Pranav Lal is an award-winning author whose short stories combine science and romance. He needed a website for his publications that would be as accessible as possible to everyone regardless of ability, as well as being responsive, and that would allow him to easily add new works once they are ready for sale while using a screen reader.
The Fiction of Praanav Lal has gone through several redesigns until we found a combination of theme and plugins that would allow Pranav to control his site and take ownership of his content, while ensuring that his visitors, regardless of ability, would be able to enjoy his stories and learn where to purchase them.
Author Pro with accessibility inside
During the last redesign, I chose the Author Pro child theme for the Genesis Framework, along with the Author Pro plugin, since the two are meant for each other, and so that Pranav could easily add all of his books and have them displayed. During the latest redesign, I was very, very pleased to find that StudioPress, the makers of the Author Pro child theme, had gone back to update it to make it accessibility-ready. I always make it a point to check up on what StudioPress and the rest of the Genesis community are doing with regard to accessibility, and when I saw that Author Pro was listed under accessibility-ready themes, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. So I asked Andrea Rennick, a long-time member of the WordPress and Genesis communities, if I was reading the results of the accessibility-ready filter on the StudioPress website correctly. Andrea answers support tickets for customers of Rainmaker Digital, (the parent company of StudioPress), so I knew she’d be able to answer my question.
Andrea confirmed that the Author Pro child theme had indeed been updated to be accessibility-ready. I was very pleasantly surprised, delighted, and proud.
Child themes that are distributed, (if the developers are following WordPress best practices), are not casually updated. They’re updated if there’s a bug, or they’re updated of something they rely on in the parent theme is depricated, (discontinued or retired), but best practice is to not update them for new functionality or markup changes, because that could possibly break tons of sites. Adding accessibility support to Genesis child themes changes the markup significantly, as well as requiring some style sheet changes, so there’s the possibility that updating a child theme could break sites, depending on what customizations are going on down the line, and depending on whether or not those customizations were made according to WordPress theming best practice. No one can say definitively that best practice is always being folowed, and so updating a child theme is a potential risk. People tend to get mad when their sites break, after all.
The fact that StudioPress, the flagship of the Genesis community, has gone back and updated a previously-released child theme to include accessibility is significant. It’s significant because the Genesis framework is number one theme in use outside of the default themes that come with WordPress, and because by choosing to update a previously-released child theme to include accessibility, they’ve taken a risk. To put this in perspective, when StudioPress started releasing child themes that contained HTML 5 markup, they released them as separate child themes from their predecessors: Modern Portfolio Pro is separate from Modern Portfolio, which uses HTML 4 markup, for example. Utility Pro, the first premium Genesis child theme to include accessibility, was updated to use HTML 5 markup with accessibility baked in. Rainmaker Digital is a very data-driven company. But they can’t gather data to determine the number of people with disabilities they’re benefiting by adopting accessibility. They, and the rest of the Genesis community which is rapidly following suit, have to take this on what amounts to faith, and they have to contend with the possibility, however slight, that they could lose revenue while also expending resources for the sake of accessibility. That right there is commitment to accessibility.
I don’t know who’s decision it was to update the Author Pro child theme to make it accessibility-ready. I don’t know who did the work. But whoever you, or both, or all of you are, thank you. Because of you, I was able to provide my client with a more accessible website.