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Drupal: Accessible CMS - WCAG 2.0 and ATAG 2.0 Compliant

So, I'm a Drupal fanboy. Naturally. But there's been some amazing work recently by the Drupal Accessibility Team that I wanted to highlight.

Accessible CMS: Drupal!

According to Drupal's Statement on Accessibility:

This initiative started with advancements with Drupal 7 accessibility. We have committed to ensuring that all features of Drupal core conform with the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) guidelines: WCAG 2.0 and ATAG 2.0. Where possible we will also update the previous version of Drupal core, version 6, to enhance its accessibility.

That's a pretty bold statement. Perhaps even more exciting is the Drupal Accessibility Pledge where the maintainers of the thousands and thousands of contributed modules and themes agree that they are willing to work to fix problems if those problems are brought to their attention.

But who can bring the problems to their attention?

CMS Accessibility Team: Groups.drupal.org

Drupal has a large team of accessibility professionals who coordinate their efforts on groups.drupal.org and in irc and other community methods. This group of 374 individuals has been working since 2006 to make Drupal core and it's modules/themes more accessible. The group has over forum threads and hundreds of comments discussing ideas on how to achieve this. It's truly amazing work.

As one of the folks who helps make groups.drupal.org function I'm always inspired when people point to that site as the home of their team.

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Comments

It is all obviously far more

It is all obviously far more complicated than this, the community needs to decide which level of WCAG 2.0 conformance it desires, certain user interface patches may need to be committed without accessibility to keep the ball rolling while core systems, (e.g. the forms API and the fields API, which may need accessibility work themselves) evolve.

This was a bolder statement the first time I heard it

Everett Zufelt said it a year and a half ago, when he outlined a road map to making sure that Drupal 7 would be more accessible than Drupal 6.

Everett was right about the complications, but the user-interface patches he was referring to have largely been implemented, and the groundwork is being laid for addressing the APIs. And all of that progress is due to the efforts Greg mentioned above.

Thanks!

Thanks @greggles for your post. It's been a struggle over the last two years and we're very happy to see all of the changes that we've helped bring into D7. There are a great many folks who have contributed to this and none of it would have been possible if the core maintainers weren't supportive of it. We're already looking to D8 & several of us are keen to find ways to further improve the dev version of Drupal over the next 2 years.

One of the great things about this is that over the next year thousands of sites will become more accessibile, simply by upgrading to Drupal 7. Regardless of whether or not the web developer or client is aware of it, many users will have a better browsing experience.

We definitely use GDO & are very happy that it is there. It's been invaluable for us to discuss things outside of the issue queue from time to time. Looking forward to when it's upgraded to D7 too.

Now @msavage posted a comment I should respond to. There certainly have been goals that have been generally agreed to for a base level of accessibility for core. It would be great if we could boldly claim that Drupal 7 core code is all WCAG 2.0 AA compliant but we can't, we're close but there is still more to do. I don't foresee a time when any CMS will be able to realize AAA compliance across the board. Heck, any of any real complexity will have difficulty being fully AAA compliant.

However, I don't see any reason not to continue to work to extend Drupal to be more accessible to even more users & developers.

It is complicated. But it's simple, too.

Greg, thanks for being among the first — if not the first — blogger to trumpet the huge advances in accessibility that we have made in Drupal 7. And, as usual, when I say "we" in this context, I mean mostly "people far more talented than I am," which also means, for the most part, "not me."

Why is it so complicated? Not so much because there are issues to sort out. It's complicated because changes in technology make achieving accessibility a never-ending project. One fairly recent example is the iPad. The introduction of the touch-screen interface has forced everyone to rethink what it takes to make their content accessible. Approaches that worked for all earlier (widely adopted) devices suddenly didn't work for a significant chunk of anyone's audience.

So what makes it simple? Simply this: A group of us who care deeply about Drupal are committed to helping any developer who wants that help to make their theme, module, or code for core accessible. Sometimes our help might be limited to notifying them of a problem and describing results that would be accessible. Still, when you're lost in a maze, having someone to give you direction is helpful. And, by taking the D7Ax Pledge, a growing body of people who develop contributed themes or modules is joining us in pursuing that goal.

Mike pointed out that it's hard for a site to achieve Level AAA conformance. I'd go beyond that — Level AAA conformance across the board might well be impossible. The problem is that changes that make your content accessible to one group of people can sometimes make it inaccessible to other people. So our goal is not to claim the most "A"s we can. Our goal has two parts:

  • To ensure that anyone who wants to use Drupal to create a website will encounter no barriers because, for example, we didn't think that someone who can't use a mouse might want to load an image to their website.
  • To ensure that, as much as possible, Drupal helps them to create a website that itself is accessible — for example, by prompting them to consider whether the image they just loaded needs a caption, alternate text, a long description, any two of those, or even all three.

The first part gives us greater conformance with WCAG 2.0. It's also the first half of conformance with ATAG 2.0 — the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines.
The second part is the rest of conformance with ATAG 2.0. Most of us don't realize it yet, but we have actually been working on Drupal's conformance with ATAG 2.0 for quite a while.
Other CMS communities are also working on accessibility, but I have not run across one yet that has done as much as the Drupal community has achieved. And I certainly have not found one whose accessibility statement reflects the depth of commitment made in the Drupal Accessibility Statement.
If you have done anything to help make Drupal or any of its components more accessible, you deserve to be proud of yourself. You are indeed part of a large, important, and, indeed, successful movement.
Shout it from the (virtual) rooftops: For accessibility, the CMS to choose is Drupal!

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