Teaching WordPress to 23 visually impaired content managers

The Oogvereniging (Eye association) has a WordPress WCAG 2.0 AA website that is maintained by more than 20 volunteers, all with different visual impairments. Teaching them in one afternoon how to use WordPress for adding and maintaining content was not an easy task.

Johan with sign language interpreterEach participant brought her/his own equipment, laptops, iPads with a keyboard attached and voice over, screen readers, braille displays, screen enlarging software, glasses with loops. Johan, who is deaf and almost blind brought two sign language interpreters.

Explain and check

It took a while to get them all installed, the people from the Oogvereniging helped everyone to get a proper WiFi connection.
Usually with a training, I have a projector screen with my laptop attached so everyone can see what is discussed. Now the participants had to find the screen in their own device what took a while sometimes, but also displayed the problems people had trying. So I first explained a function and did a round to check everyone was at the right place and if there where problems.

participantsOnly the basic functionally was discussed, a lot of time we spend on what content to add, accessibility, SEO, and the organization of the pages and the news.

The week before, WordPress released version 3.8 with a completly differend look and feel of the Admin. Immediately after the release there was a discussion about accessibility problems in 3.8.
I decided to install 3.8 for the Oogverenging, to see what would happen and if they could use it.

WordPress 3.8

My biggest concern was the mobile version of the Dashboard. Well it was no problem at all. People who could see the new layout, told me it was much better and they liked the choice in colour schemes.
The users of screen readers where inventive and could see thought not labeled input fields or unclear links or weird tab order. They grumble but solve it anyway.

Know your device

It’s the same for people using assistive technology as for people using their eyes and a mouse: Know your device. Some are even struggling with main functionality like where do I type the URL to get to a page. It’s astonishing to see how many iPad users use the Google search input field to get to a URL.

Especially iPad users without a keyboard get lost very fast. Like: if the keyboard is active, you can’t select anything on the screen with your finger.
Most screen reader users and users of screen enlarging software are very comfortable with their hard- and software, so they where easy to instruct.

And, seeing two young girls next to each other (both using a braille display and a screen reader), multitasking between WordPress, Twitter, E-mail and meanwhile in conversation with each other, asking questions and helping others, is so much fun.

The group with the most difficulties are people, who can just see enough not to use voice over, who are not used to there devices yet and struggling with the concept of what a website really is.

I think WordPress does very well for simple content management according to accessibility. Some people need more help than others, one afternoon is not enough. But we decided to start a forum for the group, to ask and answer questions and also to help each other.