The accessibility team lead of WordPress has resigned. In her post, Rian Rietveld explains some of the problems the accessibility team encountered as they tried to make the Gutenberg editor experience more accessible. It sounds like there were a lot of factors at play, but these couple bullet points caught my eye:

  • The codebase of Gutenberg is difficult for all of us, because no one in the wpa11y team is a skilled React developer. So it was hard to implement changes and write PRs ourselves. What we could do is test, tell what’s wrong and what it should be and hope a developer would pick it up. A lot of a11y work has been done by the Gutenberg team but major issues still exist.
  • There was no React developer with accessibility experience in the community, and no React accessibility experts from outside the community willing to work on the issues for free.

The gist is React created a barrier for the accessibility team to effectively participate in the Gutenberg project. This mirrors my experience I’ve had with several clients. The organizations bit down hard on React, and in the process alienated designers and more “traditional” web designers (I don’t like the word “traditional”, but basically people used to writing HTML, CSS, and presentational JavaScript).

Now this isn’t a dig at React specifically; this is a phenomenon that can happen with any tool or technology. But I do think it’s important to discuss the approachability and “friendliness” factors of tools and technologies. In my view, the web is at its best when different perspectives, disciplines, and specialties are able to collaborate together and constructively participate on a software project together.

JavaScript is eating the world, and that has me just a bit worried. Designers and specialists of different stripes might not have the programming chops of a JavaScript engineer, but their perspectives are just as important to the success and health of a software product. I don’t like the idea of “you must be this tall to ride” when it comes to participating in software projects. I think it’s important to consider approachability when building tools and choosing technologies.