Girls can’t code and my English sucks

Last week I had the exact same conversation four times. With four different WordPress developers. All women.

The topic: I want to publish code, discuss issues that matter, ask questions to core developers, blog, make some noise, contribute, but I’m to afraid to do that. It reminded me of myself.

What is the matter with us women? Why the self inflicted self pity and lack of confidence?

“I am not good enough, I don’t know enough, what if they think I’m stupid, my English really sucks.”

Do only female WordPress programmers think that way? Or are women and men with talent and knowledge all over the world hiding themselves, because they think they aren’t good enough? Sobbing under their desks, anxiously staring at the world, hiding from critisim and ridicule. What a waste of talent and possibilities!

So what are we afraid of, why sell we ourselves short?

Every contribution, blog post, piece of code you publish is valuable. Criticism is part of the job, learn from it, don’t hide, embrace it, it helps you getting better! Nobody makes fun of you when you want to contribute and do you best. You are most welcome!

Do you really think all the guys, that make so much noise, always write perfect code and never make mistakes? Hell no, just like you they work and learn, make mistakes, write bugs and try to improve themselves.

Exactly the same as you…

So girl: pull yourself together, put your teeth into it, jump in at the deep end. Study hard and publish what you found useful. Respect is not earned by sitting silently in a corner.

Show what you can do and be proud of yourself, and don’t be afraid to make a mistake. We are all human, boys and girls alike.

Fix the accessibility of your Genesis responsive menu

The Genesis Framework is my favorite tool to build a WordPress website. And with the next update (version 2.2) a lot of accessibility features and fixes will be added. But a framework is no child theme.
The HTML5 themes you can purchase with StudioPress have a beautiful responsive menu for the primary navigation. And that menu is completely inaccessible for keyboard and screen reader users.

What’s wrong?

The HTML code to show the responsive menu is:

 <div class="responsive-menu-icon"></div>

A div is not focusable, if you tab though a page the menu is skipped and you have no way to open it, only by using a mouse. And also the div is an empty container, with no content.

What needs to be changed?

  1. Change the <div> to a <button>, a button is focusable and clickable
  2. Add some text inside the  <button></button> to tell a screen reader user what the button is about. You can make this visibly hidden by using the screen-reader-text class
  3. Tell a screen reader user if the menu is open or closed by adding dynamically aria-expanded=”false” or aria-expanded=”true”

How can you do that?

The Genesis child themes use js/responsive-menu.js (GitHub) to show the responsive menu.
Change this JavaScript into for example:

jQuery(function( $ ){

 $(".nav-primary .genesis-nav-menu").addClass("responsive-menu").before('<button class="responsive-menu-icon" aria-expanded="false"><span class="screen-reader-text">Menu</span></button>');

 $(".responsive-menu-icon").click(function(){
 var _this = $( this );
 _this.attr( 'aria-expanded', _this.attr( 'aria-expanded' ) === 'false' ? 'true' : 'false' );
 $(this).next("header .genesis-nav-menu, .nav-primary .genesis-nav-menu").slideToggle();
 });

 $(window).resize(function(){
 if(window.innerWidth > 768) {
 $("header .genesis-nav-menu, .nav-primary .genesis-nav-menu, nav .sub-menu").removeAttr("style");
 $(".responsive-menu > .menu-item").removeClass("menu-open");
 }
 });

 $(".responsive-menu > .menu-item").click(function(event){
 if (event.target !== this)
 return;
 $(this).find(".sub-menu:first").slideToggle(function() {
 $(this).parent().toggleClass("menu-open");
 });
 });

});

See an other accessible example of an Accessible Genesis responsive-menu.js at GitHub. With the visual text “Menu” (I hate hamburgers) and a leading heading.

You have to add the screen-reader-text class and maybe change the CSS .responsive-menu-icon to style the button so it fits your theme.

So: by changing a few lines of JavaScript and adding a few lines of CSS you turn your responsive menu into a perfectly accessible awesome responsive menu.

Discussion

Yes, this is a quick and dirty fix. There’s now untranslatable hardcoded text in the JavaScript, this could be done way better and cleaner. But you’ve got the picture of what needs to be changed. If you are a JavaScript pro: all help is welcome :-)

The screen-reader-text class, why and how?

