If it’s true it ain’t bragging! Choosing a CMS for accessibility

Talk by Mitchell Evan, CPWA

When selecting a content management system (CMS), you’re already asking: can it produce an accessible website? But a simple “yes” to that question is not enough.

In this presentation you’ll learn how to ask more detailed questions to find out the reality behind accessibilty claims.

  • How to use accessibility standards for authoring tools to help answer the detailed questions: WCAG 2.0 and 2.1; US and EU public procurement standards; ATAG
  • The importance of the “prompts” requirement
  • How to read a VPAT report skeptically
  • What to look for in a trustworthy accessibility report
  • ATAG’s unique extra conformance requirements
  • Why we should treat ATAG as required, even when it’s not explicitly listed in policy

Watch Mitchell’s Presentation


Ahmed: Hello, everyone. Once again, welcome to WordPress Accessibility Day 2020. My name is Ahmed Kabir Chaion, and I’m working as
a business development manager at weDevs, I’m also a regular contributor to the making WordPress documentation, design, polyglots, accessibility, hosting, community, learn WordPress, and marketing team. I will be your host for this session.

You’re here for the 9 am UTC talk with Mitchell Evan. Please feel free to add your questions to the YouTube chat feed, and we’ll answer those at the end.

So, when selecting a content management system, you’re already asking “can you produce an accessible website?” But a simple yes to that question is not always enough. In this presentation, you will learn how to ask more detailed questions to find out the reality behind accessibility claims. This talk focuses on the following: how to use accessibility standards for authoring tools to help answer the detailed questions: WCAG 2.0 and 2.1, US and EU public procurement standards, ATAG; the importance of the “prompts” requirement; how to read a VPAT report skeptically; what to look for in a trustworthy accessibility report; ATAGS unique extra conformance requirements; why we should treat ATAG as required, even when it’s not explicitly listed in policy.

The speaker of the session, Mitchell Evan, has coached design and development teams for nine years, harnessing his ADHD creativity to achieve enterprise scale accessibility through the power of authoring tools, UI frameworks, and design systems. Most recently, he led the VPAT reporting practice at Level Access, applying international accessibility standards, WCAG 2.1, Section 508, and EN 301 549 to the web application, native software, authoring tools, and two-way communications.

Mitchell recently moved from San Francisco to Berlin to help build delightfully inclusive technology in the new era of European accessibility directives. Which brings to the session “If it’s true, it ain’t bragging: choosing a CMS for Accessibility.” Mitchell, welcome to WordPress Accessibility Day – the floor is yours.

Mitchell: Thank you very much, Ahmed, for the introduction- and can you see my first
title slide okay?

Ahmed: We are just waiting for your slides, to be sure.

Ahmed: No problem, again

Mitchell: We’ll do that again. How about now?

Ahmed: That’s uh, that worked. we can see your slides.

Mitchell: Okay, you can see the full screen?

Ahmed: Yes, we do it.

Mitchell: Fantastic. All right. Well, thank you Ahmed, and welcome folks. If it’s true, it ain’t bragging. Choosing a CMS, a content management system, for accessibility. As Ahmed said, my name is Mitchell Evan.

And I want to start by, if anybody does not see the screen, and wants the slides, um, bit.ly/cmsbrag. b i t dot l y slash c m s b r a g. And these slides are Creative Commons with some special requirements if you want to remix and reuse them.

So I’m going to start with a, uh, thought-provoking question to warm up. Who chooses your content management system? And this is a question that’s going to be answered by different people, in different roles, in different ways. Ponder for a moment. You might be very new to content management. You might be a core contributor to WordPress – but who chooses the content management system that you use?

It could be a lot of different people. This session today is especially for the content management system decision makers, but it’s also for everybody. Decision makers, it could also be known as buyers – some people, you know, buy software for
their company or agency, but even if you don’t spend money on it, you’re investing your time.

So you’re a buyer, either way. You could be an IT architect, you could be a template designer and developer. You could be a small business owner, of course. There’s a huge number of people who invest their time, and energy, and money, and money into content management systems as a small business owner. Anybody who chooses a template – you may be given the content management system, but you choose a template, or install a plugin, or, or activate a plugin.

You’re really modifying the content management system, so you’re a decision maker as well.

For everybody else, let’s say you’re just an author – you’re, you are an influencer, uh, you may need to influence the next generation of content management systems, if you find that the one you’re using is not up to what you need for accessibility. Now probably, most, a lot of people on this call are on WordPress, which is quite good.

