Why accessibility was a big deal at WordCamp Europe 2015
Last week I took a trip to Seville in Spain for my first WordCamp Europe.
WordCamps are informal, friendly environments for WordPress users and fanatics to share ideas, to learn, and to network. This year alone there’ll be over 60 across the world (find one near you).
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. But now, I can’t wait for the next one. In 2016, WordCamp Europe will be held in Vienna. And if you’re at all interested in WordPress, I really can’t recommend it enough.
Cerveza y tapas
We arrived on Thursday at Aeroporta Sevilla to a gorgeous warm evening. Over the next five days, a tapas restaurant in the courtyard next to our hotel became our go-to eating establishment. “Uno cerveza, por favor” or, “one ice-cold beer, please” became our go-to phrase in the hot 40°C sun.
The conference kicked off on Friday morning and was crammed with interesting talks – from how to work effectively with hosting companies, to creating a great writing experience in WordPress, to an overview of European web law.
Rian Rietveld’s talk on accessibility was one that really stuck with me. It was a reminder to us all that our websites – including our content – shouldn’t just be about looking and sounding beautiful. And this was a sentiment echoed by a number of other speakers.
We have to remember when making websites that some of us are colour blind, have trouble hearing, can’t see, or don’t speak fluent English.
Making your website accessible
At present, most WordPress websites are targeted to those of us who have perfect site and vision, have used computers from the age of five, and speak English.
This needs to change.
Right now there is plenty you can do – even with limited resources. Here are 6 solutions I took away from WordCamp:
1. Check your website makes sense when read out by a screen reader
Does it sound logical? Or is it difficult to understand, boring and repetitive? Provide extra written information (picture descriptions for example), but keep it useful and interesting.
2. Label fields and buttons
This means labelling all input fields in forms, and writing the word “menu” next to menus. Even a few extra words can go a long way toward making your site more accessible.
3. Check all content and functionality is available without a mouse
Not everyone uses a mouse, so test if you can reach every part of your site using just a keyboard. And don’t bury parts of your site where they’re difficult to get to.
4. Consider translating your site
Do loads of your readers come from Spain, for example? How about hiring someone to translate your copy into Spanish as a first step.
5. Develop your site for all devices
We don’t all use a desktop, and some people don’t have access to one. Your site should be accessible on desktop, mobile and tablet devices.
6. Use text colours that are visible to everyone
For someone with colour blindness, it can be impossible to make out red or green links on black text. So use different colours, or even bold text and underline to highlight links.
A welcoming WordPress community
A real sense of community resonated throughout the weekend. On day two, there were more talks, and “tribes” got together to brainstorm and chat with others in the same specialties. Later, hundreds of us gathered by the river for an amazing after party that went on until the early hours.
While many digital copywriters can write a bit of code and often have an eye for layout, copywriting still sits a little outside the traditional WordPress community. It’s no secret our jobs are very different from those of developers and designers.
But I’ve always believed it’s important we work closely together. I’m a firm believer in getting to know people in the WordPress community with roles different to my own. Even a quick chat helps everyone involved gain another perspective. And it helps us approach projects in a way that’s well rounded from the start. Accessibility is just one area where copywriters, designers and developers should be joining forces.
Because of this, there’ll always be a need to meet, learn and show others what we can do to help them out. In the end, we’re all working toward similar goals, and each one of us has something valuable to share.
For me, that’ll probably always be words on a screen. But WordCamp was – and will continue to be – invaluable in continually remoulding my approach to copywriting.
Need words? Get in touch!