074: WordPress Accessibility-Ready Requirements Need to be Revised, Gianduiotto Turin Chocolate Hazelnut Liqueur

In this episode, we discuss the current state of WordPress Accessibility-Ready theme requirements written in 2011 and last updated in 2014. We discuss how these requirements need to be updated, whether WordPress themes with this tag are still the best “starting point,” and whether they should closely align with WCAG.


Mentioned in This Episode


Chris: Welcome to the Accessibility Craft Podcast, where we explore the art of creating accessible websites while trying out interesting craft beverages. This podcast is brought to you by the team at Equalize Digital, a WordPress accessibility company, and the proud creators of the Accessibility Checker plugin.

And now, on to the show.

Amber: Hey everybody, it’s Amber and I am here with Chris.

Chris: Hey, everybody.

Amber: And Steve.

Steve: Hey, everyone. How’s it going?

Amber: And this is episode, I guess, number 74 of Accessibility Craft, and we’re going to have show notes for it at accessibilitycraft. com slash zero seven four. We are recording differently today.

We could maybe talk about that for a second and all of our accessibility and technical difficulty challenges, but welcome to the show. What are we going to drink today, Chris?

Today’s Beverage

Chris: So we are having and I’m probably going to butcher this pronouncement, but we’re having a Gianduiotto Turin chocolate hazelnut liqueur.

And it’s shaped like the famous structure in Turin, Italy. So we bought these in Italy. Technically on our way back, but it is a chocolate hazelnut liqueur that we almost didn’t buy because Amber thought it was coffee liqueur. And she hates coffee.

Amber: I was going to veto the coffee flavor, but then we found out it’s just chocolate.

Chris: We looked more closely. So yeah. You saw it up there.

Steve: Extreme closeup.

Amber: So this is the Mole Antonelliana, which is. A building that was built in, started in 1863, finished in 1889, and it was, like, stands out above all of, almost all of the other buildings in Turin when we were there for WordCamp EU, and we thought it would be sort of a fun thing to try.

Chris: Except that one egregiously tall skyscraper that just looks like it was inexplicably plopped in the city from another place. That was the one building that I think was taller, but I remember just looking over at that the entire time we were there and I’m like, what’s the deal with that building?

Amber: Yeah, so these are cute.

I do think you can buy them on the internet. It’s not just a you have to go to Turin, Italy to get it, but I didn’t find many places where you could get it in the U. S. It seemed more like they’d ship around Europe. So all of our European listeners, we’re going to tell you how good this chocolate hazelnut liqueur is, and you can decide if you want to get it or not.

And I’m gonna, Ooh, it does smell chocolatey. I opened it. It smells chocolatey.

Chris: Yeah. I didn’t. I didn’t bring a shot glass. We busted out our WordCamp U. S. 2016 tumblers.

Amber: You can’t really see that.

Chris: Maybe when there’s some chocolate liqueur in it, but.

Steve: Yeah.

Amber: Oh my gosh, I’m pouring this in this glass. It looks like Hershey’s syrup.

Steve: Wait, how much, how much of this are you going to drink?

Chris: I think it’s like a shot. It’s like,

Steve: Oh, is it?

Amber: This is small. I should have had a shot glass, but this definitely is not really highball glass amount. Are you just going to drink it out of the bottle, Steve?

Steve: Well, I didn’t bring a shot glass or a glass, so it looks like I’m hitting it straight from the bottle.

Amber: But these, these are like single serving. They’re very cute because they look like the top of that building with a curved dome and a spire coming off the top. So kind of a, I might wash it out and set it on my shelf as a souvenir afterwards. But did you try it already, Chris?

Chris: Yeah, it’s like alcoholic Nutella.

That’s pretty much, it’s like Nutella with some alcohol burn. Um, it’s not like super sweet, but it’s definitely sweet ish. Um, not super bitter on the chocolate.

Steve: It’s thick.

Amber: It’s, it’s way thicker than I thought it would be. I’m sitting here being like, I feel like we should be mixing this with something else.

Steve: Yeah. Like vanilla ice cream.

Chris: Yeah.

Amber: Oh yeah. Like pouring it on top of vanilla ice cream or just like putting it in a milkshake.

Steve: Yeah. Yeah,

Amber: You could have a liqueur, chocolate hazelnut milkshake,

Steve: Or heck in a coffee.

Chris: Mm-Hmm, . Yeah, it’d be good in, it’d be good in with, with a, some espresso. Um, definitely not something I would drink on its own though.

But it’s

Amber: Yeah, we are trying it on its own.

Chris: You wanna mix this.

Amber: But how else could we try the flavor, right?

Steve: Yeah. It’s pretty strong. It tastes strong. How much alcohol, does it say how much is in?

Amber: Sixteen percent? No, that’s the vol, wait.

Steve: That can’t be


Amber: I don’t know. The whole label’s in Italian, so.

Steve: Oh, yeah?

Amber: Okay, so wait, no. It has

Chris: Yeah, it’s sixteen percent by volume. That’s gotta be what that is.

Amber: It has some sort of, it says bourbon. It also says rum. Rum. Rum.

Steve: Yeah, it’s pretty, it’s got a pretty alcoholy taste.

