Let us Learn from Wordpress

JP de Vries
Published in
5 min readApr 25, 2016


You know the creative freedom of MODX enables you to control each character of the markup delivered to your audience. MODX is considered by many to be the best suited system to create responsive and accessible web experiences. But the web shouldn’t just be something anyone can browse — it should be something anyone can author as well.

On March 21st the WordPress team made an incredible announcement that will make the web a more inclusive place to author.

All new or updated code released into WordPress core and bundled themes must conform with the WCAG 2.0 guidelines at level AA.

The WordPress project has taken accessibility seriously for years. Their Dashboard is mobile friendly, works without JavaScript enabled, and uses accessible icons. So what is so significant about their recent announcement? By requiring WCAG 2.0 at level AA Guidelines for any updates WordPress has drawn a line in the sand. They have made a clear and concise commitment to the World Wide Web. They aren’t just striving for accessibility — they are requiring it. This means that new additions to the core software must meet the WCAG guidelines or they will not be accepted into the core.

One can safely assume WordPress is willing to make this commitment with the realization that accessible software is better for everyone. They may loose out on or prolong the adoption of highly anticipated features but they must rest easy knowing they ship inclusive software. Publishing to the web is the ability to share your expressions, passions, and thoughts with the world. The ability to express yourself is a right — not a privilege. Unfortunately, the web isn’t always built this way. We can do better. But how?

If we didn’t need each other the Universe would be full of planets with one person on them.
Kevin Kitrell Ross

With a single sentence WordPress makes a clear and concise commitment that leaves no room for speculation as to how accessibility is treated in their core software — with an entire campaign MODX does not. WordPress officially commits to the WCAG Guidelines Level AA for their core and anything bundled with the product. With the exception of addressing color contrast ratios in a separate theme, MODX does not commit to WCAG Guidelines of any level. MODX does not commit — beyond hope — to improving accessibility in its own core. WordPress supports people by committing to directly improve accessibility in future updates of their core products. MODX supports particular users by providing a bolt–on theme that does not ship with the core product.

Make Clear & Concise Commitments

Hope is not enough. There is no commitment that pull requests which make the MODX core more accessible will wind up in the a11y theme. Likewise, there is no official commitment that improvements made in the a11y theme will work their way back into the MODX core. We have issues with labels and hopes. Issues labeled Port to Revo are closed regardless of if they have actually been ported to Revo. Accessibility issues are closed without being address in the core. This causes confusion and leaves contributors unsure if they should submit pull requests to the core, the a11y theme, or neither. As an open source project let us come together and commit to globally adopted standards without confusion.

We need to take a look at how the rest of the industry solves these problems and integrate them directly into the core of future releases. Let us learn from WordPress by making clear and concise commitments. Let us focus on our core and people rather than bolt–on themes and particular users.

Support People Not Users

Your abilities are not just relative to yourself they are also relative to the devices you access experiences through. Together your person and a connected device create a user. There is a misconception that there are normal people and then there are people with disabilities whom accessibility applies to. This is often an honest misunderstanding but a form of prejudicial segregation nonetheless.

First, we need to acknowledge that most of us have a bias blind spot. Even if we think we don’t have stereotypes about “people with disabilities,” there’s a good chance that we do and just don’t realize it.
A List Apart

Let us address this. Accessible software is better for anyone, not just a targeted group. But who is anyone?

Who is Anyone?

The final result will be a new Manager Theme you can install in MODX 2.3 or later. A simple change of your Manager Theme setting will enable anyone to use MODX to create and manage sites in an accessible CMS.

Enable anyone to use MODX? No it won’t. Let us be clear. Anyone:

any person at all.

What if a person is using a touch device, mobile device, or doesn’t receive JavaScript even though it is enabled? What if they can’t navigate to the Package Manager to install the opt–in theme in the first place? We cannot skip over HTML — and our own core — while supporting any person at all. This is why modmore is not donating to the MODX accessibility campaign. The web is for everyone and it was designed to be built atop HTML for that very reason. Let us go with the grain of the web not against it.

Web accessibility means that people can use the web — not particular users. Let us learn from WordPress and put the notion that assistive technology is only applicable to a particular group to rest. Let us work towards a web anyone can author with the MODX core.

[MODX] Next Please

The MODX 1.x Dashboard was not designed to be inclusive. Neither was 2.x. You’ll hear no argument from me that either should have been. Let me explain. By any pragmatic measure MODX Revolution should be considered a complete success. But I’m sick of being pragmatic. Aren’t you?

MODX is an album that will continue to be played for years to come — but not everyone can experience it. It is time to make the experience you know and love as MODX accessible to anyone, anywhere, any time, any place, any device. No exceptions. It is time we face another defining challenge. Let us enable anyone to author the web with MODX core. Only then will we tap the true potential of MODX. Let us reimagine the Manager interface from the ground up. Let us commit clearly and concisely that in a future major version (MODX Next) the core must comply with the WCAG Guidelines. Through future updates to our core software, let us join WordPress in the commitment to make authoring the web inclusive everyone. Let us learn from WordPress.