My name’s Kevin Robinson and I work at the Teaching Systems Lab at MIT. We work in K12 teacher development, and have been experimenting with using Discourse as a companion to our online EdX courses (eg., Design Thinking for Leading and Learning). It’s gone well and we’ll try this again for some courses this fall. If other folks are curious, here’s our open source Discourse plugin that lets EdX users jump directly into Discourse through LTI.
We also have the benefit of having an amazing accessibility team with us in MIT’s Office of Digital Learning, and Mary and Rich in particular have been generous enough to do an accessibility audit on our Discourse instance. They helped flag some things we could modify on our own right away, but also found some things that look like they’d impact accessibility for most Discourse instances. This seems like a good opportunity for us to try to contribute back upstream and have our work impact the many Discourse instances around the world.
Some of these changes are pretty straightforward (eg., improving default foreground-background colors so they have more contrast, changing <b> tags to <strong> so that they’re semantic, adding in some ARIA tags to the message thread UI so that folks using screen readers can scan through messages and replies with less noise). Others are probably more involved or touch hot parts of the codebase (eg., removing nested tables on the latest post section since they’re particularly problematic for folks using screen readers, notifying screen readers of AJAX updates to the page that are only indicated visually right now). In total we’ve identified ten issues to focus on and what we think it’d take to address them.
As far as I can tell, there have been a few threads about accessibility on meta.discourse.org (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine). Please point me elsewhere if there’s more I can read up on first, but I see lots of love from @sam in particular about accessibility work if it’s expressed as actionable steps. Based on those threads, I’m pinging @sam and also @downey @cpradio @TechnoBear to see if any of you all could help test or shepherd any work we do here.
Let me know what you think, we’d love your help to amplify the work we can put in here so it can help other Discourse instances improve their accessibility as well.