Chris: Yeah, it’s boozy. It’s like, it’s like chocolate and alcohol. You know, I will say like I might need to go back for one more sip to really gauge it, but I’m not, I’m not getting a whole lot of hazelnut and maybe I would taste it if the alcohol burn wasn’t so significant, but.

Steve: Yeah, it just tastes like chocolate. Is that what you?

Chris: Yeah.

Steve: Yeah. Yeah.

Amber: Yeah. You said chocolate Nutella and I don’t even think it tastes like Nutella because I don’t get the hazelnut either.

Steve: Yeah. Yeah.

Amber: Like a chocolate liqueur.

Steve: Yeah. That was an interesting thing about our trip to Italy was there’s like Nutella and hazelnuts and pistachios like everywhere.

Amber: Although, did you notice, did you have Nutella things when you were there? That their Nutella is better than ours?

Steve: Well, I had a dessert. It was like, uh, what are they, what do they call ice cream? Gelato?

Chris: Gelato, yeah.

Steve: And, and, uh, and it had hazelnuts on it. So like, I couldn’t really. I mean, it tasted great, but I couldn’t tell the quality of the Nutella.

Amber: Yeah, yeah, the hazelnuts, I had a gnocchi pasta, which is like a potato pasta, with a hazelnut cream sauce, which I was like, I never would have, I always think of hazelnuts as like something we put in desserts here, not like savory, but they used nuts, like in a lot of things.

Steve: Right.

Amber: And it was really good.

I, I do agree though. I think that this, uh, while I would put this on the thumbs up list, not really as a drink on its own, I think it needs to be thinned out with something else.

Steve: It’s pretty strong.

Amber: Yeah, or maybe if you’re making a martini or something you’d put this, like, a chocolate martini, like, this might be a good, like, chocolate part.

It’s not even for me that, that it’s too alcoholic, it’s just, it’s too rich.

Steve: It’s thick. Yeah, yeah.

Amber: Mm hmm.

Steve: Yeah. Yeah, I almost couldn’t get it out of the bottle. I almost had to, like, hold it way up here. Like, let it drip down.

Amber: Well, yeah, because

the bottle has, like, a,

Chris: like a, like a ketchup bottle, you’re, like, slapping the bottom to

Amber: But I mean, we’d all thumbs up it, right?

It’s pretty good.

Steve: It’s good.

Amber: Yeah. And it’s, uh, it’s chocolate from Italy. So, you know, kind of fun. So I thought that it would be good for us to talk a little bit about a follow up on one of the things that came up during contributor day at WordPress. Or WordPress WordCamp EU which was that we probably, we as a community of WordPress folks need to revisit the accessibility ready tag requirements for WordPress themes.

So, I thought that’s what we could talk about today. Um, what do you guys think? Down with that?

Steve: Let’s do it.

WordPress Accessibility Ready Tag Explained

Amber: Alright. Do either of you want to give an intro for maybe someone who’s not as familiar what the Accessibility Ready tag is?

Chris: So I’ll be happy to give that my best shot.

My understanding of the Accessibility Ready tag is it is A tag that you can apply to have or apply to have applied to your theme in the WordPress theme repo, but it requires an additional step of review and vetting in order to in order to receive that. And it it is something that is given or analyzed by a group of volunteers.

So it can sometimes take some time to get that tag added to your, to your theme. Just like anything related to WordPress, it’s done by amazing volunteers. And these standards have been around for a while. Uh, we’ll put a link over to what the current accessibility ready standards are, I’m sure in the show notes.

Um, but it’s Essentially a set of baseline requirements, though. I wouldn’t call them comprehensive but it’s a good baseline across keyboard navigation, controls, skip links forms, headings, use of ARIA content, links, response repetitive link texts, contrasts. And I think maybe a few things related to like media and images.

I’m probably forgetting something. Um, but.

Amber: So what came up during Contributor Day was we had a couple, we had four themes that had requested the Accessibility Ready tags. That was one of the projects that was worked on during Contributor Day. And Joe Dolson had told me that he originally, he’s the one who originally wrote these guidelines in 2011.

They were last updated in 2014. So they’re 10 years old now. And as we all know Accessibility guidelines have changed quite a bit since then. So, there was a conversation about whether or not these requirements Are sufficient and Rian Rietveld was there and I sort of said, you know, what a great job for you to do would be? Can you start a doc with some suggested edits and then we can talk about it as a community and, and sort of talk about what that looks like.

But I think a good place for us to start on this is do we think the current requirements do enough? Is, are those requirements a good starting point if you wanted to build a WordPress website and you wanted it to be accessible, would you trust this accessibility ready tag?

Should You Trust Accessibility Ready Themes?

Steve: Yeah. Um, I mean, I think the guidelines are probably a good starting point, but the guidelines that Joe outlined many years ago. but, uh, it’s, it doesn’t mean that meeting this defined guideline means it meets accessibility by other standards or by typical standards that are out there and but, uh, as far as a starting point, um, Like, you’re saying, would I prefer, or would I, uh, suggest an accessibility ready theme over one that’s, that doesn’t have it?

Amber: Yeah, I mean, a lot of people ask us that all the time.

They say, what theme should I start with, or what theme should I use? And I’ve sort of been defaulting, like, well, a safe assumption is to go choose an accessibility ready theme.

