With help from my friends, I've tried to test and improve the accessibility of this website. It should be a good step forward from where things were when the newsletter was hosted on Substack.
Unfortunately, the site is still far from perfect. Part of this is the content, and part is the website.
If there's something that this page misses, or a way I can improve things, please let me know.
A note on content
Disability Debrief is very information-heavy, it often discusses abstract issues and is nearly always quite long. Currently, it is only available in English, and most content is provided only as text.
There are many people for who this will not be appropriate or easy. At the moment there isn't an easy-read version.
Newsletters are very long – you're not expected to read all it! I provide a narrative section and use summary paragraphs at the top. After that, sectioning is used to help readers to skim and find what they're looking for.
We've tested the website in light and dark mode, using a screen reader, viewing at zoom and navigating by keyboard. The screen readers used to test were NVDA (using Chrome on Windows) and Voiceover (using Safari on iOS). I also did some automated tests with WAVE.
As well as fixing things while we were testing, we identified some things that don't have immediate fixes. The gaps are caused by the services that I'm using to host the website.
I point the finger at others as an explanation, not to pass the blame; it's my fault for using those services. I'm contacting them to see if they can improve things! In some cases there might be ways I can fix it, I just don't know how.
Not all buttons or other features are properly labelled for function. Buttons should have clear information on their function so, for example, a screen reader can tell the user what it will do. This is missing in several cases:
- At the bottom of each page there is a “subscribe” button, but its aria role is unspecified.
- On the subscription management page, the monthly/yearly buttons are not clearly labelled – yearly is selected as a default view, and this is not communicated.
The advanced search does not have basic accessibility. On the library page there is a google search bar. Problems with this include:
- The search button is not labelled and the results do not use headings to allow easier navigation.
- Viewing the site in dark mode makes text typed invisible.
Display of comments rely on visual features. Comment threading (showing where something is a reply) is only apparent due to visual clues, and so not visible to a screenreader. Further, there is an unlabelled button that users click to potentially report a comment.
Keyboard navigation is possible, but not always clear. Through most of the site, it should be apparent where the keyboard focus is. There are a few areas where this is less clear or potentially confusing. In lists of posts the item selected by keyboard is not shown (it is on mouse-over). The site search feature works via keyboard, but is visually confusing about what element is selected.
Low colour contrast. The X to close the subscription overlay is low colour contrast.
Improving accessibility on Ghost
This website is hosted using Ghost, an open-source publishing platform. There are many good things about Ghost, but it sadly doesn't have an approach to ensuring web accessibility. If you're part of the Ghost community, or thinking of hosting with them, please help me raise these issues.
As well as complying with standards, improving its accessibility will help Ghost serve both its users and our readers better. As well as technical fixes, Ghost should take a more conscious approach to integrating accessibility within themes and its core product. This could start by a call to its community to help, documenting where it's going, and ultimately could compete with the standards Wordpress sets and their best practices for themes.
See the following points for how I raised access gaps with the Ghost community. Some of them I could fix myself, others are the known issues described above. I use an adapted version of one of the default themes, Dawn.