than remediating one. But in this case, we’re dealing with a very special situation. We are remediating the existing classic theme and we are working on something really fresh: the new Full Site Editing theme. A situation many of you may recognize. We will have to fix existing issues in the blocks that are used in both themes.

In all honesty: I was thrilled about that. Because with this situation we have something to write about that may help you, dear reader, to work on your own theme!

But there is something I would like to mention, before we get into details about what has been remediated and what improved.

Avoiding overwhelm paralysis

Overwhelm is usually the first obstacle to tackle. While talking to Jakob it soon became clear I do not need to worry about that in the case of GREYD. But nonetheless, if you are reading this and you do feel overwhelmed by accessibility requirements, please know that this is pretty normal as a first reaction.

You thought you had created something great, and as such, you probably did! All slick and responsive, lots of happy users. And than someone like me comes along telling you that you need to fix things. That there are problems in your theme that you did not even know existed.

My first advice: please ignore all judgmental acid pissing blogs and posts you are about to find online

Some (and I hope all) of you new to digital accessibility will probably start researching the topic. And I promise you, you will run into some nasty search results. Just for the heck of it I searched for “why do developers not know about accessibility”. And while there are some great results coming up, the first two are negative, judgmental and plain discouraging. I’ve made this screenshot with a heavy heart.

Screenshot of Google Search results.
The top result is CSS-Tricks with an article title called “Why Don’t Developers Take Accessibility Seriously?”. The second search result is a question on Quora: What do web developers think of accessibility? The response below that is: “Many developers don’t care about accessibility because they chose not to care. Reasons may vary: too busy with work tasks; don’t want to learn it; or want to …”.

There’s no shame in not knowing

Little is as demotivating as constantly being accused of not caring about something. Especially if you feel you are being punished for something you didn’t know that you were supposed to know about. I recently published an article about this, called: There is no shame in having an inaccessible website. Accessibility is a “forgotten” topic. I could write a long essay about why that happened. But that’s not the point. You are learning about it now.

So what’s coming

We have resolved issues in the menu of the classic theme. It’s now fully keyboard and screen reader accessible and the development team went the extra mile. It’s not only accessible by using the tab and enter key, you can also walk through the menu with your arrow keys. It’s also screen reader accessible.

Why? Because of usability. This additional feature is usually integrated in software backends. I have learned that people who are forced into using the keyboard because of a temporary impairment, like a broken arm or a sprained wrist for example, are always tempted to use the arrow key instead of tab and shift-tab (the latter takes you a step back).

In the next article we will add a video demo of that, and comments from Jakob about the steps he and his development team took, to ensure the accessibility of the menu. That way you can learn from it as well.

That, and…

Beside that, focus is now visible by default, and the theme has a default skip link! Anchor links work, pop-ups are accessible, and the auto-generator for ALT texts can be turned off. The latter issue will get a SEO focused article of its own. Stay tuned!