Inaccessibility Checker plugin installed at FtB

A few times during FtBCon 1, I had complained that people who use screen readers often have a hard time of making sense of some bloggers’ tendency of putting up an image as the sum total of their post, without even the decency of alt text or a caption for people with vision disabilities. Worse yet, when I put up a post detailing our beta-testing a new subscription feature, one of the first comments I got was a request that something be done about that tendency, pointing to a plugin called the Inaccessibility Checker.

The interesting thing about that is, that plugin has actually been installed at Lousy Canuck for about a month, since it was programmed by our resident programmer friend, CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain. I was giving it a shake-down run before pushing it network-wide. This weekend, I have enabled it across all of Freethought Blogs, firing a warning shot across the bows of all those bloggers in our fold who are not accommodating the simple request for alt tags. From now on, when a blogger previews their posts and they’ve inserted images that don’t have alt text or captions, they will be informed by a helpful notice that their image is lacking in that tags.

This of course depends on people actually hitting Preview before they publish their posts. If you see someone who hasn’t done so, feel free to tell them to preview the post before publishing, as a reminder that not everyone is consuming this content as text on a screen. We can make this community better for everyone by all of us checking our privilege once in a damn while.

And that goes double for me — rake me over the coals if I slip up from now on, too, because I should damn well know better. I’m certain there’s a bunch of stuff in my old pre-FtB posts that aren’t properly linked (and many whose image links are actually broken, even, making them doubly useless for everyone).

Inaccessibility Checker plugin installed at FtB
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29 thoughts on “Inaccessibility Checker plugin installed at FtB

  1. 1

    Thank you, Jason. If the plug-in gets used, It will make a tremendous difference for me. I don’t use a screen reader yet, but I can’t see most images.

    I do wish the plug-in had a more specific name. Having alt text for images doesn’t magically make the rest f the site accessible, but it helps.


  2. 2

    If I know CA7746, I think he named it that in order to make a larger, overarching framework for checking multiple inaccessibility pitfalls, not just alt tags. This is just “version 0.0.2” according to the plugin page.

  3. 3

    Oh, that would be marvelous!

    There are issues for people who have limited vision that do not apply to those using screen readers. I hope CA7746 is aware of at least some of them.

    Forced font sizes and text that overlaps when magnification is used are but two. Generally, the more one forces the appearance of the blog, the greater the chance it will mess things up for the reader.

    Thanks for being the one blogger to keep after this issue. I feel all giggly now thinking I may soon know what’s in all those pictures!


  4. 4

    I might go further and just not allow pictures that don’t have an alt tag. Coming up with words to describe the image is a good editorial filter in deciding if an image is even needed.

  5. 5

    @Stella #3:

    @Jason Thibeault #2:

    I think he named it that in order to make a larger, overarching framework for checking multiple inaccessibility pitfalls, not just alt tags.

    There are issues for people who have limited vision that do not apply to those using screen readers. I hope CA7746 is aware of at least some of them.

    Forced font sizes and text that overlaps when magnification is used are but two. Generally, the more one forces the appearance of the blog, the greater the chance it will mess things up for the reader.

    Yep, I did try to allow for checking other problems in the future, in case someone suggested more.
    I didn’t have any in mind, however. To grow, it’ll need more feedback like yours. : )
    Unfortunately, I don’t think a WordPress plugin could reliably interrogate text styles and layout. : /

    CSS has lots of wackiness like this, where bad styles are inherited from elsewhere in a digital bureaucracy, and they can affect each browser differently:

    Article: StackOverflow – Why the font size won’t change with browser zoom in?

  6. 6

    CA7746: I know we have a font-size-changer plugin installed here too, but inactive. I believe it hooks into CSS — you have to use specific classes for all the text you’re to resize. Then it uses Javascript to dynamically change the CSS’ style. Could maybe achieve the same sort of effect in a brute-force way, recursively changing the CSS for everything rendered on the page — but of course, that’s almost certain to fail in some way on some page or another, and/or be exorbitantly resource-intensive for no good reason.

