As I approached the two of them in the parking lot,
they were really animated. They were empowered.
They were impassioned about the task at hand.
They wanted to do something about what they’d just heard about inside.
TODAY [gesturing, pointing]. RIGHT NOW.
And they were so energetic about these feelings
that no matter what the cost, they needed
to get involved TODAY. Not just people
locally or people all across the country. But people
from all around the world knew about THIS issue.
And knew that something had to be done. NOW.
As the speaker from inside joined our
group, we all came to the conclusion that
what we would do next to support the cause
was way too important to ignore. Now, you may be
wondering, “what the heck does this have to do
with WordPress?” I’m not here for a social-justice
lecture. I’m not here to talk politics. What I’ve
just described can be applied to the [COVID] Stay-at-Home
orders that, not just our country, but our entire
planet has had to go through over the past 10
months. That sense of anger, isolation, despair,
hopelessness — we’ve run the gamut of emotions in
trying to cope with the Coronavirus. But imagine
someone with a disability… They’ve had to deal with
that those same set of emotions for their entire
lives. When it comes to using a website to do even
the basic of tasks — order groceries, get services,
navigate a website, basically just to get some
information. I often get a chuckle out of those
folks that I’ve heard over the past 10 months
talk about how their civil liberties have been
trampled on because they’re being asked to be
safe and keep their distance from other people.
Imagine the barriers that we put up as
developers as designers of WordPress sites…
how people with disabilities and how helpless they
may feel when we just totally ignore their needs.
I want to start with this. I always start with
something positive. Something that’s going
to set the tone for the rest of this presentation. “Small acts when multiplied by millions of people
can transform the world.” I’m going to
change a couple of words in this statement…
“Small acts when multiplied by millions of accessible websites
can transform the world.” Now you may wonder,
why millions? Why accessible websites?
Well, WebAim does a report each year. I think
they’ve done it for the past couple of years
and it’s really disheartening. They surveyed
over one million of the top websites
and they found that 98.1% failed the basic
accessibility tasks that they set forth when
they were tested. Now, what’s even more disheartening
is that that number is up from the year before.
progressively worse! But this isn’t going to be
a lecture. Like I mentioned at the top, I’m not
going to preach at you about why you should do it.
I’m going to talk to you about a success story.
A success story that involved myself and a few
of the people that were in that parking lot back
in the spring and something that we did as a team.
And something that we accomplished that was truly great.
I’m gonna share a case study on how we made
“WordPress Accessible for Everybody.”
But first, let me tell you a little about myself. My name is Joe Simpson Jr.
I’m a SiteGround Ambassador. I’ve been involved in
WordPress since 2010. I was the Lead Organizer for
WordCamp Santa Clarita. It happens each spring.
And I lead two WordPress Meetups in our area.
I work for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
and our mission is to get folks out of their cars and onto public transit.
This past year has been incredibly difficult and
challenging, but our mission is valiant nonetheless.
You can contact me here — joesimpsonjr — at any of these
social media platforms. Email [email protected]
Yahoo, etc. I’ll also share my slides at this URL.
Don’t feel like you have to write it
down right away it’ll be at the end of the
presentation as well. So sit back, relax, pull
up a chair, and let’s get started. I generally do
my accessibility presentations starting with a
scary image like Nosferatu, and I then follow
with a big slide that talks about the number
of lawsuits that companies have experienced over the last few
years, and how it’s been skyrocketing [gesturing upwards]
or I’ll bring in all of the famous brands that
we all know in all sectors — food, banking, education,
entertainment. They’ve all been dinged because
they’ve created websites that weren’t accessible
to everyone, I use these to sort of hammer home
the point you need to be accessible. You need to
think accessible. You need to develop accessible.
You need a design accessible. But that’s not what
I’m going to do today. I’m going to talk to you
about six people that came together with a mentor
and participated in a competition to
build a site for a non-profit organization.
And making sure that that site was accessible
as part of the competition criteria. There
are a number of things that we accomplished
that I thought I’d share and hopefully you can
take some of that away and take it back to what
you’re going to do in 2021. So let’s get started…
[Sumner M Davenport] “So what I what I had wanted, and what
I feel that I did get was I wanted a diverse group on the team
that could utilize the strengths of each person. But also find
something that each person would be challenged with.
[Jennifer H.] I, as a business owner, or a web
designer might be excluding people that just like
that really opened my eyes to that experience.
[Alicia St. Rose] It’s not a light task to make a site accessible,
but it’s not difficult. So, just do the work, you
know what I’m saying?!?! There’s no shortcut to it…
[Ron Amick] I was amazed by everyone on this team.
I’m amazed you know… For not working together, that
we worked just like like we’d been working all our lives together.
[Joe] The people that were present
in the parking lot that day decided to create a
Meetup to focus on Accessibility and WordPress.