Um, you know, so, influence what it can do, so that when you choose your next, your current or next content management system, it’s really an investment in accessibility – investment in accessibility.

Uh,how to choose your CMS. Here it is in one slide: Choose, choose WordPress! 38 percent of the internet can’t be wrong. Is that, isn’t that right? We are all here for Accessibility Day. Uh, that’s just a joke, here. I’m going to go, I’m going to go step by step a little bit more nuanced in that, uh, how to choose your content management system.

I’m going to say that maybe it’s more like two steps. Step one: Ask what the content management system can do. And then, verify that that’s true. And so, you know the rest of this is really going to be breaking down into those two themes:

Ask, and verify.

Unfortunately, there’s more than three slides in this deck…

Today, I believe that choosing a content management system for accessibility is harder than it should be, and I’ll give a couple of, uh, perspectives on this. Um, this is from the EU – the European Union We4Authors project, uh, which concluded this year. One of the conclusions is procurers – that’s buyers – find it difficult to validate which company can be trusted when it comes to accessibility. And that, uh, is borne out by the fact that even though just a week ago was the deadline for the entire eu public sector to have all of their websites accessible, they really – many, really – haven’t met that, or have met it partially.

With so much content built on content management, you know, certainly training and learning curves are part of that, but we have to look to the content management systems themselves. And these gaps really matter. And I’m going to read this entire next large quote, because I think it’s just, it really sums up the importance of getting this right. And this is from Kyle, who runs digital accessibility for Harvard University.

“If making something accessible turns into a process where you have to be a secondary subject matter expert, it’s not going to happen. These faculty are brilliant at what they do, and we need to make it easy for them to share and disseminate information. Today some of the research being done is a matter of life and death, issues critical to society.”

I don’t think, uh, I don’t think I need to add any more to what Kyle said. Um, you know, that really just shows – and I, I should mention that Kyle himself is a user with a visual disability, and so…um, you know, this perspective, I feel like is, is just, really, we should really pay attention to a perspective like this, and say, “what can we do to make this better?”

Because if it’s not accessible, we want to think of it as not functional. By now, if you’ve watched some of these presentations, I think people have said different things in different ways, um, but, you know, I’ll add my, a way of looking at this is thinking of accessibility not as a feature or an add-on, but it’s just a measure of “does it work” and, of course, you want your content to work for people.

Uh, when it is accessible people, with disabilities can use it, and anybody can use it. We’ve seen images like this, here’s one more of a gently rising ramp on a beautiful hillside. It’s for everybody. So those two steps – step one, asking what the content management system can do. Um, we’re gonna ask, or look for, you can ask Google, your favorite search engine.

Ask for accessibility statements. And – good news – I’ve highlighted a couple here. WordPress has a very nicely formatted one; Drupal as well. I want to give a good honorable mention to Wix. For those who have been following over the years, I would say, I myself used to, if somebody asked me what’s a terrible system for accessibility, I would have pointed to Wix. They are really turning it around, so give them kind of an honorable mention. And their, their own documentation on accessibility is now, has, has really become quite good. I’ll give them, like, a real turnaround success story.

Now, again, we’re not done with this presentation. If this were the whole answer, we could end it here. Um, of course we need to scrutinize these things, because nothing is 100 percent complete. We’re going to talk about, kind of, what to look for. You know – what is so important to look for in these accessibility statements.

Now, these are general kind of “pro” sorts of statements. Um, a statement of commitment. They always start with this: “we are committed to accessibility,” and that’s not worth much – but it’s, it’s a public statement self-commitment. And so we can, it, it’s, the fact that it’s there, it’s not worthless. It means we should hold that, whoever is, says publicly, “I’m committed to accessibility” – It’s out of the rest of us to hold them to that.

And what are some details that help us do that. Um, in the case of content management systems, it’s really important to, um, to tell users how to configure it for accessibility. You know, in the case of WordPress, you know, accessibility-ready themes that we’ve heard about, accessibility-ready themes; Drupal has core modules, both have plug-ins, and as we’ve heard, plugins can break accessibility. So really having that information about, available, you know, kind of a go/no-go on accessibility with this type of stuff. Um, the statements uh, uh, should say, how they’ve assessed their own accessibility.

