One of the most enjoyable parts of this year’s State of the Word address at WordCamp U.S. this weekend, for me at least, was the attention shown to inclusive design. That part hasn’t gotten a lot of coverage, but I think it’s important to highlight it. First, I’ll share Matt’s words on the subject, (thanks a metric ton, captioners, you guys are seriously awesome), and then, I’ll share a few thoughts. First, the quote. I’ve added links to the posts Matt references.
One of the other fun projects that I started this year is actually a blog called Design.blog. Who’s been to this so far or checked it out? I highly recommend you check it out. There’s been over 40 different folks who have contributed different essays writing about design and inclusion sometimes with or without tech. This is, I think, one of the areas. You might have noticed that this year’s programming at WordCamp US had some more of the human side, in addition to just the technical as before. I think a lot of our opportunities to grow over the coming year are on the human side and understanding the humanity of an open source project, and working together, and creating the code that’s going to touch humanity, as well. I’m going to call out two particular essays that I think you y’all should check out. First is from Kat Holmes. Inclusive design is for those who want to make the great products for greatest number of people. Inclusive design puts people in the center at the very start of the process. Exclusion happens when we solve problems using our own biases. Per story is amazing. She works at Microsoft. I believe she’s the head of Inclusive Design there. And actually wrote a story about playgrounds and playground designer and she talked about the how playground designers they started recognizing exclusion in the process and there’s so much that we have to learn there, and so please read this essay, check it out. The other one that I want to highlight is from Hajj Flemings, and I believe Hajj is in the audience here. Did I pronounce that right? Close enough, object. Some quotes from there Detroit’s future requires connecting the worlds of design, technology, and innovation is to neighborhoods. 53% of call businesses in Detroit operate without a website. 81% of people research a business online before making a purchase. Actually John had an amazing story that made me sort of wake up to some of my own learns about in this area, which is when you talked about that — there’s a lot of these businesses that aren’t even on Google Maps and I realized that in my life, I don’t realize that I’ve ever tried to go somewhere that wasn’t on Google Maps, Apple Maps? Absolutely. But I feel like Google Maps has everything. There’s entire swaths and communities and businesses that are not there. So WordPress, bringing the tools to bring them online is literally like the Christmas trees lighting up. Making them discoverable, and hopefully leading to them flourishing those businesses in the future. Correct me if I’m wrong, but they’re about hundred small business websites. Hundred websites for businesses that don’t have them yet.
>> Yeah, that’s the start and then we’re turning 100%…
MATT: I’m going to repeat that, that’s the start, and then we’re turning the hundred 100% of that, that’s amazing. Can we give him a round of applause? The urban revival in Detroit is very, very interesting. It’s 84% African-American and as a community, represents some of the biggest opportunities and some of the biggest challenges that we have across cities all over the world, actually. Some of those ways of being more accessible, and every WordPress release has become much more accessible, thanks to the hard work of the accessibility team that I highlighted last year and just want to give a continuing kudos to this year because they’ve been looking at the WCAG standards for every single release and the link there for when you look at the slides later basically shows the accessibility coding standards so if you’re a plugin developer or any sort of developer, you can learn this and check it out, and see how you can make your code available to more people. It’s interesting when you think about it that an interface, or an application that works well for someone with one arm also works well for a mother holding a baby. It works well for someone checking Twitter with one hand while typing with the other. As you make things more accessible, you’re addressing wider and wider audiences and bringing in more and more people, far beyond what you might have imagined when targeting a particular improvement, or thinking about it from an accessibility point of view.
I’m very happy to see inclusive design, (and by extension accessibility), get such a huge chunk of the State of the Word. I think this is more than any previous year, and I see this as a win for the WordPress Accessibility Team, WordPress itself, and of course for Morten Rand-Hendricksen, who has publicly advocated for a concerted effort by the WordPress community as a whole to work on accessibility for at least the past four years.
Speaking for myself, I think that WordPress is better for going in the direction of inclusive (or universal) design, instead of just accessibility. It’s not that I don’t think accessibility is important. It is. And as a person with disabilities, accessibility isn’t just an academic matter, it’s personal. But inclusion as a whole, that thing where everybody “gets to dance”, as it were, is also very important to me, and I think that if we focus on inclusion rather than just accessibility, we have an opportunity to get more done.
So yeah, it’s not accessibility is the WordPress way, it’s inclusion is the WordPress way. This isn’t mission accomplished for accessibility. There’s still a lot more work to do on that front. But I’m pleasantly surprised at how much effort the WordPress community as a whole, and Matt in particular, is putting into making sure that accessibility is a huge part of inclusion. It’s not big things you can turn into publicity wins. It’s the little things. For instance, in previous years, the graphics used during the State of the Word weren’t described. This year, they were, all throughout the presentation. That’s a win for accessibility as well as inclusion. I’m still waiting on Matt’s first photo with alternative text attached, but withJohn Maeda cracking the whip, I don’t think that’s going to be very far off.