A Web Without Barriers
Over the last four years I'be been on a journey to learn more about accessibility and to share that knowledge and experience. I've been fortunate to have had some amazing mentors who have given their time (in exchange for the occasional beer and curry) to nudge me in the right direction and answer my queries. When we help each other and work together we can achieve so much more than when we stay marooned on our own islands.
Joomla aims to be a barrier free platform for creating and managing the most awesome websites on the web. I think we've done a pretty good job at achieving that ambition but one area that definitely needed an extra effort was accessibility - ensuring that no one is prevented from using Joomla.
The upcoming Joomla 4 release is without question the most accessible version of Joomla we have ever made. While nothing is ever perfect and there is always room for improvements Joomla 4 has gone a very long way towards ensuring that there are no barriers preventing someone from creating a website with Joomla.
Accessibility, however, does not just include creating the website it is also about ensuring that there are no barriers for the visitors of the website as well. Improvements have been made here but there is a lot more that can be done to help the site builder produce accessible content.
Together with template developers we can try to ensure that any content produced by Joomla is accessible. However there is only so much that Joomla can do - as the saying goes "Garbage In Garbage Out". While we can't stop you producing content that is not accessible we can give you the tools to make it easier for you to achieve. Just as a spellchecker will keep correcting your errors until you learn the correct spelling we can try to do the same with Joomla.
Just over a year ago I accepted an invitation to be part of the We4Authors project. This is a European Commission funded research project with participants from Drupal, Plone, Umbraco, TinyMCE, Sitevison and Funka. The aim of the project has been to work together to improve "accessibility by default" in all content management systems.
That project is coming to the end and we're close to publishing our findings and recommendations for ten areas that we should all work on to make it easier for site authors to create accessible content. One of those is to provide an accessibility checker in Joomla for testing the content.
There are many accessibility checkers available but almost all of them check the entire page - which the content author may not have the access to correct. They also talk in a very technical language with links to the often incomprehensible w3c documentation.
A content author needs a checker that will only check the part of the page that they authored so that the information in the report is not buried in a list of issues which they have no control over. It should speak a language that they will be able to understand and with recommendations that can be easily followed by anyone able to create content.
I have started work on this, and subject to workload, intend to have something to submit to core as a proof of concept by sometime in August so that it can be made available in Joomla 4.1. The concept is that in the admin there will be a new toolbar button present when you have created an article. This will load the article in a modal window exactly the same as the current preview button but with one big difference the modal will include the accessibility checker.
You can see the checker in action over at my test site where you can also see the many benefits and advantages to using the checker I have chosen to base this work on.
If anyone is interested in working with me on this then please get in contact. In next months magazine I hope to post an update on the work done to date and also to introduce some of the other recommendations from the We4Authors project.
P.S. Before joining the project I requested, and it was agreed, that my fee for being involved in the project would instead be a donation to the German Joomla community via JandBeyond Ev. They were the only legal body in the EU that could accept such considerable funds and while they are free to use the money as they wish to promote Joomla I hope that some of it will be used in the area of accessibility.