Or, better yet using a third-party audit, an independent reviewer, to say what is accessible. There are going to be known issues. There are known issues in all of these content management systems, and they should disclose them, so we know what to do about, we know what works and what doesn’t today. Uh, hopefully some be able to either use workarounds, or really, choose whether to use that system. A remediation plan – a roadmap for what to do about it – is really important when you’re, when you’re ready to invest your time and or, and or money into a new system.

Okay, if it’s, if it’s getting there, is it being actively worked on. And you know, uh, and I really say last, but not least, a feedback channel for improvements. I mean, even if a system is perfect today, technology changes: browsers, assistive technology, the world changes, and you know it’s not realistic for accessibility to be bug free at every moment.

We want that. We want all software to be completely bug-free at every moment.

But users, of course, always find things. Not just for accessibility, and so having a feedback channel is a real, is also kind of a vote in favor of this organization producing this content management system. Is, is actually committed to accessibility because if they are, they will want to hear from users.

So, we talked just now about accessibility statements. Uh, there’s another thing called a conformance report, and this really gets into more detail. Um, and for content management systems, specifically, you’ve heard from others and there’s plentiful information on the internet, just about, um, you know, content accessibility. Just like, is a website, a website accessible?

Content management systems have some, uh, additional important, specific, requirements. Um, the first one, it may be obvious, but it’s good to split it out. Allowed: is it possible, does the system allow the user to create accessible content – is that even possible? We’ve heard a lot about that in these presentations.

I didn’t catch Hidde’s presentation, I was preparing for this one. I regret doing that; I’m going to come back and watch that later. But Hidde de Vries just presented on ATAG – the authoring tool accessibility guidelines – and they’re really going to cover these next two. Prompting, prompt: does the CMS prompt and guide authors to do that, to create accessible content? Not just possible, but actually encourage and surface the features that do that?

And – Inclusive Authoring, I call it, is a summary of the various features of the content creation process, content creation functions, themselves. Can a person with disabilities use those? Um, so these are distinct – we’re going to think about, remember these three as we go through, because we’re going to get into a lot more detail on these. Now the hard way to ask, well, what should be in these standards, in these reports, is to kind of look at all the regulations around the world, figure out what they require.

They’re going to vary a little bit. They’re going to be in different languages. And figure out what the standard is, and how to report on them. Now, this is very logical, but it’s, this is harder. This is more complicated than you have to do it, and uh, you’re going to see some of that complexity, but then, in the next slide I’m going to show you how to simplify it down. So, this is a sketch with a c…, with some shortcuts, here, some other simplifications, but this is basically a picture of the world of accessibility standards, and laws, and policies, and reporting, as they apply to content management systems. So, let me kind of work from the inside out here.

So, on the right we’ve got WCAG 2.0. Still the, by far the most common, um, standard around the world in terms of countries and regions that use it. US and Canada use it. Add to that 12 new criteria for WCAG 2.1, so, Um, in case you’re tuning in, or you didn’t, you know, really emphasize this, WCAG 2.1 is exactly WCAG 2.0, plus some more criteria, and the conformance requirement. So, um, if you meet WCAG 2.1, you’re meeting WCAG 2.0. So that’s the first simplification. The next layer out is, you’ll see EN 301 549. That is the European standard. The UK after Brexit is still using it, and it has more than, usually people think of it as just WCAG 2.1, but, uh, for certain types of products, like authoring tools, content management systems, it has some specific requirements for those. I call them the harmonized authoring tool criteria.

Because you see the circle below, US uses very much those same authoring tool criteria in section 508. So, and then finally, ATAG adds its own more detailed criteria, and that’s the, the blue bullet on the left, there. If you don’t see the screen, I’ve described, describe the structure of this, and as I mentioned before, the slides are available at any point.

This is a complicated graph, I do have a text alternative for it.

So the point is that you could try to figure out, all around the world, what everybody’s doing, but it boils down to these standards: ATAG, WCAG 2.1. If you meet those two standards, you’re completely covering it for content management systems anywhere in the world. The whole world can use it. So, I’ve done some analysis for you, um, you can, if you want to do less, if you want to do less good stuff for your users, you can go and analyze, re-analyze the world, and try to cut corners – but why not just keep it simple? WCAG 2.1, ATAG 2.0.

Now, how to report on these. Some good news – pretty obvious, you can do an ATAG report for ATAG. This one is still, especially in Europe, and we’re on Europe time today, um, it’s really not so widely known. Is, there’s, uh, a lot of people have heard of VPAT, the voluntary product accessibility template. But still a lot of people you talk to will say, “oh, that’s a united states thing.”

