Meet the Joomla Accessibility Team
In the series Meet the team, this month we have an interview with the Joomla Accessibility Team. Accessibility is one of the highlighted features of Joomla 4, and the team is still working on updating and improving Joomla and its properties in the accessibility area.
What is the team’s main goal?
Our main goal is to make all the Joomla Properties, the CMS, Framework and Portal, compliant with the WCAG 2.1 AA standard, a set of rules that make sure all aspects of a website or platform is Accessible for people with disabilities.
Beyond that, we will mobilize and work with extension and template providers to make all parts of the Joomla ecosystem accessible. By providing the CMS and Framework as a fully accessible foundation, as well as providing tools and information for the standards and processes, we hope to make Joomla, as a whole, a beacon for accessibility in the world.
What is your place in Joomla’s ecosphere?
We are part of the Production department and we want to be partners for other departments to create their content and services with accessibility in mind so that every person can enjoy a full Joomla experience.
What roles do you have within the team?
- Accessibility Advisor, performs tests, answers questions of developers,
- Accessibility Developer finds and fixes a11y issues in code
- Accessibility Provides Documentation and Tutorials- a s the name says
Team members: introduce yourself please :)
Crystal Dionysopoulos: Hi there! I’ve been part of the Joomla community since 2014, but I am fairly new to the accessibility team (officially joined in May 2022). I am a front end developer and accessibility advocate, so I help by reviewing or testing code and ensuring it is compliant with WCAG as well as user-friendly. I currently live in Athens, Greece, with my husband, daughter, and two cats.
Christiane Maier-Stadtherr: Hi, I am one of the first members in this team and joined 2017, when the requirement for accessibility in Joomla was defined. I started in the role of developer, contributing to Joomla during backend development and frontend development. Since 2021 I am sharing the role of Team Lead with Viviana Menzel.
Carlos Cámara: Hola! I’m a web developer in love with Joomla. I think technology helps us to build a better world. I also love creating content for humans without thinking about keywords. I have written several articles about accessibility for the magazine and whenever possible I help testing accessibility issues at Github. I have been around JAT since 2017 (right after JandBeyond) learning and I started contributing at a more serious level since the beginning of 2020.
Stefan Wajda: I've been with Joomla since the beginning, and even before that - since Mambo. I have both the honor and the privilege of assembling a team of several people in 2017 who have built the foundations of JAT and helped to make Joomla 4 very accessible. Thank you to: Armen Mnatsian, Justyna Michallek, Christiane Maier-Stadtherr, Rey Selby, Wojtek Smoliński, Yair Lahav all those who joined later on.
Viviana Menzel: Hi! I started working with Joomla back in 2006. In 2014 I joined my first community event, the J and Beyond in Königstein. Since then I've been involved in community work, mostly in the German community where I co-organize the JoomlaDay since 2019. I’m also part of other teams, like Events and CMS Maintenance. Since 2021 I am sharing the role of Team Lead with Christiane.
How often do you have meetings, and how do they take place?
We have few official meetings. We chat in our channel and share information when needed.
What tools do you use to work together?
We use the chatroom on RingCentral and GitHub, also share Google Docs when needed. We also use Google Docs, Google Sheets and Doodle, but at least Doodle is not accessible at all and a barrier where we need better solutions.
How did the team develop over the last year(s)?
Christiane and Stefan: The group was initiated before JandBeyond 2017 in Krakow, the first team members who are still on board were Stefan and Justyna.The first team meeting took place in July 2017. The first members started working on defining accessibility requirements for different interface elements of Joomla 4. Slowly new members joined, but as usual in a community of volunteers, there was some fluctuation in the team.
At the moment, we have active members and a supportive environment and are working with new elan.
Carlos: The team was in a dormant state and in 2020 we started meeting again and we set some goals that we could meet as a team. Some of our members are not accessibility experts, but people who want to make a better web for everyone. In any case the two-head leadership we have right now is providing good results and the team is starting to reach a steady pace to provide even better results in the future.
Can you name one thing in accessibility where Joomla is strong?
Crystal: One of the most powerful things about Joomla (in my opinion) is the way that templates and content are managed totally separately. Because of this, one can develop an accessible and semantic layout for a component (or module, or custom field, etc.), and the site manager can add content to it without accidentally removing the accessibility features of the template.
I also love the new JooA11y checker, which lets content creators see for themselves where they may have forgotten to add a description to an image (for example) or other common accessibility mistakes.
Stefan: In my opinion, Joomla! is the best equipped to create accessible websites among all popular content management systems (CMS). It is the result of the efforts of many volunteers. JAT's inspiration and suggestions have received fantastic support from Joomla project leaders and code developers from the beginning, most notably Brian Teeman, but also George Wilson, Dimitris Grammatikogiannis and others.
The basic template has all the essential features for accessibility: structure, color scheme (thanks to Elisa Foltyn and the template team), effective keyboard navigation and template customisation tools (thanks to Brian Teeman), accessible templates for all views (thanks to the entire development team).
Only Joomla has a fully accessible multi-level drop-down menu out of the box. Only Joomla has an in-box accessibility validator for content created by authors (JooA11y checker, thanks to Brian Teeman). Joomla's back-end can be easily operated by people with various disabilities.
Can you name one thing in accessibility that you would really like to be included in the Joomla core?
Christiane: A checker for accessibility of Joomla extensions. Not realistic, I know!
Stefan: I dream of a library of accessible design patterns to developers (from simple, native e.g. buttons, to complex non-native, e.g. tabs, carousels, sliders). I would also like to see the verification system for extensions placed on the JED extended to include a basic accessibility validator (e.g. aXe). For example, Google does not allow apps that do not pass basic accessibility tests to be placed on GooglePlay. Possible in Google, so also possible in Joomla.
What difficulties do you face, and how do you (plan to) overcome them?
Accessibility is yet a new topic to most web developers, and it’s hard to find people with enough knowledge or experience to test the new developments.
Christiane: More and more web designers use page builders and template frameworks for their sites. They often provide code which is not accessible. We need to evangelize and promote a11y web standards and point out issues.
Viviana: We need more experts to check the code and good documentation to help developers to write accessible code for Joomla. Some weeks ago we (Christiane, me, Phil Walton, Benjamin Trenkle, Mike Brandner and Shivam Raput) met in Darmstadt, Germany for a documentation sprint and started to create a new structure with Docusaurus (manual.joomla.org). We hope to have here basic information about accessibility as well code examples for best practices.
Do you need extra volunteers, and if so, in what capacities?
Christiane: Yes, we need volunteers. Volunteers who not only are interested in accessibility but who can actively contribute for example with testing, writing documentation, fixing bugs in code. This means either some knowledge in the field of accessibility or the wish to learn more.
Carlos: It will be great to count with volunteers with some experience using screen readers and who can test other aspects of accessibility.