Shoutout to all the automatticians currently slogging through the VIP Go outage, from the people on the front lines dealing with customers to the people behind the scenes in the proverbial basement who are usually never noticed until something goes wrong. Support and server maintenance are often thankless jobs, but without people like you this stuff doesn’t run. I don’t work with y’all, and I’m not a customer, but I see no reason why we can’t support each other from afar.
I’m helping a screen reader who has been recently introduced to WordPress configure their new site, and noticed that they were becoming frustrated with the clutter of their WordPress administration menu thanks to plugins arbitrarily adding things to their top-level menus and inserting their own top-level menus in between the out-of-the-box ones. I had them install Menu Humility by Mark Jaquith. Despite the plugin not being updated in over a year, it still works exactly as it is intended, and I install it on every new site I build and every site I rebuild. I’ve mentioned this plugin before on this site, but wanted to mention it again because I find it so useful in my quest to minimize the trashfire that can result when plugin and theme authors clutter the dashboard in order to fulfill their own hopes or desires for more downloads or upgrades with no regard for the users actually using WordPress. If you’re running the latest version of WordPress, (and you really should be), upon viewing the plugin in the plugins/add-new screen, you’ll get a notice that says “untested with your version of WordPress.” In this case, ignore that notice, because this still works, thanks to WordPress’s commitment to backwards compatibility. This isn’t so much an accessibility issue as it is a “get off my lawn, stop cluttering my dashboard with your crap, my dashboard isn’t your playground” kind of scenario. Menu Humility isn’t the only plugin that can help with dashboard clutter, but it’s the first step to making it a saner place which induces less rage. Go get it if you haven’t already.
Dear fellow developers: If you’re one of those developers who makes it impossible to press the tab key to move through a screen, hand in your dev creds now and put down your IDE until you learn to do better. I should not have to get help from a sighted person to add FTP users to a server. This is becoming a serious problem. Learn HTML damn it! Learn HTML as if I am going to find out where you live.
Dear accessibility practitioners, please don’t use @medium as your primary publishing platform. Syndicate there if you must, but Medium doesn’t support alt text for images, and has given no indication that it plans to. Its last comment on the subject of alt text was made several years ago and amounts to “Sorry not sorry”. So, avoid Medium as your primary publishing platform, and go with a website of your own that you can control instead. Then, syndicate to Medium.
Demand letters are the single most ineffective tool for creating meaningful improvements with regard to web accessibility, and are the quickest way to torpido the cultural and policy changes which allow technical fixes to be anything more than temporary, surface-level progress. Demand letters serve only to turn accessibility advocates into ambulance chasers. This is a hill I will absolutely die on and anyone who disagrees with me is more than welcome to bring it on.
Everybody is swooning over Google’s upcoming automated captions, except zero of the people who actually need them. I have to wondere how it is that as an industry we manage to convince ourselves that we’ve collaborated with people with disabilities on all this amazing new accessibility tech that helps us avoid the obvious solution: Do it right in the first place. I’m sure there were messages across email lists, or surveys, or whatever, with asks for testers, ETC. But the deaf community has been saying for years that automated captions aren’t an optimal solution, and it seems arrogant to me at worst and well-meaningly naive at best that all that advice about automated captions would be ignored for the sake of Google’s business goals. We know what accessibility advancements look like, because people with disabilities have been telling us what they need, for years. Maybe one day as an industry we’ll actually start listening. I’m not holding my breath for the foreseeable future though.