Since, uh, 2017 it’s been international. It’s covered both US Section 508 and EN 301. And now, as of, uh, last year, it covers all, it covers all of the standards that are listed here. So you don’t need to go and invent a report format; you can use this format, uh, to report not just for the US. It continues to do that, as it has always done, but now it reports it’s, it’s available for the EU.

So, we’re gonna, we’re gonna look a little bit more at what to expect in these kinds of reports. Um, I, uh, I believe it may be obvious, but, I, I will remind folks we’re covering a lot of material here, we’ll definitely allow time for questions at the end, and please put those questions in the chat as we go, and we’ll allow time for those. Certainly within this time period, um.

So one thing I want to highlight is, you might have noticed that there were no countries listed on the ATAG. Um, so who needs ATAG? Uh, requirements. One answer is: nobody! No law regulation directly requires, uh, the authoring tool accessibility guidelines, that I know of. If somebody knows differently, please put it in the chat.

Um, and yet I say that everybody should use the authoring tool accessibility guidelines, because they reduce your risk of an inaccessible website, and it’s the website that’s produced that has the most scrutiny, and the most users of anything, um, in this system. And so why would you make it hard for authors to make things accessible? And then, resulting in more bugs on your websites. So, it’s completely voluntary, but I think a really good idea. So we’re going to talk some more about, uh, you know, what are the differences and why that is.

If you use these two reports, remember those questions I asked before – the questions down the left here, that, the key questions of “is accessible content allowed/possible?” “is creation of accessible content prompted?” Is the process of it inclusive, is the authoring process inclusive?” And so this just shows what, those, those different standards and reports cover. The two, the first two columns are VPAT 2.4 international. They cover, um, they cover all three of those requirements. Um, the VPAT part – sorry, the WCAG part of VPAT, uh, doesn’t cover the prompts, and then those harmonized authoring tool criteria pick up the prompts, but I added a second check mark under ATAG because they just have more detailed, um, criteria. My favorite being prominence of prompts.

So prompts just need to exist in as far as the EU and US harmonized accessibility, uh, harmonized authoring tool standards, ATAG says they need to be prominent. They need to be equally prominent to other things. So thumbs up on that. Uh, we want that, we want to make it easy for authors to do the right thing. I’m not going to drill into this right now, uh, but in a moment I’ll show the, um, you know, just one example you can see what good prompts would be like.

Um, okay. So we’ve talked about, so far, about the, um, you know what, let’s say we’re, you, I, a business owner, an IT director is choosing a content management system. We want to go out and look to see that the producers of those content management systems have just, have have provided good instructions, uh, good information about, um, you know, what works and what doesn’t yet in their content management systems.

Now let’s verify that. Step two: verify what the content management system can do.

I like this as a starting point. WordPress lists a bunch of VPAT reports. Again, that’s the voluntary product accessibility template. I’m going to go ahead and follow this link, because we’re going to take a look at one of these reports. I think I’m going to need to change my screen sharing here, I just realized. Okay, bear with me while we change the sharing.

Okay. Um. I’m gonna check the chat really sec for, for a quick moment and see… Actually can I have an audio of, uh, is the, is the browser coming through here?

Ahmed: Yes, it is.

Mitchell: Thank you. Thank you for confirming that. Okay, so I just followed – it’s vpats.wordpress.com. And, um, it lists a bunch of VPATs. What, uh, the, the approach that WordPress has taken is to show VPATs of, of partners and content. And so I’m just going to choose the first ones here. So, the first problem, the first one – problem and the first VPAT is going to have a problem.

Um, and uh, remember that VPAT 2.something, I said, um, first thing we see here, doesn’t even have the number of the VPAT. Um, but this is not VPAT version two – this is VPAT version one. This was back when it was not international. it doesn’t really even reference web content accessibility guidelines. So that’s the first thing you want to look for. Now we’re going to come back to specific VPATs, and some of the things that they should contain. I’ll start by summarizing them, and we’ll kind of switch back and forth between looking at the, you know, looking at actual documents, and some of the, um, and, you know, some of the things that we’re going to, that we have to encourage you to look for when you’re evaluating these. Um, so the first thing I mentioned is, is the, is the VPAT report even complete. Does it have the things that it should? Uh, these days it should always be at least VPAT version 2.0.