Imagine you are blind, how do you understand a website? You would use a screen reader. All the text in a website is read out loud for you, from top to bottom. To navigate a site you can call a link list and a headings list.

The headings list you can use to navigate inside the page. Jump to a heading of interest and read from there. With the link list you can choose where to go next. There are more ways to navigate a site, but links and headings are most commonly used by screen reader users.

How can you decide where to go, when a lot of the links in a page are called “Read more”. Read more about what?

So, if you are a web developer, how can you help your blind visitor to understand your website? First of all: use headings that make sense. And second: use link texts that tell where they are linking to. And here the screen reader text comes in: it hides text from screen, but not from a screen reader.

For example links with the text “Read more”, “Continue reading” or a plain “>” or a font awesome icon. Looks neat and small and is incomprehensible for your blind visitor. But writing the whole post title in the read more link is long and ugly.

How to fix the “Read more” link?

Say you have the HTML:

<a href="url-here">Read more</a>

You can change this into:

<a href="url-here">Read more<span class="screen-reader-text"> about cute kittens</span></a>

For WordPress for example:

<a href="<?php the_permalink(); ?>">Read more<span class="screen-reader-text"> about <?php the_title();?></span></a>

And then you add the CSS in your stylesheet:

/* Text meant only for screen readers. */
.screen-reader-text {
	clip: rect(1px, 1px, 1px, 1px);
	position: absolute !important;
	height: 1px;
	width: 1px;
	overflow: hidden;
}

The element with the class screen-reader-text is made very small with clip, which needs the position absolute. Not visible for the eye, but read out load by a screen reader.

Don’t use display: none; or visibility: hidden. Screen readers don’t speak those, so that’s no use in this case.

Font awesome and other icons

How about your social media icons:

<i class="fa fa-twitter"></i>

It’s just an empty container and the <i> has a semantic meaning: text in an “alternate voice”.

Better use:

<span class="fa fa-twitter"><span class="screen-reader-text">Twitter</span></span>

By the way: You can help changing this inaccessible way of implementing Font Awesome by joining the discussion in the Font Awesome GitHub.

Labels in forms

A form input field needs a label. It’s just good practice and it tells a screen reader user what to fill out. A placeholder is no label, screen readers don’t read them well. But a label takes up space and maybe you don’t want that in your theme. So hide it with screen-reader-text.
For example in the WordPress search form:

<form role=”search” method=”get” class=”search-form” action=”url-here”>
<label for=”search-id” class=”screen-reader-text” >Search this website…</label>
<input name=”search” type=”text” value=”” placeholder=”Search this website…” id=”search-id”>
<input type=”submit”  value=”Search”>
</form>

Hiding links

As a service to screen reader users and keyboard only users you can add skip links at the top of a page. That way a visitor can quickly jump to e.g. the content, without having to tab though the navigation.

They look something like this:

<ul class="skip-link">
 <li><a href="#nav" class="screen-reader-text">Jump to main navigation</a></li>
 <li><a href="#content" class="screen-reader-text">Jump to content</a></li>
 <li><a href="#footer" class="screen-reader-text">Jump to footer</a></li>
</ul>

Some JavaScript is necessary to make skip links work properly.

If a visitor can see, it’s nice if the skip links are visible when they come in focus while tabbing though the links. So you can add the CSS to do that:

.screen-reader-text:focus {
	clip: auto !important;
	display: block;
	height: auto;
	width: auto;
	z-index: 100000; /* Above WP toolbar. */
}

The screen reader text in more detail

Clip versus absolute positioning


.screen-reader-text {
    position: absolute !important;
    left: -999em;
}

This technique is pretty solid and works in all browsers however there are two main issues with this technique – its relatively easy to break, and it can cause a page “jump” if applied to focusable elements (like skip links and read more links), which can be very confusing to sighted keyboard users. [Reference:  Jeff Burnz and Jonathan Snook]

Different ways of doing it

Gary Jones collected a few different ways of hiding text with clip. And there are more variations. Pick the one that suits your theme or adjust it to your needs.

