Accessibility Standards: Defining What Success Means

Announcing the first pass at Team 51 accessibility standards. Spread the love.

Announcing the first pass at Team 51 accessibility standards.

Team 51 (AKA “Special Projects”) is a design agency within Automattic. With a preference for clients who do good in the world, and for assignments with the potential to expand how businesses and agencies view WordPress, we make websites — for charity, celebrity, and influencer clients — that show off what WordPress can be.

Accessibility is a core value of Automattic. And though accessibility testing is part of Team 51’s launch checklist, we knew we could go farther and deeper. 

So designer Michelle Langston and I, with input from David Alan Kennedy, set out a few weeks ago to create an accessibility standard that would address the distinctly different kinds of work our team performs. The first phase of that work is now complete.

You’ll find the new Team 51 accessibility standards in Google Docs. Once the document is refined, we’ll also integrate it into the Automattic Field Guide.

Why a standard?

Team 51’s work runs the gamut. Sometimes we’re called upon to design and build digital identities from scratch. (Well, never entirely from scratch, since we rely on WordPress, Woo, etc.) And just as at an external design agency, this work can also include strategic planning and consulting, brand design, content strategy, social media consulting, and more.

Other times, we keep a site’s overall UX, look and feel, but — for reasons of performance, for instance — rewrite its code from scratch. Some of our work consists of re-platforming, i.e., moving an existing site from a third-party platform to WordPress, with no design or code alterations (except where absolutely necessary to accomplish the migration). Still other times, our work is limited to auditing a site or set of sites, and presenting findings and recommendations for the client’s internal team or third-party agency to implement.

With all those different kinds of work, and with accelerated schedules as the norm (we’ve sometimes turned sites around in as little as a day or two, although obviously we prefer reasonable timeframes), how can we possibly fulfill our mandate to create accessible web content?

Michelle and I decided that the answer was to choose a set of accepted guidelines (currently WCAG 2.1 AA), and then define what success would look like under each of the work scenarios I’ve described above. Team 51 Accessibility Standards: Defining What Success Means answers those questions at a sufficient level of detail to guide our and our colleagues’ and successors’ work.

Sharing is caring

We welcome anyone interested in accessibility and inclusive design to contribute to this document with your comments and suggestions, and to treat it as a living resource. If it helps with your team’s work as well, by all means, share it and spread it. If you’re further along this path than we are, and have better information to share, please do that. 

Accessible design and development is shorthand for “love your neighbor.” Spread the love.



Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

By L. Jeffrey Zeldman

“King of Web Standards”—Bloomberg Businessweek. Author, Designer, Founder. Employer Brand at Automattic, Inc. Publisher, A List Apart & A Book Apart. Ava’s dad. Pete’s brother forever. He/him.


P.S. An internal-facing version of the above post has been published on the Team 51 blog and cross-posted to other internal design team blogs.

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