Um, because that’s the minimum you need to even cover WCAG 2.0 accurately. Um, and if you’re using WCAG 2.1, like half a billion people in Europe need to do, um, it needs to be VPAT version 2.3 or higher. So it’s up to 2.4 now. The differences are very slight, so if you find, uh, anything 2.3 or higher, you’re all set, for WCAG 2, to cover WCAG. you know accurate.

Well, accurate – that’s a separate question. It has the right pieces in it to answer these questions. Um, it really must list the name and version of the product that was tested. You know, obviously features and bugs and change, so, if you don’t even know what was tested, it, it the reality is it may be a version old, or more. But if you know what it is, then you can triangulate what might be different. Um, and specifically for a content management system product, you know it must, it must actually include and report on the authoring tool criteria. Um, I meant, because, um, let’s just say there’s a varying range of quality of these reports, and we’re gonna look a little bit more about that.

Um, you know, it doesn’t have the just basic requirements that it needs to contain. Uh. next question: is the report credible? Does it say what, in what was tested, like what was the scope of testing? It’s normal to test a sample of things in complex systems. Well, what was the sample that was tested? Was that a reasonable sample?

You should cover, you know, at least, uh, you know, a core, core process of logging in, uh, choose, choosing accessible ready templates and, editing content, like, uh, like a block editor. You know, if it doesn’t, if it was missing one of those core steps, well, it shouldn’t, right? First of all, and you want to know what it includes, and didn’t include in the, in the sampling.

Um, and we’ll look at, look at these next ones a little more detail. Remarks explaining the ratings. Uh, I’ll give a visual of that in a moment. Um, this third one – the auditor is a reputable third party. Um, that is, uh, not a minimum. Um, that is a, you know, there are companies that test their own, um, and do a good job, but it, you know, if, if it’s, if it’s a third party that’s named on the, um, on the VPAT report, uh, you know, that both shows independence and you can look into that company and say, “hey, are they known for doing a good job on these things.” Um, I wouldn’t say that’s a must-have, but that’s a, that’s a bonus, it’s a plus in terms of credibility, especially when you’re in a hurry. And who isn’t in a hurry. You know, so, um, we’re gonna… That first one that I mentioned: what, what was tested. Um, in the case of content management systems, not just the functionality of the content management system, itself but what it was creating is important. And let me say that if you just stick in “hello world” or “lorem ipsum” into a content management system, you really haven’t tested it.

You got to think about what are the different kinds of content elements that are pertinent for accessibility. And I know that others in this WordPress Accessibility Day have, you know, covered this as well. Um, you know, so you know take, take this as my perspective on what are some key kinds of content. Um, images of course, with alt text. Content structure such as headings, lists and tables. Don’t forget nesting, then interactive elements like links, buttons and forms. Don’t forget error messages of forms, if you use those.

More complex patterns – there’s many of those. Threaded discussions and menus are a couple of examples. You might contain video – well, the pro, the product, the content management system probably supports video, and it probably supports multilingual, multilingual content. One of the things you’ll notice here is your website might not include every one of these. And so this is where the detail of the reports can be really helpful.

Because it might have a problem with video, it, you know, this particular tool might really be, really bad at video. You might choose it anyway, because you say I’m seldom, if ever, gonna use video; or I don’t need multilingual content. I mean, those would be shortcuts. You never know – you might get committed, and in the future need those things, but at least you can be a discerning customer.

Um, so I said that the next one was like, do the ratings match the remarks. So, for this I I’m going to bring up, um, I’m going to look at Adobe. Because I worked on these. I, when I did the one I’m going to show you, I actually wrote, although they don’t disclose that. That’s fine. Um, this is, this is, public knowledge that I’m telling you. I know that a lot of consulting companies are, keep their clients secret, and Level Access was no exception.

Um, but we were proud and, to publicly talk about our partnership with Adobe so no particular secrets here. Um. What we’re going to look at here, jump to the WCAG section – the web content accessibility guidelines part of the VPAT report.

And just at, for example, the very first criterion: 1.1.1 non-text content – that’s talking about alternative text for images. Well, I wrote this, so, of course I think it’s great. It talks about, for example, uh, this one is for, uh, for installed software – this was for FrameMaker, actually, um, which is a content, which is, um, whether it’s a content management system or not, it’s an authoring tool, and that’s what they have in common. Um, so a rating. So, ratings and remarks, now we’re talk – that was the thing I mentioned. What, what about ratings and remarks?

