Gutenberg is Coming. The Accessibility Team Are Worried

Over at WPTavern, Sarah wrote up an important issue as Gutenberg speeds toward delivery. (For those who haven’t followed, sometime about a month ago, it was announced that WordPress 5.0–the Gutenberg includer–would try to launch before American Thanksgiving, on November 19.)

Leaving aside my personal feelings about the Gutenberg release process–punchline: I think the whole thing needed more communication and collaboration–I think that these accessibility issues are a hard situation for the project to find itself in. On the one hand, making Gutenberg certain (even in a rushed or sub-optimal way) has provided clarity and heightened the seriousness of the discussion. On the other, some features should be treated as show-stoppers, and this has the clearest moral case of any.

One could spread blame around for the current accessibility failings of Gutenberg, or put them all at a the feet of a few people. As an outsider looking in, I’m going to avoid adding my uniformed opinions to the conversation. But I do think that this must be considered seriously as Sarah says (and props to her for doing it despite her employer being Matt Mullenweg himself). I’ll leave the last word to her:

The mistake of not having consulted accessibility experts in the design phase cannot be easily rectified at this point, but the Classic Editor is still available for those who need to preserve their same workflow. The conflict lies in whether WordPress should ship a new editor that those with accessibility needs cannot immediately use. It is a somewhat painful and frustrating outcome for those users when the entire ecosystem is rapidly moving towards Gutenberg as the standard.

Either the accessibility and usability issues the team identified are not as bad as they purport or this document is a last-minute clarion call that could prevent WordPress from shipping an editor that excludes users who rely on assistive technology. Due to the gravity of their claims, the accessibility team’s statement on Gutenberg demands an official response.

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