We were so excited about making a difference in
accessibility that we decided to do some crazy
things last summer! We were so excited
about doing something with accessibility and
making a difference in WordPress that
that summer we did some crazy things.
We started a Meetup that was focused
on WordPress and Accessibility; we did a
joint Meetup with three Meetups in the North Valleys
[of LA County] focusing on WordPress Accessibility
as a lead up to WordPress Accessibility Day.
We wanted to highlight that event;
I volunteered for WordPress Accessibility Day; our leader Sumner, the
person that we heard speak back in the spring.
She suggested we get in this competition. Knowbility
is an Austin-based group [Texas] that puts on the
Accessibility Internet Rally each fall. This year
it wasn’t going to be an in-person event because
of COVID. They decided to expand it to a virtual
event and up to 30, I believe 35 teams participated.
From all over the world and the unique thing about
this competition is that it’s it raises awareness.
Not just for designers, developers, but for clients
providing some training, some onboarding. They
also provided a mentor that we worked with [teams]
to make sure that we were on project and on task
in terms of building the most accessible site.
That’s what’s incredible about this program.
[Sumner M Davenport] I saw her click in and attach herself to the project.
When we had that first team phone call and
in that way she was able to see the people
that were there to support her. It wasn’t just me
and these people she didn’t get to know but only
heard by name and didn’t know what was going
- So I think she really benefited from that.
And every other team meeting that we had
that brought her up to speed on what was going on
in-between time is when I would talk to her about
specifics that I needed. And since it was only her
and I, it was easy to stay on focus with whatever
that one item or that one topic was. And with each
one the opportunity was to explain why this is
important and to me that’s accessibility when
we talk to our clients about that is, this is
what we’re going to do, this is how it benefits
your website and this is how it benefits your
users which include people with disabilities.
And that’s the way I had each conversation with
her so that it inspired her to want to get
involved and to want to supply the information
and give us the best that she had. Because
there were a couple times that she changed the
content that she provided us or she changed
some of her products because she saw better. She
saw something that was a better representation of
her and the inclusiveness that we were offering
her. So I really think it was the teamwork of
all the team — listening to her, responding to her,
and then she saw the progress of what we were
doing for her. So it was it was the collective of
the team that made the difference with the client.
[Joe] She was a dream client. She was there. She was
always available for our meetings. She was
producing content. Providing images. Providing
backstory. Providing guidance. She was really
focused on what she wanted. [And] she knew what she
wanted — she wanted a site where she could possibly
sell; she wanted a site that protected her artwork;
she was really concerned about her art being sold
overseas. You know, someone right-clicking
and downloading her artwork and selling it.
So that needed to be incorporated into it. She
wanted to provide a resource for people to connect
with her. She already had a presence on
YouTube but she wasn’t tech-savvy at all.
So, we had to build a solution that would be easy
for her to use and the great thing about WordPress
was that there are a lot of tools that are already
developed that we could put in place and do a
lot of these things. So we can really focus on
solving the client’s requirements. But also
meeting the contest requirements, and again, that’s
the balancing act for this competition. You had
to work with your client to meet their needs
but you also had to meet the judging criteria
for accessibility. So, that’s always a difficult
balancing act but it was an incredible experience.
My role was to do Design and UX so I started out
with wireframes. The competition identified
a number of pages as a minimum that you
needed to do, but we worked with the client
based on her feedback on what she wanted to build
our site for her and we came up with those topics
we started on wireframes for the menu we worked
out how the content would flow. How the pages would
sort of lay out from an overall standpoint and
did some basic user testing in terms of discussing
amongst the team what worked what didn’t what
we felt would be required while also my job was to
guide the team in terms of picking a theme.
As you know, WordPress has a filter on both
[WordPress] dot.com and [WordPress] dot.org repositories for
accessibility-ready themes and I always, when people approach me
at WordPress events, WordCamps meetups — they
always ask, “what do you think about this theme?”
or “this premium theme site?” I always say, “start
with the WordPress repository,” because you’re at
least starting with something that’s accessible.
And then once you build, make sure you test, test,
test. At least you’ll be on the road with a base or
a foundation for doing something accessible. So,
one of our first decisions was on a theme. The
next thing that I needed to do was focus on color.
I did some color checks with the [WebAim] Color
Contrast Analyzer. In terms of the design itself, in terms
of user flow, I looked at some compare comparative
sites. I wanted to look at art sites, museums,
individual artists — how they represented themselves.
But also I wanted to look at some non-art sites
in terms of what things worked in terms
of displaying images, purchasing poster
sites, and things of that nature. You can make a
decision there. What you see here are a few slides
from some of the museums that we took a look at
in terms of tools. The next thing that I had to
investigate was, “how do we solve some of our
challenges that have been put forth in terms of
specs for the contest?” For example, for extra
credit we if we presented an audio and a video
instance on the site how would we do that
in WordPress? There’s a plugin called Able
Player which is a great accessible player that we
found during this competition. We used Joe Dolson’s
WP Accessibility for some things on the site.