I mean, I do think they’ve had someone look at them. The biggest challenge probably on that is that someone’s only ever looked at it the first time they requested the tag.

Steve: Yeah. Yeah.

Amber: You know, and this is a thing that came up recently with plugins, right?

There’s, there’s no monitoring of every update in any way. And so just because something got the accessibility ready tag. In 2014 doesn’t mean that it’s still accessible 10 years later.

Chris: Yeah. Or even, or even two weeks later, to be frank, like someone could be doing things, not that I have seen evidence of this, right, but it is not, it is not hard to imagine that someone could do a bunch of things, quote, the right way to get this tag and then stop considering accessibility in an update two weeks later.

And, and break a bunch of this. And there would be little to no recourse unless there was actual monitoring happening. Um, so this I think this is maybe like one step better than just going to Envato and grabbing the first theme you see or whatever it is. Right. Um, at least this has had some level of oversight from a trusted resource.

And to be clear, you know, we can’t. We can’t blame these standards for maybe having inaccessible stuff on this on the accessibility reg ready tag list, which I think we found some examples of that.

Amber: Well, do you want to expand on that? We found examples of what this was in our. Pre show conversation.

So, do, do we want to dive into that?

Steve: Yeah, I mean, I think

Amber: What do you see, Steve, when you look at that?

Steve: I mean, I think to answer your question, like, like, it, it’s hard, it’s hard to say, It’s hard to, you’re asking do I trust the, the flag, right? Do I trust the flag, the whole process of vetting these themes if they’re accessible?

So, me as an accessibility professional, right, I think I have a little bit of pause there because I can immediately start auditing these themes, right? I can pull them up and immediately start auditing and immediately start finding issues like within seconds. And, and so I don’t, I’m not, I know this is open source.

I know these are volunteers, so I’m giving as much grace in that area as I can. But at the same time I would caution users to wholeheartedly embrace that tag. Right, the accessibility tag, because, uh.

Amber: Well, I mean, even, I think that’s a good point. Volunteers are volunteering to test. Um, at WordCamp EU, we had people testing in pairs, so they could talk about what they were seeing for each of the four themes that we looked at.

Not just one person testing by themselves, so there’s a second person also looking at it. Yeah. But a lot of times, Theme reviewers are not experienced testers. I mean, something that came up recently that I flagged was there was a theme that was submitted and reviewed very recently that all themes are required, not just accessibility related themes, all themes are required to have skip links in order to make it onto WordPress.

org. And it didn’t have them on the homepage, and I’m just thinking whoever reviewed this theme probably just didn’t know how to test that or know what to do. And I think, you know, there’s been some good effort put into explaining how to test on the accessibility ready tag. But if someone’s, Not that detailed, even with the few items that are listed here, they could still miss something.

Steve: I don’t know what that review process looks like internally. I don’t know if there’s a checklist that they go through, a list of things to audit. But, uh, I mean, we’ve, we also, didn’t we recently see one where there were no landmarks in the theme at all? Like it was just div, everything was a div.

Amber: But that wouldn’t pass an accessibility ready


Theoretically, if the tester was looking for it, because that is something that it requires that everything needs to be contained in a landmark, except the skip link is allowed to not be in a landmark.

Steve: So, uh, back to your initial question about, you know, you know, what am I finding? Like, I mean, I can do a quick audit and, and some of the The easy things that I’m seeing, like are, are possible headers.

So like in a lot, a lot of these themes and these, these are, I’m talking about the ones with the accessibility tag headers. You know, just paragraphs being enlarged to whatever size they want and, and they look like headers, but they’re not, um, so I’ve seen that in a lot. And a lot of times that happens with, uh, what do we call that?

Like a header, a preheader or a subtext sub would be low pretext. Like, uh, you know, how like in design. You have a header and then you like to have the smaller text above the header that, and really those should be all encompassed in the, the header and then styled with like a, a span tag or something, but that gets difficult with the block editor.

Amber: So, so this is something that’s interesting when I look at. You know, the actual requirements for headings in the Accessibility Ready tag. You can’t have more than one H1 on a page.

Steve: Right.

Amber: You have to have an H1. So there must be one and only one H1. You’re not supposed to have any skipped heading levels.

And then there’s just something that says, test whether all headings are the same. I have no idea what that means.,

Or that they’re

consistent, like an H2 looks like this on this page template and that page template.


what they’re not, what’s not listed here, and maybe this is something that could be amended, is what you’re saying, which is that Headings are tagged as headings and not just large paragraphs.

Steve: Right, right. Um. And in some of the things I was testing, like, I mean, we’re talking like 50, 60 points. Like, this is a paragraph tag that’s bumped up to 50, 60 points, and it’s styled exactly the same as the heading next to it. Another interesting thing I saw on one, I pulled one of, one of them up, I’m not gonna name names.

These are anonymous. But like.

Amber: You should. No. Here are themes you should not download, folks.

Steve: Yeah. Yeah.

Amber: I guess this isn’t our spicy episode. This is our sweet episode.

Steve: This

is our, this is our sweet liqueur. Chocolate, hazelnut, lacorda. So we’re being nice and sweet. Um, uh, I saw I it’s a, it’s a very dark theme and I saw like in the, in the footer, there were like, uh, you know, headings that were like gray, like the contrast was very off and I ran a test on it and it wasn’t flagging, uh, for color contrast and immediately my accessibility Spidey sense goes off and I go, they’re using alpha on that.