The rating or conformance level here was “partially supports.” Now, what does that mean? It could be “supports,” “partially supports,” or “does not support.” That’s the only three levels we would report at, but if that’s all you said, a lot of different things are going to be “partially supports.” That can range from one little bug through, like, 40 percent of all of the websites screwed up. So you really need to look at the comment, the remark for that, Um, so the remark is here:

“most product functions do not contain images which would require a text alternative, but exceptions include…” So what it’s saying is: For the most part, there aren’t even any images in the product where this matters. But there’s a couple of specific ones. Now right away you can say, well, yeah – that sounds like mo…, you know, partially supports, mostly works, and you even have detail of, like, oh, you can go and work around those problems, or you know, use JAWS scripting if you had to. Or, you know, this is useful information and, but really important, so that just in terms of order, the second one is maybe, arguably, first in priority, which is the author content.

Also is “partially supports.” Okay, great. Oh, so what can I not do with author content? Oh, okay, what does that mean? Partially supports means I can only partially put alt text on images? Okay, what’s going on. Um, so, in here the case was, um, well authors can provide text alternative for most images but, some image buttons in certain navigation controls. So, again, from a point of view of verify, just making, seeing if this is even a trustworthy document, you want to see that there’s this kind of detail here. Now, it’s going to be very different detail in different situations.

But, like, is there an explanation for why they gave that rating? Like, if there is not, if you look at this and you’re like, that doesn’t tell me anything, it kind of puts the whole report into question. And then, if it does tell you, it makes the report much more credible, and hopefully actually provides useful information that you can work with.

Now there’s, you know, 50 WCAG 2.1 criteria. And you’re in a hurry, and you want to compare two, you, you have a access, you have a product in mind you want to use, you’re in a hurry…

Where do you start now? All of the criteria are important, but I like to look at the heavy hitters. Uh, what do I mean by “heavy hitters.” A criteria that apply the most broadly. So, like, basically every product is going to have, these are going to apply to every page and screen of every authoring tool and the content that it produces. So, you know, if you look at these, this first list, and this is like the non-text content graphics we just talked about – info and relationships for structure of html. I’m going to jump to the fourth one: Name, Role, Value, for the structure of interactive elements.

To this middle one: numerically resizing and reflowing text for low vision, people with low vision, especially to enlarge content. And the keyboard criteria – there’s a list of those, so this list, right here, is a lot less imposing than, you know, the whole list of 50. Now, again, the whole list of 50 is our hard requirements. But we’re talking about, you’re opening up somebody’s report and where do you start?

It actually can be a kind of a, you can take a whole day trying to read from the top to the bottom. And I would recommend start by jumping to these heavy hitters. Color criteria are interesting. They’re kind of special, because for content they’re super important – like contrast, and use of color.

But, um, I just find that for content management systems specifically, they rarely fail to allow authors to set colors. I mean, that’s what they do, so the author is capable of choosing colors that will conform to contrast. But they tend to be pretty bad at prompting authors to do that – so that’s kind of a special one. Something to watch out for. I would encourage everybody here to be, make noise, and ask for, uh, better prompting on, uh, on color in authoring systems.

Um, now there’s a few more that depend on your content. Pre-recorded video has some criteria; multilingual text has a language of page and language of parts. Error messages – if you have them – have those, and I think those are all quite important. Those are my next level of heavy hitters. Again, I can’t repeat enough, they’re all required. The, the purpose of this is to say: I want to skim a report and see what it tells me. That, for that purpose, this skim, you know, somewhere between 14 and 22 out of the 50 will give you a very good first, first cut at reading a report.

And now what about those extra authoring tool criteria. So, I’ve already summarized them, and we’re not going to drill down into every one of them, but just, this is what to look for. I call them “harmonized.” Harmonized means that different standards try to be pretty similar. So the US section 508 has a prompts requirement. It’s hard to, harder to see that in the EU requirements, it calls it “guide the production of content,” “of accessible content guide,” – I’m sorry – “guide the production of accessible content.”

Uh, it also has a, it breaks out the templates to say that they’re identified as templates. Both of them also put a requirement on the product documentation. Which, I will say, is a shortcut that you might, you might find, uh, unfortunately, that might not just even get reported.

Um. Uh, but, the product documentation needs to highlight what are the accessibility capabilities of the product. Um, and I mentioned before, um, my favorite being the prominence requirement of ATAG. That, that’s a plus. That’s a, the ATAG guideline B has several more detailed criteria that are, that mesh very well with the US and EU global standards for authoring tools and content management systems, and it just adds more detail to some, such as prominence.