We used his Contact Form 7 Accessible forms.
[So] We did a number of things that allowed us to
build accessibility into the site and test it.
As we went on we were able to mitigate a lot of
those things; as we went along we had a couple of
members on the team that were expert[-level] at that, so
once we identified a problem we worked through it.
That was an incredible part of this process.
Another great thing about this project was how
we would manage it. Part of 2020 — like most folks —
COVID[-19] totally rearranged everything for most of us.
A lot of us, like myself, commuted in to work.
Each day, I work in Downtown Los Angeles, which
is about a 45-minute train ride. I catch a commuter
train in — pop up my laptop on the 45-minute ride in,
[and] walk to the office from the train station.
I had been doing that for over 25 years…
[But] this year we were all forced to Stay-at-
home and work so I became a distributed worker.
In 2020 I became a distributed worker —
I became a distributed worker in 2020
One of the upsides — one of the very, very,
very few upsides to this shitty pandemic
was that it allowed me to become a distributed
worker. And this project specifically for Knowbility
allowed me to work with a very talented
group of five other individuals
to accomplish a goal. We had a set goal, we
had rules to follow to get to that goal,
and we had a client that we had to satisfy.
So to me, that was a big benefit or the big
carrot at the end of the stick for me.
[Was] working in a distributed format with other
professionals and help. But the big challenge
would be how would we manage this project.
A number of us were very, very familiar with Slack.
Being an organizer for a WordCamp, my teams have
always been in Slack and it’s been a primary
mode of communication in the office [at Metro] currently.
I was very familiar with it. Our team for the
Knowbility competition was familiar with it so
we did all of our personal day-to-day work
on accessibility and communicating between team
members, bonding, and growing the team inside
of Slack. But Knowbility provided Basecamp as a tool
for all of the teams to use. And we used that for
all the business stuff. So all the communications
with the client all the communication with the
mentor I was sort of the lead on communicating
our questions about our designs [with our mentor].
And in terms of accessibility and our development in terms
of development in terms of accessibility
with our mentor in India. Slack was used
for one thing and BaseCamp was used for all
the business stuff. One thing that I loved about
BaseCamp was when I would ping Sandeep it
would tell me the time of day it was for him.
I think they were 14 hours ahead or such a
big difference in time it was great to know that
when I needed to send a question I wasn’t sending
it to him in the middle of the night at three
o’clock in the morning. That was a couple
of things that I thought was very interesting — was
being able to work in a remote fashion
on a distributed fashion with a team of
professionals and managing the project with the
project management tools that we had. So I thought,
“I’d love to share that with you folks here today
at WordFest” as a possible benefit in
the remote environment. Making sure you use the
proper project management tool or to communicate
with your team and your clients and manage
things. So, that was a great part of
this project as well. [Jennifer H] Speaking, and then I
was talking to somebody else. And we were
all like riled up! We’re all like, “we have
to, we have to really like focus on this.” Take
a real deep training and to really [gain] this empathy,
this experience of empathy into our design. And
it can’t happen overnight. [Ron Amick]
This accessibility that we’re trying to achieve they
are unsung and they are unknown and luckily
they’re making themselves more known.
From a business standpoint alone it’s worth addressing
all of their needs. [Sumner M Davenport] Well I agree Ron,
and I think that when Alicia mentions that course
[https://www.edx.org] that’s why I always mention people go
take this course. It’s free. They’re going
to be updating it soon to add the new
WCAG [guidelines] that are not included in the current
one, but what it gives you is a user perspective —
not a technical perspective — because people
don’t connect with the technical portion of it.
They connect [examples] when they see a video of a
user and that user explains why this is important and
I think that if more people saw the accessibility
to their website from the perspective of a user
there would be a better grasp, a better
understanding, and a better acceptance of it.
Instead of looking at a website like code,
images, pages, layouts, and whatnot —
think of it from the user perspective and then
when you’re testing a website for a client or
potential client to be able to tell them like we
did with our client here. This is what your site
is; this is why this part is important; this is what
the user experiences; and this is how it includes
persons with accessibility. So it’s a journey of
the user, not a journey of, “Oh, isn’t that pretty
or isn’t that nice code.” It’s the user
experience and it makes a world of difference.
[Alicia St. Rose] But my challenge is to make it
pretty and to to keep that because there’s this
false belief that if it’s accessible it’s gonna look
like it’s a Windows PC. I’m like, “no, it doesn’t
have to.” It can look really gorgeous and
that’s why I got in this web thing in the first
place. Because all the web looked like that when I started
[laughing] and the people made some beautiful things.
And then they kind of got off-track and now we’re gonna
get you back [on-track]. But you can do it. It’s possible.