screenshot of my just-updated iPhone 5S, general/accessibility/VoiceOver/Web screen, with the accessibility events feature not yet toggled to the off position

Apple is now apparently saying that its Accessibility Events feature, (you know, the one that “may reveal whether an assistive technology is active on your iPhone”), is not enabled by default. Like hell it’s not enabled by default. It sure was enabled when I installed the iOS 12.2 update last weekend on my iPhone 8+). I specifically went in to general/accessibility/VoiceOver to check, and had to turn the feature off. This note includes a screenshot of my just-updated iPhone 5S, and as sure as the sun is shining, the accessibility events feature was turned on. I have a severe allergy to BS, and Apple doesn’t get to bypass the BSometer just because it has a history of caring a lot about accessibility. Websites should be designed and developed from the beginning with accessibility in mind. The guidelines are already out there and have been out there and freely available, complete with extensive documentation so that they can be understood, for over twenty years. There’s a metric ton of freely available information from the accessibility community of practice on every aspect of those guidelines, all over the internet, for basically as long as the guidelines themselves have existed. Assistive technology tracking has been covered already by this community of practice, and we’re probably all tired of it. For Apple to lie about something as simple as whether the feature is on by default indicates at least some corporate squeamishness around implementing it in the first place, and the best thing they could do at this point is to remove it.

Current status: Making some edits to my CSS to fix some color issues and link underlines thanks to some extremely helpful and detailed feedback from a reader. I will also submit these changes to the relevant theme repos on GitHub. Feels great to improve
If you’re waiting to add accessibility to your projects until your clients ask and pay for it, please rethink your strategy. Accessibility is not a feature. It is not a nice to have. It’s harder to do when you bolt it on after the fact instead of building it in at the start, and the only thing you’re doing with this approach is creating more work for yourself, more hardship for your clients, and a shitty experience for people with disabilities. Please do not do this. Add as much aas you can by stealth if you have to. If your client asks you for some functionality, build the accessibility in without their permission if necessary. If the eclient balks at accessibility, (this does happen), walk away. I’m telling you to do that because I’ve done it myself. I promise you that if they’re balking at accessibility there’s a pretty safe bet they’ll balk at other best practices too, and then blame you when things go south because best practice corners were cut.
In yet another attempt to become the “One Browser to Rule Them All,” Google is adding the ability to Chrome for screen reader users to ask for automated alt text for images. “Oh hey, since we’re not allowed to explicitly track screen reader usage, let’s just set up a honeypot to get screen reader users to just hand the information over.” I can’t wait to have to once again make a choice between privacy and accessibility. My life-long dream has always been to live in a database controlled by Google simply because I’m a screen reader user. I can see it now. Some company like Aira would absolutely love to get their hands on that kind of advertising data, and Google will gleefully hand it to them for the right price. Dear fellow developers, screw you for abandoning alt text like yesterday’s leftover fast food.
I’m glad to see popular voices in the web space reflecting on how the web is seriously broken as a whole with regard to accessibility, but then there’s a part of me that’s screaming “Hey, accessibility advocates have been screaming at the top of our lungs about this for decades.” Not only have we rewarded the wrong things on the web, (aesthetics over everything else and at the expense of everything else, for example), but I think in a lot of ways we’ve rewarded the wrong voices. So many times it’s the not-so-popular voices who have been telling us what we really should be hearing, and because we think it’s too hard or not enough of a priority, (see internationalization and localization, or security, or accessibility, or translation), we put it off until we have something like the recent WebAIM survey of how abysmal the state of accessibility with regard to websites is to publicly shame us into doing the right thing. Maybe one day we’ll learn.
Dear fellow screen reader users. If you’re tempted to declare something accessible because you can use it, please keep this in mind before you make said declaration. “Works with my favorite screen reader” or “works with all screen readers” or “works with a particular screen reader as long as you use object navigation or route your Jaws cursor to your PC cursor” are not measurrable accessibility indicators. Accessibility is not just about screen reader users. Accessibility is about all people with disabilities. And the gold standard, inclusive design, is about everyone, including people with disabilities.
Happy thirtieth birthday World Wide Web. You may be held together by peanut butter and goblins, but you’ve provided so much joy and prosperity for all of us who have careers thanks to you. I promise to promote your health through the standards that make you great and enjoyable for everyone on this earth, and to encourage everyone who builds things on your foundation to do the same.
Good morning, happy Monday, and happy semi-annual manual time offset setting change day to everyone in the WordPress community.