Um, so, you know, whenever possible, you know, ask for and then scrutinize, uh, whether, uh, the, the product is doing that. Uh, we are nearing our time, so we have to run through. Time for questions, I should say – I’m going to allow almost 10 minutes for questions, so we’re going to go a little faster here.

Test it yourself. Hopefully, you’ve got a report, so you don’t have to test everything. You can spot check and just reality check. Um, why do i say that? Um…because it’s easy to exaggerate even a well-written report. I’ve seen this happen. Boy, this was a great report – they’re so proud of their, their accessibility. But, like – it was an authoring tool – it was really hard to use. It was like, “oh, I guess you can do that, but… wow, that was hard.” So, you know, like any marketing claims, you know, go and test it. But at least you know what the claim is – you’re not starting from a blank slate.

And again, I just want to emphasize the importance of these prompts. Especially I mean, especially if you have a bunch of content authors. I mean, there’s no way you’re going to create an accessible website without good prompting. It just makes it too hard. Um, so test those prompts yourself, see if the and, and, others in this, uh, others in this series for, what ,of WordPress Accessibility Day have, have really shown you how to do that. Um, here’s an example of good prompts for those who are developing content management systems. Do take a look at Microsoft’s Accessibility Checker, built into Office. It is prominent, at its same level as the, um, as the spell checker. Now you can leave it on all the time, it’s great. That’s what all content management systems should do.

Um, so I’m gonna anticipate a couple of your questions. Okay, so just tell me what are the best content management systems for accessibility. What are they, it’s WordPress, right? Uh, I’m not going to answer that. Uh, this is like in 2001, a space odyssey, saying, “HAL, please open the pod bay doors,” HAL says, “I’m sorry, Dave, I can’t do that.” I’m sorry, I can’t tell you exactly what the best content management systems are. Uh, not because I’m trying to kill you in outer space, um, because it, because none of them is perfect. And what’s going to work best is going to vary by your needs. Uh, so I’ve listed some links here. Download the slides – I’ll give you the link for that in a moment here.

And I’m just going to highlight one of these – this one in the middle, TextBox Digital. Some folks in the UK have this, this helped, you can filter it by content management systems and find their accessibility statements. It’s really cool. I’ll come back to that, um, this is more for – I was not going to go over this in any case in detail – but, if you are a buyer, it’s a great idea to have a procurement policy. Not just for content management systems, but for any software, websites that you hire or buy.

And some great resources, plentiful resources on the internet to say how to set up your, how to, how to, make sure that you invest in the right ways. Aand then, uh, on the vendor side. Those who create the content management systems, um, you know, these statements that we talked about – here’s how to make them. Um, and still you say, “Ah, this is so much, Mitchell – but I need a content management system right now! Tell me the minimum!”

Well, first I’ll say, you know, don’t skip it entirely. Because do you really need it so soon that you’re willing to choose the wrong one? I, I, yeah – so there’s the challenging question. Take a breath. Choose the right system, and if you could only check one thing – if I could only check one thing, if I could do this, I would say: take a website that was produced by that, and have a person who really uses screen readers well check it out, and choose a website that’s like what you want to make.

If, if it can’t do that, yeah, you, you need to ask more questions. Um, I’m going to end with these thoughts.

Like, is a fully conformant cms possible? I say, yes, that’s possible. And here’s a thought-provoking question, is how to do that? Um, and I say, together, we can do that. That’s what this whole community is going to do together.

By being demanding customers, by the dedication that the core WordPress team and other, and other vendors are putting into this, uh, we just keep working at it. Keep asking these “how” questions. “How” is the right question until we get this done.

So with that, uh, we are a couple minutes into the content, into the questions, we do have, if I’m not mistaken, six more minutes for questions. We’ll get some here, and we’ll make sure that they all get answered later. Thank you.

Ahmed: Thank you so much, Mitchell. That was a insightful presentation.

We all learned a lot today. I’m sure the community itself, the organizers, stakeholders out there, people who want to learn about accessibility, was able to take away a lot of great points out of this. So, we will begin the question and answer session. We have five or six questions, so the first one:

What are your recommendations to the community building WordPress to be more accessible?

Mitchell: I will – I should have given you a couple of disclaimers up front. One is that I am not a WordPress expert. So I’m going to answer that in a more general, general way. And it’s a little bit of a repeat of what I said, which is, you know, I think that prompting for authors, prompting for content creators, um, like if you do that well, that’s the first thing to do well. Um, uh, I, I, I would say that… I’m tempted to, it’s a hard, it’s a, it’s a
close second though, to make the interface itself accessible. And it’s not just to meet the requirements, but to make the actual authoring experience rock solid for people with disabilities.