So like, so

Amber: What do you mean?

What’s that mean?

Steve: So it’s a heading and it’s got an RGB of, of say white, but with an alpha of 30%.

Amber: Oh, they’re changing the opacity of it.

Steve: Yeah. So now I can go to places and think that they’re doing that nefariously so that they pass accessibility scanners, right? Or it could just be, you know, it’s just easier to to write.

Amber: No

accessibility scanners catch the opacity stuff?

Steve: I don’t know. I’d have to check. But. The, I was using WAVE to do a quick in browser test and it didn’t flag a mess. And then I pulled it up. I pulled it up in the the web aim. org color contrast checker. So, so even when I inspect the page, You know, it comes up with a RGB alpha and I had this, I screenshotted the page so I can get the actual hex value of that.

And, uh, I ran it through there and it, for normal text, the font size was, it was, it was 18 points. So at first I’m like, okay, it’s 18 points. Maybe it’s, but it has to be like 18 points, something, right?

Amber: Slightly bigger?

Steve: Slightly bigger. It’s 14 points, which equates to. Uh, math, like 18 point something, but it has to be bold and it wasn’t, it wasn’t bold.

Amber: So that I think there’s also this question of whether, cause technically, right, 4. 5 to 1 and then you pass.

Steve: Yeah.

Amber: Like, is that really good enough, or would it be so much better to be like 6 to 1?

Steve: Yeah.

Amber: Or maybe we’re aiming for triple A, right?

Steve: Well, I mean, and really the only reason that flagged for me was because of a visual check.

My eyes went, that’s hard to read. And then that’s what led me to check it. So like, just a visual audit of the page led me to that. I didn’t look at the code. So I would expect not to see that in an accessibility ready theme.

Amber: Mm hmm. Well, I mean, it says that it, you shouldn’t fail color contrast on your default colors to get the accessibility ready tag.

Yeah, totally. So, so, so that’s an interesting thought because if what we’re saying is that you can’t you can find a bunch of examples of themes that already maybe don’t anymore pass accessibility ready checks or potentially. Maybe there was a part of them that was just missed during the initial audit.

Should we add more requirements to Accessibility Ready to that tag if we already have many that don’t meet them?

Should There be a WCAG Tag for Themes?

Steve: Maybe that’s a bigger question of should we be defining our own standards. Or should we adopt, uh, the WCAG standards that are already out there? I mean, in a recent episode, we talked about the, the USDOJ, uh, updating their guidelines for government agencies that they have to meet WCAG.

I’m now, I understand that these themes necessarily are not going to be, well, they might be, but they’re not specifically being used on government websites. But, um, you know, that law, that law was vague. I mean, what episode, that was episode, uh, 68. Um, that law was kind of vague in and of itself, right? It had no, you gotta abide by these, but you gotta make it accessible.

We’re okay. Well, what does that mean? Right? Like, so they’ve actually attached the actual WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines to it, right? Is it, is it not enough that we just do the same?

Amber: So I think that is a really, really great question. Should we have WCAG requirements? But before Chris or I answer that, we’re going to take a commercial and we’re going to be right back.

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Oh, we’re back!

Amber: All right. So Steve was chugging out of his chocolate before, or at least pretending to for anyone who, uh, missed that visual. Quite amusing. We got a nice little break there. So I, I’m curious. I’m going to let you go first, Chris. Should the accessibility ready tag be a. Full WCAG audit or, or perhaps answer B is there is a separate WCAG tag.

What do you think?

Chris: If it’s being done by volunteers and those volunteers are not being compensated for the significant amount of time that it takes to evaluate a WordPress theme for full conformance to those standards, um, I don’t know that that’s a good idea. Like it’s. It’s a lot of work to do that. Um, I mean, I know for us, it’s usually like for us to audit a full theme.

It’s usually several thousand dollars to do that work and to do it properly and to give the person receiving that evaluation, the proper, you know, guidance to understand how to fix the issues and what the issues actually mean, what criteria they’re related to. Right. Um, so I, I think that’s. That’s um, the first consideration is people being compensated for their time.

I would love to see, you know, a, a sponsored pair of reviewers that just full time do these audits. And maybe the people who want the tag are maybe expected to make some sort of donation, right, to continue to support that team and its work. Um, the, the other half of this. Uh, is that I think at the same time, Oh my God.

Steve: It’s just, it’s just people wanting audits of their, their theme to make sure it’s nice.

Amber: Someone heard that you wanted a sponsor to pay a team to audit themes and they are calling.

Steve: There

you go.

Amber: So, uh, yeah, hopefully that was you, people watching this.

Chris: Right. Uh, so, just to finish my thought, I think at the same time having that be the standard makes the most sense because I think anything less than that lures people into a false sense of security on what they’re actually getting with that tag.

Um, because Accessibility Ready, um, If you’re just reading it in plain English and you’re not, you know, hyper educated on accessibility, um, means that it’s accessibility ready. You got nothing to worry about. Just use this theme and you’re good. Uh, right.

Amber: So I, I tend to agree with you that expecting volunteers to do WCAG audits on themes, not realistic.

