After an amazing seven-month long effort across multiple contributor teams at WordPress, the Twenty Twenty-Two (also known as TT2) default theme will be tagged as “Accessibility-Ready” when WordPress 6.1 ships this coming November. It is the first block theme to meet the requirements for gaining this wonderful distinction for accessibility. During its development the theme was also tested and found to meet WCAG AA level accessibility requirements, which shows just how accessible it really is.
The accessibility-ready tag can be applied to themes in the directory that have successfully completed an accessibility audit for the minimum requirements established by the Themes team at WordPress. Theme authors, however, are encouraged to exceed those requirements, which are laid out in a tiered set of both required and recommended guidelines.
It is important to note that themes tagged as accessibility-ready do not necessarily meet any level of formal accessibility requirements, as those measurements apply to content and cannot be applied to a theme based on that fact.
Getting this tag added to the Twenty Twenty-Two theme was delayed due to a few issues that required collaboration across different teams responsible for this theme. One of the important ones was the theme having multiple H1 headings per page. Although WCAG guidelines do not prohibit more than one H1 on a page, the accessibility-ready guidelines required no more than one H1 per page. Some participants in the discussion suggested that the requirements needed to be changed.
“The reason the theme accessibility-ready guidelines are stricter than WCAG is mostly for clarity: the guidelines were written to be easily testable and explicit.” Accessibility Team contributor Joe Dolson commented on the ticket.
“The point being that we couldn’t provide extensive accessibility training to theme reviewers, so we needed the rules to be as narrow as possible. As long as we update the guidelines in a way that still meets that criteria, I think it would be fine.”
The Themes and Accessibility teams reached a agreement on how the accessibility-ready tag will apply to block themes going forward so contributors could move forward with adding the tag to their themes as well.
“We should keep in mind that a breakage to the accessibility of WordPress block output will impact all block themes, so those failures are quite serious, but as it stands now the theme meets all expected criteria,” Dolson said.
The WordPress Themes Directory currently has only 94 themes tagged as “accessibility-ready” and only two of them also have support for full-site editing, those themes are, Jace by Themes Team contributor Carolina Nymark, and W3CSSPress by Matteo Marchiori. The Twenty Twenty-Two will be joining them on November 1, 2022, which is the anticipated release date of of WordPress 6.1, the latest update to WordPress.