[Sumner] And that’s the site that we created for this client.
I think is a beautiful site. [others agree] Yeah. Yeah…
It’s just color. It has a very fabulous layout. It is
visually appealing, as well user-friendly. So, a
perfect example when somebody says, “oh it has to be
ugly.” No, it doesn’t have to be ugly. [Joe] Yes, I mean… I
think that goes again… We had such a balanced
team of strong individuals that came together.
I mean… To me, I think our country can learn
from people working together like that
[others voices excitedly speaking at once]. You
don’t have to be exactly alike work together.
[Sumner] Every website that we work on, we’re working
on different components. We don’t use everything
that’s available for a website on every website.
So [on] this particular site watching Ron build
that table, and then having to take out the grid
lines, and still have it be appealing visually.
I loved watching him do that but for me also even
though I refer to the WCAG success criterion
regularly, sometimes I have to stop and reread
because I need to be able to explain it. I think
I understand it. I think I understand how I’m
applying it, and all that is good. But then I have
someone like Jennifer says, “okay I don’t get it.
Can you explain it any other way?” And so I got to
learn how to look at something. I thought I totally
understood. But obviously, I didn’t understand well
enough to be able to explain it for someone
else to understand. So in some cases, it gave
me the opportunity to relook or look at it from a
different way or find a different example to go oh
and and plus we also heard that from our mentor
there were times he went back to the weekend to
make sure he understood what he was telling us
so the weak egg although the guidelines are there
we don’t follow them like we have no flexibility
we use them to assist us to make the site better
sometimes we have to go you know what i haven’t
done a table before or i haven’t done a grid
before or are my links correct and we need to
go back and refresh on that particular one so
that’s what i got to do i got to revisit my own
knowledge my own experience and i got to learn new
ways of explaining things so then i got to learn a
different way as well awesome yeah i mean i think
and especially you could see this in the
wordpress community with the learn.wordpress
initiative right now having these
environments where people can teach
and learn from other people is going to
be really critical in the virtual space
and to me having the ability to do that
accessibility and have two experts on the
team like super admin super expert level folks
that was incredible for me jennifer what about you
yeah i have to say it was like you know because
we had colleen and sumner as like the two titans
of like you know people who have been working as
specialists in the field of accessibility and it’s
like it was like this brilliance coming out like
they were clear and how they were talking and they
would engage and talk about the same problem and
then it’s like this like you know creative problem
solving too because we also had our client needs
to consider and so then in terms of like being you
know bringing um the brilliance involved with like
like you know with alicia and with joe from design
and dev and to to find creative problems that was
like incredible to watch and as a beginner it was
like i feel like there was a constant learning
curve at some point it was like don’t get in the
way because they’re just like doing their thing
but it was like you know um the forms like basic
things with contact forms but it’s also to see it
in action like we’re talking about it in theory
like i know contact forms you know or forms are
a consideration i did not know search boxes were
a type of form you know that’s something i learned
but um but just like in in action like to see it
like on a live process and all the considerations
that have to go into it i just like have so much
respect and admiration for you know those who
have been able to balance all these needs and
yet create you know beautiful and effective sites
right i thought it brought together six unique
people with all different skill sets and a lot of
us um it was probably our first time working on
in in a in a big group on with so many
you know high high highly skilled people
for a common goal and i think the goal sort of
overrode everything and it was to for me it was
incredibly rewarding i was like that was one of
the best things i did last year so i just wanted
to share that and hopefully other people that
attend WordFest and hear about the
story will be encouraged to do more accessibility.
So that was sort of the purpose of getting
everybody together, sort of reminiscing on that
five-week period that’s probably a blur now.
So, I hope you enjoyed my my presentation and
keep in mind that at the time of the recording
we don’t know how we did in the competition.
But tonight is the award ceremony so we’re
we’re hoping for success. And if you talk
to Alicia, one of the developers on our team,
she said from day one that we were gonna win
- So we all had a sense of giving back,
wanting to work together, wanting to contribute in
the accessibility arena. But we all really, really,
really wanted to win too as competitors, So
we’ll find out. And I’ll leave you with this…
drum roll please [uses fingers to drum
on the desktop] and the winner is…
My name is Joe Simpson. You can contact me
here on any of these social media platforms.
You can find out about our next WordPress
Meetup and we’d love to have you virtually
at wordpressscv on any of these platforms. Or
find out about what we’re doing with Elementor
and WordPress at these, and finally thanks
to the Big Orange Heart Organizing team — Dan,
Michelle, Cate, Hauwa, and all the
volunteers who made this event possible.
Distributed workers and those that work remotely
are the lifeblood of WordPress and our mental and
physical well-being is an important cause
indeed. Thanks again for making this event
possible have a great weekend and enjoy the
rest of your event. Take care everyone!