I know, like, I really think it would be important to have that for themes, but I’m not going to volunteer my time to do it. I think like a day, six, like just doing a homepage and the header and the footer and the content areas could be a day’s worth of work, right? Like six hours, maybe more depending on how bad it is and how much time you have to spend explaining how to fix issues to people.

Um, now that said, I do think it could be interesting to have some sort of paid badging system. And, and maybe this goes beyond accessibility and goes beyond themes. I mean, maybe, maybe it could be for plugins as well, where you could say, I want to have this higher tier and I’m willing to pay these people from the community who have been identified as the right people to, um, you know, audit my thing and say, this passes WCAG or this passes the highest level of security standards or whatever those things are.

items might be and then they get the badge. Now of course that isn’t super great for somebody who’s just putting out a free theme or a free plugin because if theirs doesn’t have that and they can’t afford to pay for that then they might not look as good in the repository and therefore might not get as many installs but at the same time Maybe those standards are helpful and it would be worthwhile.


Steve: Yeah.

The Themes Directory Needs a Disclaimer

Amber: You know, on that accessibility ready tag thing, this was a question I had for us to discuss, honestly, but maybe the answer here is that there should be a disclaimer. So if you look at that archive right now, you can just go to, you know, the theme directory and filter by accessibility ready. There isn’t anything that explains what that means.

Steve: Yeah.

Amber: You can find it if you dig through the. Handbook for the average person who’s just looking for themes. They have no way of understanding what is accessibility ready mean. So do you think we should just add a disclaimer to this?

Steve: I mean, that’s when I was doing some of my show prep for this. Um, and, and, you know, in all honesty, I don’t

find myself looking through the theme directory all that often, right? We do enterprise custom themes and we make plugins. So themes, uh, the, you know, the theme directory is not something I spend a lot of time in. Yeah, it has the tag in the URL, but then I’m like, okay, well, what does this like even clicking on individual ones?

I’m like, you know, well, it doesn’t say anything on the sidebar. Like it doesn’t even say that it’s tagged in that category, right?

Amber: Oh, wait, you can’t see tags for themes on the, no, features.

Steve: On the


Amber: No, in the main center. Well, actually, I wonder if the one I clicked on

Steve: Oh, yeah,

yeah, yeah,


Amber: Is that for everything or is that just the random one?

There’s a heading that says features and it has what I’m assuming are themes.

Steve: Well, well, that’s a UI test. Cause I couldn’t find it. Like maybe

I should.

Amber: I’m looking at a second one. Yeah. Yeah. No, yeah. They’re all there.

Steve: Yeah. But like, what does that mean? You know, it’s like, I think definitely communicating that better would be very helpful.

And like, what, what accessibility guidelines is, are these abiding by which ones, you know, they’ve required.

Adding an Evaluation Date for Accessibility Ready Themes

Chris: That would be cool. Like having a map out of like, we’re checking for these WCAG standards, but not these, right. Um, like a coverage. The other thing that I think would be cool is, you know, In the, in the theme directory, if they have that tag and let’s make the tags visible, that’d be nice.

Um, but secondary to that is having a evaluation date. So for instance, we have, you know, great WP last updated June 7th, 2024, but maybe it was last evaluated for accessibility. And, uh, I don’t know, I’m making this up right. April of 2022. I don’t know. Uh, but, uh, Like having that information, and then maybe like themes could have a, a periodic, you know, they have to like re up their tag.

Right. I think that would be interesting as well. Um, but that’s, that’s a, that would be a truly massive undertaking. Cause I don’t know how many. How many accessibility ready themes are there? Is it hundreds?

Steve: It’s, I think it’s only like a hundred and one.

Chris: It’s exactly, it’s just over a hundred. So having to do a hundred accessibility ready theme reviews per year, every two years would be, um, would be a lot.

Um, yeah.

Rian Rietveld’s Recommended Changes

Amber: Yeah. So, I linked in the show notes. For you all, and I’ll include it for everyone, Rian’s document about accessibility ready tag requirements and some of the thoughts she had about how they could be updated. I, I do think there’s an interesting question and we should maybe talk through this talk a little bit about some of the ideas she had.

Uh, but that was a thing that came up is should it be closer to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines? I mean, I certainly don’t know that these guarantee or even get someone necessarily close to having a website that would be ready for like European Accessibility Act or anything like that. Um, so, so one of the, oh, go ahead.

Steve: But there’s a lot that plays into that, too. You know, it’s like because the European, European Accessibility Act is actually going to require the back end to be accessible, too, right? So that’s a, that’s a big can of worms.

Amber: Yeah. Yeah.

Steve: Yeah.

Amber: So one thing that I thought was sort of a good point on this was she was talking about sort of one of the things she missed was a, how to test set up.

Like there’s not a lot of instructions and maybe this goes back to the, how do we even get volunteers to do this and know that the volunteers are not. missing things. So I had started working on building out, uh, a form that’s basically you would fill out as you were checking something that would then generate a standardized report that could be pasted into a Trac ticket.

The other thing that’s, that’s odd about these is sometimes the themes just have They request the tag and so they get the original audit at the time that the theme is even being approved to be in the directory. And so they have a Trac ticket for that. But other times somebody just comes and posts in Slack because their theme already has been approved for the directory and they’re like, can you do an accessibility ready review?

