Accessibility in Gutenberg is not a one-more feature

Joe Dolson, one of the WordPress Accessibility team reps posted a letter on make/accessibility this afternoon that really struck a chord with me. In detail, the letter outlines the Accessibility team's perceived shortcomings of Gutenberg. the new block editor set to ship in a few weeks with WordPress 5.0.

In reading the letter, I was struck by a key theme that Joe so eloquently expresses: making something technically accessible doesn't automatically make it a good experience for the users it serves to assist.

He went on to detail several issues, but the one that really stuck out to me had to do with using keyboard navigation to access a block's settings to change the font size of some selected text (emphasis his):

1. Press Ctrl + ` four times to locate the block settings.

2. Press tab five times to reach the font size selector. Discover the usage of the non-standard selector dropdown (normal selector: arrow key down to desired value, press enter to select, tab through rest of document. This selector: Enter  to expand dropdown, tab key to choose desired value, Enter to select that value, esc key twice to exit selector.)

3. Press tab six times to locate skip link back to selected block.

4. Press Enter  to activate the selected block.

5. Press tab thirteen times to reach the editable text of the block.

The above navigation scheme required 34 separate keyboard stops in order to change the font size of the selected text and return to the previous position, and is aided in efficiency by the tester’s prior knowledge of how to navigate the process. (Tested in Chrome and in Firefox using NVDA.)

We want to be clear that the above example is not comparable to the options available in the classic editor – there is no mechanism for increasing the font size of a paragraph in the existing editor.

Joe Dolson, Report on the Accessibility Status of Gutenberg

Even with the final concession that there is no comparable feature for changing the font size of a paragraph in the classic editor, I'm not sure this is considered an improvement. Maybe for users who don't have to do it with a keyboard? Yikes.

As a core developer, I'll admit that I've been relatively silent on Gutenberg and the 5.0 release until now.

I don't hate Gutenberg. In fact, the idea of Gutenberg is awesome, even inspiring. This post was written using Gutenberg. It represents the opportunity for a giant leap forward for content authoring in WordPress, and frankly I don't think anybody really disagrees with that assertion when it's just an idea.

When Gutenberg becomes more than an idea, however, when it's real and out there in world, that means something to a lot of people who look to WordPress to set the example. It sends a powerful message to 32% of the web: "this is the new standard."

Please let's not make the "new standard" be that we're willing to ship technically accessible but perhaps not entirely usable-for-all features; let's not define it as one that sacrifices standards core to the WordPress experience in the name of perceived expediency; let's not define it as the new default authoring experience for all users when not all users can use it well.

The WordPress philosophy states deadlines are not arbitrary. That's fair, that's something we live by. Core standards are not arbitrary either, and accessibility is a not a one-more feature.

Gutenberg first impressions … written in Gutenberg

Hmm. A "storytelling" angle. Is all new content written in Gutenberg considered a "story"?

* What about magic formatting, perhaps as a bulleted list?
Nope, apparently not.

It's kind of interesting how every time I hit enter, I effectively create a new block, whereas I guess experience suggests it should just be another paragraph in the same block. Maybe shift+enter will prevent that?

Nope. Hmm, OK.

I do kind of like how backspacing out of a thought effectively deletes the block and moves you back to the previous one. That seems intuitive. Having to double click on icons for previous blocks because they aren't currently the ones with focus isn't.

OK, so I've clicked out of the blocks and now there's a bunch of stuff in the sidebar. I get it, it's very much an indicator of "distraction free writing" but the transition is kind of jarring. Flash on, flash off.

Wonder what the difference is between naturally typing a new "paragraph", thereby getting a new block, and clicking this + symbol does?

Oh, apparently text is the default. Maybe the gear icon for each block that currently does nothing gives options to change the block type? Bug probably.
Oh, so it seems like you actually can hit enter inside a block and remain in there, but it only works sometimes and you can't space the text more than a single break apart without triggering a new block.

Somebody mentioned in another post that the drop cap doesn't seem to work.
I got it to work once (somehow) but now can't. Definitely a little buggy.

Anyhoo, part II will cover non-text blocks and part III sidebar settings that flash on flash off.

OK, actually, I'm just going to inject one quick thing here … if what are effectively post settings only show when you select out of a block, maybe the button that toggles the sidebar (that holds block settings when a block is focused, and post settings the rest of the time) should say Block Settings when a block is focused.

I was on WP Round Table today.

I’ve been a longtime viewer of WP Round Table, so it was pretty neat to be asked to join Kyle Maurer today.

Check it out: