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

Posted by apartness

“King of Web Standards”—Bloomberg Businessweek. Principal Designer and Creative Director, Automattic. Founder & Publisher, A List Apart Magazine. Co-founded the multi-city user experience design conference An Event Apart with Eric Meyer. Founder of studio.zeldman, a web and interaction design studio in New York. Chairman Emeritus and consulting creative director at Happy Cog, an award winning digital design studio. Publisher and co-founder of A Book Apart—brief books for web and interaction designers. Have written two books, notably the foundational web standards text, Designing With Web Standards, currently in a 3rd Edition coauthored with Ethan Marcotte. It has been translated into 15 languages, including (for the last edition) Italian, Chinese, Hungarian, Polish and Portuguese. Faculty member on the MFA, Interaction Design program at School of Visual Arts, New York. Co-founder and host of the internet radio program The Big Web Show (“Everything Web That Matters”), which has twice been named Podcast of the Year by .net Magazine. Former freelance journalist, The Washington Post & City Paper. Former copywriter & art director. Played Casio in DC's Insect Surfers. In 2012, was the first designer inducted in the SXSW Interactive Hall of Fame. Tweet too much (@zeldman). Write at (since 1995), A List Apart, and elsewhere.


  1. 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.

  2. Per Team 51 request, today Krista Stevens edited the linked Google Doc to correct minor errors of formatting, house style, spacing, and grammar.

    I have edited the original Team 51 Accessibility Standards post to also point to this cleaned-up version, which now becomes the canonical document.

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