And there’s no ticket for tracking it. There’s no real process. Um, so I feel like that obviously needs to be streamlined.

Steve: So it’s just a, it’s just a thumbs up, thumbs down by somebody that’s approved to do so.

Amber: Yeah, so I mean, anyone can say, I’ll go check these. Typically, people on the accessibility team are the people who do it.

But, um, but yeah, then they get some sort of bulleted list of, here’s things that you need to adjust first. And, or maybe they get approved right away. Yeah. All the ones we looked at all had things they had to fix. Um, so, yeah. But I feel like having a standardized, this has been checked, And it passed or failed.

This has been checked and it passed or failed and notes for each item will be really helpful. So that’s something that I’ve been working on.

Chris: A standardized testing sequence and setup would have helped me immensely because I was at contributor day and I reviewed one of the themes in the list and then you know, with the information that I had available, right, and also having a decent understanding of accessibility and, and how to do some basic testing.

I am not like a, a trained. Or certified tester, right? And I had trouble, right? I had trouble being sure that I was really comprehensively testing for some of these requirements as someone who doesn’t do a lot of full scope testing. And I put together the list that I was reasonably confident.

And then thankfully Amber and Joe had the foresight to have people pair up. So someone came later after me and. Ran through what I had tested and they found a few more things that I didn’t find and I think you know having something That’s really tight and buttoned up and like step by step that Can’t, you know, that, that someone like me, right.

Who has an appreciation for accessibility, but not a high degree of skill could go through. And I think that would get things through this faster and maybe improve accuracy. Right. And as as, as objective as we can make the standards in terms of testing and not subjective, right. I think that would be a, that would be a really good step.

And I strongly agree.

Steve: Yeah. I think, I think some thoughts I had around this with. Was that, you know, with the limitations of volunteers, you know, reviewing these and the methodology around shifting left, right? If, if, uh, if a theme developer needs to make their theme accessible, right? They’re, they’re essentially like, I would hope if you’re going for the accessibility tag that you are trying to make sure it’s accessible before you apply for that tag, not just making whatever, and then, then applying for this tag.

Right. But maybe, maybe you could shift left a little bit more before it gets to that review and. Require the theme developer to provide, um, I don’t know.

Amber: Yes, so they could work through the thing that I’m building.

Steve: Yeah, yeah.

Amber: And provide

their own


Requiring an Accessibility ReadMe for Themes

Steve: Well, like, even, even, like, uh, An accessibility statement review, uh, readme file in the theme.

Amber: Hmm. That’s interesting.

Steve: Like

when they submit their, they’re basically submitting an accessibility statement of sorts that they, maybe we could create a tool to help them generate this or, you know, something like that, but it gets provided in, in a readme file inside the theme. That way they have essentially reviewed the theme themselves saying, I check this, this, and this, this is accessible.

Yeah. I need to work on A, B, and C, right? Just like we would make an accessibility statement for our websites.

Amber: Yeah, and they’re listing out. Maybe there’s a space where they list all the tools they use to check.

Steve: Yeah.

Amber: And so then when you’re looking at it, you’re not just going from a.

Steve: Just zero to nothing.

Yeah. That way you’ve shifted. The responsibility of the initial accessibility review on to the theme developer.

Amber: Another thing on that note, which is sort of an interesting thought of like trying to put, like make it easier for volunteers, is I’m assuming that the theme developers have demo sites, or something, when they were building it, right, in order for them to actually create their theme, but right now, you just download the zip of the, you download the zip, and then there’s XML files of data that could be imported in, which those also need to be updated.

To and you have to set up your own test environment, but potentially having something where the theme developer has to pre set up the test environment that could also speed up the review process.

Steve: Yeah.

Removing Accessibility Ready Recommendations Page

Amber: Yeah. You know something I thought was really interesting that Rian put on her documents, down towards the bottom, you can see she’s talking about changes to pages and things, and she is proposing removing the recommended page, because there is a accessibility ready requirements and accessibility ready recommendations.

But not required in order to get the tag and she said she proposes removing it because she says either We’re requiring something or we’re not. She said the recommended is WCAG 2. 2 AA And I think that’s kind of a good point because I bet you most people ignore the recommended things because they’re not being checked for in order to get a tag review.

So like, why bother even having a recommended page? We should either make things required or we should just not talk about them at all. What do you think about that?

Steve: Yeah. I mean, ideally, if it’s recommended, nobody’s gonna pay attention to it, right? Like, I, I mean, we will. But like, Most people

Amber: Well, but technically, like even if we were volunteering our time to do accessibility ready reviews, if it’s only on the recommended list and not on the required list, it wouldn’t be fair for us to be like, they can’t get the tag because they’re not doing the recommended things.

Steve: Right. So

Amber: So it, I think she’s right. It muddies the water, right?

Steve: Yeah. Does it even matter? Yeah.

Challenges with Changing Tags on WordPress.org

Amber: Yeah, so I, I, I think, I think that’s kind of interesting. So one of the things that I had talked to Joe Dolson about was, what happens if we do decide to adjust these? Like let’s say there’s a few guidelines that we think need to be added.

