Matt Mullenweg’s State of The Word, 2018

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Written By David Bisset

1 thought on “Matt Mullenweg’s State of The Word, 2018”

  1. Matt is correct that accessibility needs to be baked into every team. But in order for that to happen, the accessibility team cannot be expected to keep bailing the other teams out. Those teams need to learn accessibility deeply, before JS, before blocks, and they need to learn HTML and CSS deeply before JS and blocks as well. Learning these two foundational languages, as well as the basics of accessibility, (WCAG and how to look things up and what questions to ask), are absolutely crucial to baking accessibility in everywhere. What’s also crucial is that Matt put his full weight behind advocating for accessibility as a priority within the project, and yes, admitting mistakes. What would have gone a long way, for me at least, would have been Matt admitting during the state of the word that he did not realize the extent of the challenge of making a complex app like Gutenberg useable by everyone, and that as a result of this, resourcing an intensive task like that among his staff was something he did not know how to address, followed by at least a rough outline of an action plan to mitigate the issues. I’ll go ahead and note that admitting you didn’t realize the extent of the challenge is perfectly OK and there is no shame in that, because making an app as complex as Gutenberg useable by everyone, without compromising useability for anyone whenever possible, is indeed a challenge, and it calls for more than just trite statements like “don’t use custom UI elements”, “Accessibility is easy”, or any of the other talking points that get thrown around and are applicable to basic websites. Given Gutenberg’s development cycle, it also calls for not resourcing with volunteers. What also would have been very helpful would have been phase two being allocated to fix the accessibility problems already present, because fixing those and establishing an accessible framework upon which to build, combined with appropriate training among at least Matt’s allocated staff, is critical before Gutenberg can move forward as an accessible product. It’s one thing to patch ten year old PHP code to fix accessibility. JS is an entirely different ball of wax, React is yet another ball of wax, and Matt cannot expect that he’s going to find enough volunteers with the required expertise to fix what’s broken. JS experts who are also accessibility experts are already in very short supply across the industry, and it takes years to get to that point, not just “hey I picked up a React course and spent six months on it and now I’m an expert”. Expecting any of the maybe ten, definitely five, React experts who are also accessibility experts to give away what it took them years to attain for free is laughable, however much it aligns with the unwritten open source principle of free work that everyone gets to benefit from. Finally, it would be super helpful if Matt would quit trolling accessibility experts as well as accessibility team members, because believe it or not, we’re all trying to help him and save him a lot of pain. Granted, now that he’s in a situation where accessibility must be remediated, (since it wasn’t considered from the start of this process), there’s going to be a lot more pain involved. Yeah, there’s a reason we tell you to build in accessibility at the process level and culture level and design level from the ground up, before you even touch a line of code. Matt needs to be honest about all of this instead of continuing to wrap it in political talking points. He needs to be honest about where he and WordPress actually are, instead of claiming to be somewhere else, only for that claim to be provably false. I can’t speak for anyone else, but if I start seeing some honesty and straight talk with regard to all this, I will be the first person to go to bat for him, and I’ve gotten into more than my fair share of scraps with accessibility experts over WordPress. But there has to be honesty and transparency and the trolling has to stop.

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