WordPress and JAWS

I’m not shy about admitting my deep appreciation for WordPress. I’ve been using it exclusively to blog with since March 2004. And I’ve been a member of WordPress.com since it was in beta! I think it’s quite possible I was the only blind person that frequented the support forums back then and it’s likely I still am, but there are a lot more people using WP these days so I won’t swear to that.

WordPress has evolved a lot over the years. We all might call it a blogging software, but it’s far more aptly a content management system (CMS). Entire websites are powered with it and don’t utilize the features that are inherent to its original core and that’s all fine and well. This isn’t a post about how WordPress is evolved or can be used.

No, it’s a post about how it’s changed in the sense of accessibility. The first issue I ever had with accessibility related to WP was actually at the support forums, which are run on a sister software called bbPress. It’s a very bare-bones message board software and back then it had even fewer features than it sports out of the box now. The feature that broke my ability to use the forums a bit was the addition of tags, which were initially placed in a cloud right above the topic threads. This meant that JAWS very happily read the ENTIRE wall of text before it found the forum topics. I made a cranky complaint about it on my blog and Matt personally responded with a quick edit that allowed me to jump passed the tags and to the content.

As WP has expanded and become more sophisticated other things have cropped up that have taken some adjustment. The admin panel was a bit of a mess for me in a few versions when they WYSIWYG was added — and it remains to this day one of the least accessible parts of the software, though it’s not impossible to navigate and it can be turned off.

Screenshot of comment form with JAWS forms mode showing two edit comment fields

Well, no, I take that back. The comment form is now the most inaccessible because of the simple fact that it affects a far greater number of blind people. And in a completely backwards logic kind of way, it doesn’t seem to be a problem in Internet Explorer! But in every other — arguably better — browser I tried out, my screen reader picked up two separate “edit comment” fields. One is the actual field that the message would go in, the other I have no idea but it seems inconsistent as to which is the REAL field on any given page. This isn’t an issue for any WP install using standard comments, but it does affect every single blog hosted on WordPress.com and any self-hosted blog running the Jetpack plugin comments feature. That’s still a lot of blogs, people! (Add in the people using IntenseDebate or Disqus to power their comments and the mind boggles at the sheer bulk of inaccessibility, but those two are a separate thing unto themselves.)

What saddens me is not that the issue exists. Sighted people don’t routinely run a screen reader through its paces to make sure websites work for blind people and expecting otherwise is to be continually disappointed. No, it’s the fact that this is an issue that dates back to at least last October when it was first brought to my attention by a participant in the ADBC I hosted. (Well, possibly three participants but each of them had different issues and one was able to comment without a problem eventually.) I couldn’t recreate the problem myself because for some reason in Firefox when I was logged in it worked fine and I was testing it logged out in IE where the form apparently works perfectly. I did update JAWS recently and it made all manner of wacky things go wrong with my computer, so that in itself might have been the cause, though it’s not exclusive to me obviously. I’m truly baffled and mildly amused that IE is the only browser that isn’t effected.

Kvetching aside. I’ve emailed Automattic, the company behind WP.com and Jetpack, about this issue and I’m sure they’ll get back to me in a timely fashion as they always do on Support matters. And at the end of the day, people can comment, they just have to play a bit to figure it out. Which I know is hardly a solution but it’s also not the end of the world. (FWIW, here at Gentle Wit, there’s always the option to email me and that form works just fine so far as I’m aware!)

I am pretty bummed about it, though. I’m upset at the sheer magnitude of this issue and how long it’s gone unnoticed. And it’s unfortunately timed given the imminent Blogger interface change.

Anyway, I will most certainly keep you all informed as I hear things on this.

April 15, 2011

Yesterday’s SWAG meeting went quite well. I actually wrote some stuff. I even won a word sprint, much to my own surprise. It was nice to take a break from academic writing. I feel like I’ve been neglecting that creativity outlet for too long.

As for Uschi, she was relatively fine. There was a bit of nervousness around the cats, but nothing major and at least some of it could be considered her wanting to play. For the most part the cats and Uschi mutually ignored each other. We did have Uschi go up close to Risu while she was lying on the sofa and all was calm.And other than a quick moment when Risu jumped down off the window seat by my chair and Uschi made a small lunge to chase her, it was a non-event.

As for me, I think I have cold. I’m a bit stuffed up and my head has been funky all day. It’s not a migraine — at least not yet — so I guess there’s a blessing in that. So, I spent the day at home not really doing much of anything. I read some, I tried to get my computer to cooperate with burning an audiobook I borrowed from Alice (and didn’t succeed), and I horsed around with the dog. I did catch this announcement when catching up on my blog reads, which caused some alarm. Security is always an issue with the Inernet, no matter how tight it is there’s always some jerk at a computer working to muck things up. Alas.

New Design

All these pretty photos from the Tulip Festival just begged to be included in a site design. So come venture out of your RSS aggregators, etc. and check it out! Currently playing around with “Twenty Ten,” which will be the new default design with WordPress 3.0. It’s quite snazzy, I must say.

April 26, 2010

So, I found out a few tidbits about the “Surprise Me” feature here at WP.com thanks to a post at United Tech Guys. Seems that checking that “this post is super-awesome” provides an encouraging animation of sorts when the post is published. I think AdAware is blocking this for me, though, as I’ve not seen it so far. But I’ll have to tweak my settings to determine if that’s the culprit. (I’m not posting from my computer presently and am not sure if this particular browser will display it either. [EDIT: It didn’t.]) I’d already found the “humanize” tab in Stats that’s mentioned in the linked post, but as yet am still clueless as to what surprising thing should happen when posting comments or doing other things around the site. Anyway, all of that is neither here nor there.

Currently I’m dealing with a bunch of things. For one, Yara’s just ending her antibiotic treatment for her ear infection. And then last night she had a rather messy EPI relapse. At least I’m assuming it is EPI-related. I spent a good hour cleaning up after her, since she managed to drag her mess through most of my bedroom, the front hall and the bathroom. In the end she had an emergency bath — and I think I’ve mentioned that my tub is not well-equipped for dog baths — and I ended up throwing away her bed and throw blankets because they were just disgusting with sick. Literally it soaked right through both the throw and her bed, which has three separate linings plus filling, straight to the floor underneath.

So, rather than get myself a new external hard drive for my birthday, I’ll be buying a bed for Yara. Oh, well.

There are some other sort of depressing things going on that I don’t feel are really worth mentioning, but I will say the mood at work seems to be in sync with my personal gloom at the moment.

Hunh.

Ok, I admit it, I’m mostly posting this because of the curiosity of testing out this new feature. (It put up a check box in the post screen that says: “This post is super-awesome.”) [EDIT: I still don’t get what the new feature does…]

Anyway, Yara and I are both suffering. She with her ear and the associated treatment for the infection. And I can’t breathe. I believe the culprit for this remains allergies of hellish proportion. I can’t decide which of us is more miserable.

A funny and unrelated thing happened last night, though. Ages ago Sarah had told me that she believed Fay had picked up a strange habit from Yara. See, Yara often will put her paw on you to get you to pet or play with her. She also likes to put her paw on me as a sign of possession, I think. Probably why she stands on me constantly. Anyway, she does this with other dogs sometimes too and Fay has taken this to another level by, apparently, smacking other dogs when she wants them to play with her. I find this hysterical. Until last night when Yara basically smacked me in the face with her paw while we were playing. And she gave me this look like I’d made her do it or something.

I texted Sarah with the news, to which she replied: “Haha.” My friends are so sympathetic, no?