Technically, the way it works right now, anyone that had the accessibility ready tag. On wordpress. org, if we just change it, they’re still going to have accessibility ready tag. But if someone references the new guidelines, they might be under the impression they got tested for all those things, but perhaps they never did.

Like you were saying, Chris, maybe there needs to be a tested date or something.

Steve: Well, is there even a version? Like, is there even a versioning system for make?

Chris: I mean, you could convert their tag to a legacy accessibility ready tag, and then you could have a new one, right?

Amber: This is the thing that’s hard about that.

The themes team, or the WordPress community, cannot modify tags on themes. Just like they can’t on plugins. The only people who can do that are the developers of that theme. So let’s say we were gonna be like, now we have Accessibility Ready V1 and Accessibility Ready V2. In order for someone to even have Accessibility Ready V1 as a tag, They would have to update their theme and change the tag.

Steve: Yeah, you’re adding so much confusion to the end user. Like, it already doesn’t explain.

Amber: Well, and they’re not hierarchical. So that would cause an issue from a search perspective.

Steve: Well, you’re essentially defining your own accessibility standards at that point. You know, that’s why I’m like, let’s just go by the WCAG ones.

But I get what we’re all saying about the review time and stuff. But, and it would be extensive. Yeah.

Should We Lint for Accessibility on Update?

Amber: So this is a curve ball for you all, maybe because it’s not in our show notes, but I had an interesting conversation with Matt Mullenweg at the WordPress VIP event during WordCamp EU. And one of the things we talked about

is potentially doing more with linting and automated testing on update for themes and plugins. I think this is an idea that he then touched on a tiny bit as well during his summer update talk at WordCamp EU, talking about how they can get the plugin review queue. And, and his idea is perhaps no one reviews them.

They get put up there, but then somebody circles back and writes the first review. Or perhaps there’s things like we talked about this. We could do linting and it would add badges. So sort of like we have on our accessibility checker repo.

Steve: Yeah.

Amber: Where it says security passes. Uh, I don’t know, all the things it says, right?

Steve: Yeah, yeah, yeah, test it, testing percentage, yeah. And it passes all the linting and the WordPress coding standards and the security, PHP security standards. That’s all stuff that could be rolled into a system like that, but it’s a huge system.

Amber: So it would be really interesting to think about, should themes, Have something like that where it scans them as they have updates or they first get pushed to the repo and it just puts automated badges publicly on their

page? And, and yes, we know that you can’t definitively test all accessibility things. Many accessibility things require a human to look at them, but there are many that can maybe be tested with linting. Probably less than a scanner like Accessibility Checker can do because we actually render a page. But, but there are some things I think

Steve: Yeah.

Amber: That could be tested. And, and would that solve this problem? I mean, it’d be interesting because would it end up that like 99 percent of themes would have an accessibility fail?

Steve: Yeah. Yeah. Totally.

Amber: Badge. But I don’t know. Maybe that’s not a bad thing because maybe.

Steve: That’s, that’s what I, that, yeah, I mean, that’s what I go back to.

It’s like, if you have an accessibility tag for 101 themes, does that mean the rest of them aren’t?

Chris: Not necessarily.

Amber: Well, Yeah. Not necessarily, because you know, I just mean that they didn’t request the review. Right,

Steve: right, right. But, uh, I mean even, even the Accessibility Checker, right, which re, which now requires a, a rendered page and that, that, I mean, the Accessibility Checker in a sense could be integrated into that system.

It’s just utilized in an API, right? Like mm-Hmm. . But, uh. You know, but there’s a lot of architecture and cost that goes into like integrating, like, I don’t even want to know how many pushes get pushed to the, to the theme and, and plug in repos each day. It’s probably mind blowing,

Chris: I mean, if people are using proper version numbering, it may be, you limit the checks to only when you go from a 1.

0 to a 2. 0 to a 3. 0 versus.

Amber: No, if I was going to do it, I would do it on every update. Because you don’t know how people are doing their version numbers and the thing is is Any update could break something.

Steve: Well, Matt, Matt’s, Matt’s angle on that may have been a lot to do with security. Like, uh, because like, you know, once your plugins approved, you can, you’re kind of, you can kind of push whatever you want up now, you know, if you do something,

Amber: Themes too, right?

Steve: Yeah.

Themes too. I mean, you could, if you do something nefarious, it’s probably going to get. Caught at some point in time, but is that too late? You know, like I can push up a theme with, No sanitization on it or a plugin with no sanitization at all. I can actually, I mean, I’ve had plugins that have been approved with no sanitization.

You know, it’s like, so it’s like, you know, it, it, if, if something could at least check for low hanging fruit like that, I think that would be pretty huge.

Amber: Do you think that would be enough to replace the accessibility ready tag if we were able to come up with some sort of linting for themes or do you feel like there’s still a place for here’s some themes who have asked for like a separate manual review?

Steve: I don’t think that auto, I mean, I don’t know that there’s enough automation, uh, capabilities to be able to give somebody an accessibility tag without a human review. There’s too many, there’s too many things that, like, like just, we spoke about earlier, possible heading, a possible heading is not an accessibility failure.

It’s an, it’s an, and in our plugin, it’s a warning. I think in WCAG guidelines, it’s a, it’s a warning, right? Or I don’t know, they don’t call it a warning. Yeah.

Amber: WAVE

calls it alert.

Steve: An alert. Yeah. Yeah. Um, but like in my mind it should be fixed. Like I don’t, you know, like, but I have to, I have to evaluate it.

Like I had to look at the page. I had to view the source. I’m like, okay, well I’ve got an H two here and then I have text right next to it in a div or a span. That’s the same exact size and styling as that. Um, I’m like, that’s not right. You know, like now programmatically we could probably come up with some kind of algorithm to somewhat detect that simple issue, but I don’t know.

Amber: I think,

I think if there was linting, it would have to be on a very small number of things.

Steve: Yeah.

Amber: So then the question really is, is how much value does a human reviewed accessibility ready tag provide? Do we still need that? Or do we lint and tell people you just need to test your thing, which is, I, which was what we tell people anyway, except for we don’t clearly say it on the theme directory, which I think we should.

Steve: The problem with human is it’s human and not every human review is the same. The aforementioned things that we’ve seen slide through and they still get the accessibility tag is case in point, right?

Amber: Or they

still get approved, period. Yeah. Even though they’re, yeah.

Steve: So there’s a. There’s a lot of problems to overcome.

I think that accessibility tag in my opinion, as a whole, it muddies the water for me, it adds confusion because for one, I don’t think it’s accurate. Like, I don’t think all the sites that are getting through are actually accessibility ready. Like I, let me rephrase that. I’m not comfortable recommending to my clients to go to that tag and download any theme and use it without me thoroughly reviewing the theme that they would choose.

Amber: Yeah. So if, if that theme, if that tag is not trustworthy, maybe it shouldn’t even exist.

Steve: Maybe. I would like to see some effort put into all themes having some requirement to acknowledge their efforts towards accessibility. Like I said, like maybe it’s a readme file, maybe it’s some JSON file or something in the theme.

And that can be, you know, Automatically check to some degree, you know, I mean, I think it should be

Chris: I love the idea of automated automating, at least some checks, you know, and I think that shifts back that shifts the onus of, of fixing issues back onto the theme developer, um, and, and placing the burden of labor there versus on a tiny team of volunteers, propping up this giant system that’s running, you know, almost half the internet.

Steve: Yeah,

Chris: I think that is automation is the way to go to the extent that it is possible. But I think disclaimers will be incredibly important around any sort of like tagging or certification through those systems that it’s not comprehensive, um, but maybe still useful information. Right. I think particularly if it’s automated, it’s useful information.

And if it can be automated by release, like you, you both were talking about it, like, I think that could be, um, That could be a game changer in a lot of ways, particularly if we’re not just badging for people who do it well, but also displaying failures for people who don’t. I think that could really give a lot of organizations a much needed kick in the pants in terms of like trying to get things right, not just for accessibility, but for other quality indicators like security and performance.

And, um, there’s other opportunities, right.

Amber: Yeah, for sure. No, I think the automation stuff is definitely going to be the future of WordPress. He said it on a stage, so it’s


going to happen. It would just be, it would be neat to see what kind of accessibility checks can be rolled into that. Um, I do think there is probably a place for the accessibility ready tag, even if there are moments when we’re like, yeah, we don’t know if we fully trust it.

I think it’s something to reach for, and it definitely, definitively, themes that have it are probably better than themes that don’t.

Steve: Right.

Amber: So, I, I think there is still a place for that, but I, I would advocate for it, it’d be really neat if we could come up with some way to do some sort of accessibility, even if it’s a small things and have public badges on those, on themes and plugins.

Steve: Yep.

Amber: Well, I think. That’s been an interesting conversation. Obviously people should follow along in make WordPress Slack and on the accessibility team blog for the accessibility tag conversation and contribute there if they want to help on that. So. Hopefully we haven’t dissuaded too many people from looking at things with that tag.

Chris: I think, and that’s something I wanted to kind of close with too, is, as I hope that anyone on or adjacent to the accessibility team, I mean, there’s a couple of them on this podcast right now, right? Don’t feel like we’re insulting their work or anything like that. Like this is really just, I think, Issues that are inherent with the system that we have and that we’re working within and it’s not the fault of any one person or group of individuals on the accessibility team that things are the way they are, right?

I think that these volunteers like Joe Dolson, like Amber and Rian and many others who have touched this over the years are doing important and essential work. And this in no way should reflect poorly on that, right? Right, right. Just as the system has gotten bigger, all of this has gotten really unwieldly.

Um, and this is about evolving and getting better.

Steve: What a way to make it more sweet.

Amber: Yes, that, that was our sweet ending.

Steve: So this, since it’s not our, this is not a spicy episode, it’s a sweet episode.

Amber: We love everyone. All right. Well, I’m going to sign us off and we’ll be back in two weeks for another conversation on accessibility and craft beverages.

Chris: All right.

Steve: Cheers.

Chris: Thanks for listening to Accessibility Craft. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe in your podcast app to get notified when future episodes release. You can find Accessibility Craft on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. And if building accessibility awareness is important to you, please consider rating Accessibility Craft 5 stars on Apple Podcasts.

Accessibility Craft is produced by Equalize Digital and hosted by Amber Hinds, Chris Hinds, and Steve Jones. Steve Jones composed our theme music. Learn how we help make thousands of WordPress websites more accessible at equalizedigital.com.