What about:

clip: rect(1px, 1px, 1px, 1px);

versus

clip: rect(0, 0, 0, 0);

I couldn’t find a specific reason to use 0 or 1px, they both seem valid.

Back and forward compatibility

Clip is deprecated in CSS3, but supported by most browsers, it’s replaced by clip-path. Internet Explorer below version 8 doesn’t want a comma as separator and up to version 11 it doesn’t support clip-path yet, so you end up with:

clip: rect(1px 1px 1px 1px); /* IE6, IE7 */
clip: rect(1px, 1px, 1px, 1px);
clip-path: polygon(0px 0px, 0px 0px,0px 0px, 0px 0px);

The other way around: hide from a screen reader

The other way around is also possible. If you have an element that’s not relevant for screen reader users, you can hide it by adding aria-hidden=”true“.
This is used for example in the WordPress Admin for hiding a separator in the main menu.

<li class="wp-not-current-submenu wp-menu-separator" aria-hidden="true">
   <div class="separator"></div>
</li>

ARIA roles (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) are instructions for screen readers you can add to your HTML.

WordPress and the screen-reader-text

The name of the class is up to you, but “screen-reader-text” is the standard name for WordPress, and is used by WordPress core in the Admin and the front end and in the bundled themes like Twenty Fifteen. As from version 4.2 this class is WordPress generated CSS, so it’s important that you add it to your theme before updating to WordPress 4.2.

The screen-reader-text wil be used for the get_search_form, the comments_popup_link, the archives and categories dropdown widgets and will be used in more cases in future releases.

If you are a WordPress developer and want more controle over this, please support Gary Jones by commenting on his ticket add_theme_support( ‘screen-reader-text’ ).

Plugin

And if you can’t add the screen-reader-text class yourself to a WordPress theme: there’s a plugin for that.

Read more screen reader text: I knew you would check

  1. Hiding content for accessibility by Jonathan Snook
  2. CSS in Action: Invisible Content Just for Screen Reader Users on WebAIM
  3. Hiding text for screen readers with WordPress Core by Joe Dolson
  4. Clip Your Hidden Content For Better Accessibility by Thierry Koblentz
  5. Understanding the CSS Clip Property by Hugo Giraudel
  6. Using CSS clip as an Accessible Method of Hiding Content in Drupal, by Jeff Burnz
  7. WordPress plugin “.screen-reader-text” theme support by Jaime Martinez

Photo Read More tattoo: Cory Doctorow.

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the WordPress Community

WordPress and Accessibility. It has always been a difficult discussion. The developers wrote code, without knowing what’s important for someone that doesn’t see a website like they do. And the WordPress Accessibility team could not find the time or voice to help them fix the problems. So we asked members of the WordPress community for help, and they answered!

Continue reading How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the WordPress Community

Storytelling in HTML: practical accessibility

For my work I build sites for blind people. They use a braille line and screen reader to read and navigate a website. During the development of those websites I learned that blind people read a web page differently than I do.

Blind web users read a page linearly and depend on headings and links to navigate.

This changed the way I build site dramatically, I changed from visual coding to story telling coding. Continue reading Storytelling in HTML: practical accessibility

Working on web accessibility at WordCamp San Francisco 2014

WordCamp San Fransisco 2014 (WCSF14), the place to be if you’re seriously into WordPress. Visiting San Francisco with the accessibility contributors team was a week I won’t forget. It was intense, fun, I spoke a zillion people and learned a lot. Continue reading Working on web accessibility at WordCamp San Francisco 2014

Jet lag and double Dutch at WCSF14

For me WordCamps are all about meeting, learning, talking and discussing. Last week I was so lucky to be able to visit WordCamp San Francisco 2014 (WCSF14) with the accessibility contributors team.

After the conference there was a discussion day about several topics to improve WordPress and two days of working with different contributor teams to make new plans and work together. This last three days were held at Automattic, which was kind of special.

Graham Armfield will blog about what we did as a team and what our plans are, and I blogged about WCSF14 itself, but here’s what I learned personally.

Continue reading Jet lag and double Dutch at WCSF14