Thoughtfully getting involved in WordPress

Today I filled out a form to get involved with the WordPress Accessibility team. Here is that form: http://make.wordpress.org/accessibility/join-us/

Looking at the Make WordPress page there are many ways to get involved in WordPress, some more exciting than others in my opinion. The two Make blogs that I follow are Core and UI. This is where a lot of the flashy stuff happens, like MP6, THX38, JSON REST API, etc. Obviously this is where I’d go if I want to get involved because these are the kind of projects that are super exciting to me.

After presenting at 3 WordCamps in the last couple of months, my view started to change. I was presenting on sliders (that thing that’s now cool for everyone to love to hate). In those talks, I received awesome questions during the Q&A portions and the first time I heard them, I had no idea what the answer was, but that’s part of the awesomeness. If we never hear where the needs and shortfalls are in our software, we’ll never know they need to be addressed.

So what were those questions?

Are the sliders I mention in my presentation Section 508 compliant? Do they work well with screen readers? To the first question, I didn’t know what Section 508 was, so that’s a no. I don’t know how well they work with screen readers as I’ve never tested anything on one, let alone sliders.

Why is this important? Education and government sites need to be accessible so that those who may have any kind of sensory limitations can still consume the content. Just as those who are hearing impared are going to find a video without captions somewhat useless, sliders can pose similar issues to software designed to interpret the content of a website for those with visual limitations.

This brings me back to contributing to WordPress. How can I justify spending my time on a really cool new feature, whether it be in WordPress core or in the WooSlider plugin that I work on, when there are whole portions of the population being alienated from enjoying the experience I’m trying to deliver to them? Personally, I can’t. The goal of WordPress is to democratize publishing. In the projects that I’m a part of, if I know a portion of the audience is being excluded because of how a piece of software currently works, that doesn’t feel like democracy to me. It feels like I should be working on a solution for that. The Accessibility team is part of the solution, and they’re working hard to make WordPress accessible to all. If I can learn from the team, and contribute any of my own findings and solutions back to what they’re tackling, then that feels like the best win/time ratio I can possibly achieve.

If you’re keen to get involved more with WordPress, I encourage you to give back to the community, check out the Make WordPress page and find something that tickles your fancy.