There’s two great things that happen when you do that. One is you help solve the employment gap people with disabilities around the world are today, you know, statistics are shockingly consistent, that are, like, employed less than half the rate of people without disabilities. And the digital world can solve that, but another great way, another great reason to want to make your authoring experience accessible, is that then you’ve got people with disabilities, um, both authoring and checking the results of their authoring, and so you’ve got a really great community feedback loop to tell you not only how to make your authoring process better, but how to make the output better. You’ve got more people with disabilities scrutinizing that output. So that’s a fairly broad, kind of philosophical answer, um, and like I said, I’m not actually the WordPress expert. I want to take a step back, and put WordPress in the context of authoring tools and content management systems in general.

Ahmed: I agree with you, Mitchell, but you do, did mention that it’s a community, and we should make changes together, so, which is why your comment does make an impact, and it, it’s adding value to initiatives such as WP Accessibility Day. So, the next question: How can we sell the idea, or even educate our leadership on leads to make accessibility a top priority?

Mitchell: Um, there’s many answers to that question, and I will just hit a couple of high points. Um, um, I, probably everybody on, on, One answer is watch all of the presentations for WordPress Accessibility Day, because I think that’s just a theme throughout.

Um, and… I mean, the, the best way is because you’re, you care about users in general. You care about your customers, you want to have more customers, you don’t want to slap your customers in the face when they come wanting to use your content. So whenever you can think about it in terms of a user-centered approach, if your company culture is already thinking about your users, these are your users. That’s the, always the best way to start. If that doesn’t get their attention, um, you know, go back to those slides with the complex rules around the world and the requirements, and the legis, and the legislation, and the lawsuits, and scare them a little bit. But then, once you’ve scared them, come back to doing the right thing. Don’t just think about laws all the time. Just, that’s the reason to begin doing the right thing, and then come back to that first question: what can we do for the users.

Ahmed: Absolutely. Next question: Imagine you don’t know anything about WordPress, and checking its VPAT, would you consider using it as a CMS?

Mitchell: Uh, so, uh, I have not – so somebody please ping me if there is one – I have not seen uh, like, WordPress core having its own VPAT report. So I’m going to answer it a little differently. Looking at, looking at WordPress’s accessibility statements – which I just had one link in there, just in the interest of time, I just said here, this is the start here page. But as many others on this, uh, series have talked about, you know, really drilling down into, you know, choosing the accessibility ready templates, developing your own templates, watching out for the plugins, you know, it’s got just a ton of information there. It says what works and what doesn’t. It really comes across as very, um, transparent, um, and honest about what works and what doesn’t. It tells you exactly how to go and find the known issues, so you know at a glance. I say it has, you know, has what we’re looking for. Um, one other thing I flew by, and so these are sort of, I guess I have to say that I haven’t gone and done the same level of deep verification for WordPress that I listed, that each of us should do.

And, um, and that, that still hasn’t been done in, in years anyway, like, uh, I know that, I know the, uh, the Gutenberg block editor got a detailed audit, uh, taking a look at that. Um, oh, so there’s an example I did take a look at that piece of it. And, um, well yeah, I mean, it was, it was audited by, um, a very well-known and reputable, uh, third party and I could see that it covered the different pieces, you know, the different requirements well, including the prompting pretty well.

Um, so, yeah. I mean, there’s a lot to like about WordPress, and it just, it lets you know where the problems are, and you can work around them, or work around them and, and, and, put and, put and, upvote them as well, you know. Yeah, that’s all.

Ahmed: Thank you so much, Mitchell. Uh, I would have loved to continue the QA, but we are out of time, so thank you so much. Once again, I would encourage you to post your answers on our website, uh, so that the question that are posted that can also be addressed. Uh, on that note, we come to the end of the session, “If it’s true, it ain’t bragging: choosing a CMS for accessibility.”

I want to thank everyone for attending, for this session with Mitchell and myself. You can continue the conversation using the hashtag #WPAD, #WPAD2020, and @wpaccessibility. And don’t forget to attend the next talk, “Making Accessible Accessibility Reports,” with Calum Ryan, uh, chart at 10 am UTC here in the same track with myself. See you right here after the break, so we will catch you again sometime later from now. Thank you very much.

Mitchell: Thank you, bye-bye.

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