The American Foundation for the Blind is using the scenario of the lone, overworked, harried accessibility expert as a marketing prop for its own accessibility consulting service at this year’s AFB Leadership conference, and I have some thoughts. This is maybe a half a level above selling an overlay as a silver bullet for every accessibility problem on the planet, and unless you’ve been living under a rock or are an overlay vendor, you’re probably aware that overlays as a solution are at the absolute bottom of the totem pole. Any company which tasks a single individual with all of the responsibility for accessibility is guaranteed to fail at accessibility, and anyone who’s been in this field for any length of time knows this. To use someone who is guaranteed to constantly be fighting an uphill battle, only to not succede in the end, as a marketing prop for your own accessibility consulting, like you’re the white knight who will come in and save the day, is disgusting, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say you should stay as far away from accessibility consulting as possible. There’s not an accessibility firm worth its salt that would stoop to the level of using someone who is guaranteed to be unable to complete the task they have been given as a ploy to market their own services. Those accessibility teams of one are some of the hardest working, least appreciated people in this field, and when I’ve been in that situation, actual accessibility professionals have given me a hand up, not used me as a selling point in a marketing campaign. Using overworked accessibility teams of one as a sales pitch dehumanizes those accessibility teams and devalues all of their hard work, as well as the work of everyone else toiling in this field.
I’m in the process of giving the Customer Servant Consultancy website a fresh coat of paint. I’m planning to replace the current front page with a static front page and then link to the various content kinds in the navigation menu. I’ll also be rebuilding and updating the portfolio and testimonials and contact pages. I’m choosing a theme that still supports all the indieweb goodness while looking pretty different from my personal site. I’ll need to spend some time in the customizer making sure the color scheme has good color contrast, just in case it doesn’t currently.
Dear M-Enabling Summit: seriously, why do accessibility pros have to keep passive-aggressively adding alt text to your images for you? It’s not like this is new or anything. This is, after all, 2019 and not 1995. It’s not even new by Twitter standards, and there are a metric ton of guides out there, some of them even written by accessibility pros, to show you how to use the feature. How is this not in the instructions you provide to your social media manager, assuming you have one? If you don’t, not adding it is even worse. If you can’t manage to do something as simple as adding alt text to your images, why on earth should anyone trust you to create a conference that provides valuable, accurate accessibility information?
ARIA is a lot like swearing. Used properly it adds a whole range of expression to your web things. Too much turns your web things into word salad.
I should be able to charge extra for editing content on any site with Visual Composer involved. That plugin is the bane of my existence, and the sooner it completely disappears, the better. It is absolutely possible to edit VC content by hand. This is also absolutely not a skillset I should have to maintain. We have standards for a reason. It is very time-consuming and tedious, along with probably being traumatizing, for anyone to have to learn the non-standard idiosyncracies of this kind of generated markup. Friends don’t let friends use this plugin. Enemies probably shouldn’t let enemies use it either.
I spent some time today putting a system in place to track the unbillable time I spend on contributions to free software, and when I say contribution I’m being pretty liberal about what counts as contribution: Advocacy, not just code, for example. I believe in the mission of free software, but the fact is free software isn’t without cost, and sometimes that cost can get pretty high. I’m also working out how to document my contributions in my portfolio, including the free accessibility advocacy that I do. This is going to take a little more work and some more research, but I feel it needs to be done. I need to be able to keep track of this stuff so I can limit it when necessary. Right now I’m thinking of setting the limit at ten percent of free time outside of shabbat and festivals, because those are times when no work of any kind is done, as a general rule. I’m not going to get into the exceptions around festivals because it’s a lengthy topic, but to say no work of any kind can be done on festivals would be technically inaccurate. I think ten percent is a reasonable amount of time. It’s not a ton, but it places an upper limit on the time I have available to do this kind of work. I will also document the time spent, although I haven’t decided whether I will publish a weekly or monthly or yearly report. This is going to be an interesting project.