    However, the browser-based resizing in Chrome is pretty excellent on Freethought Blogs, at least. I regularly up it to 150% and don’t even notice anything a hair out of place as a result.

    Something I was thinking of, is checking the page’s theme itself for page flow. It would be nice if the left menu didn’t have to get in the way of page content when using a screen reader — the one built-in one I’ve tried with it, Orca on Linux, started reading down the menu column before getting to the meat of the post. It’s been a while — that might work better now, or might even be skippable, only I don’t know how to use it. I dunno.

  7. 8

    Sounds like another target for your plugin. Could add an invisible link after the header, and an anchor at the top of the main post render. Pretty sure you could achieve both via the WP filters stuff (of which I have little experience with, sadly).

  8. 10


    Ticket: WordPress Feature Request – Actions on body open
    The devs said editing the theme is unavoidable – either to add the content directly, or add a function call to allow plugin meddling. Currently, themes are only expected to allow plugins injecting stuff in <head> and the footer at the end of <body>.

    The devs could add more standard locations, but existing themes would still have to be updated to include the new calls.
    And dynamically inserting the link via DOM javascript would confuse the reader. Xo

  9. 11


    Thanks Jason, and thanks CompulsoryAccount7746 for writing it.

    @ Stella:

    I still have some vision, too, and avoid using screen-reader functions for pretty much everything except reading the body of webpages/documents. I can certainly relate to the problems of accessibility being a very broad thing, but often treated in a very black and white fashion, e.g. something with small text and braille on it isn’t going to help someone who gets around fine, can read regular sized print and spends 99% of their time not noticing their vision isn’t what it used to be.

    I’ve been toying with the idea of writing “Accessibility and the forgotten middle ground”, or a similarly titled blog post, but have never gotten around to it. If I ever do, I may ask Jason to put me in contact with you for your feedback, if you’d be open to that.

  10. 12

    Thanks, CompulsoryAccount7746. I really appreciate your work and your interest.

    I am putting together a list of FTB-specific barriers that I experience. I just got hit with a nasty migraine, so it will take me a day or two to get it together.

    Your links are most elucidating. Thanks for those, too.

    I thought you only sometimes used a screen reader. Thanks for keeping these issues above the radar.

    I have more to add, but the migraine is getting worse, and I need to get away from all lights.


  11. 15


    Can you point me toward your e-mail address or e-mail it to me?

    I need to contact you, fwtbc and CompulsoryAccount7746 regarding my accessibility issues.



  12. 16

    That url now yields :

    Error 404 – Page Not Found

    Thanks again for having my back.


    Yeah, good ol’ Chris Rodda…deleted the entire thread when people stood up to her and said her ableism was not funny & not acceptable (and oh, holy shit, such willful ignorance about how prejudice operates!).

    Now she’s posted a fucking whine about how she won’t have any more Sunday Funnies, and she put me back in moderation…well, that’s certainly an above-board way to respond to criticism!

    What a petty, immature, intellectually dishonest coward!

  13. 17

    Jason, as the FTB tech guy, do you know if there’s any way I could get the text of my comments back from that thread Chris deleted? Is it on some FTB server somewhere? I really did spend a lot of time on them, and I’d like to put them on Atheism+ or something.

  14. 19

    Stella: I’ll throw you an email and will relay your concerns to CA7746 on your behalf.

    Re Chris Rodda: I didn’t see any of this. That she took down the post is, hopefully, an indication that she recognized that she did wrong by people, but it is maddening when good work disappears into a memory hole as a result. And I basically have zero to say about people’s moderation policies. I’ve always gone by the rule that as a commenter your one golden rule anyplace on the net is “don’t piss off the webmaster”. If what she banned you for was pissing her off, and what she was pissed off about was being called on being insensitive, then I can see how that would be galling.

    However, I’ve had my own incident where someone was, in the context of calling me on something that I posted that was insensitive in a way I hadn’t anticipated, repeatedly accused me of getting my jollies out of intentionally triggering people. As though I had an idea. I ended up banning that person after warning them to stop lying about me. I may not always be the perfect ally, but I’m not a sniggering malevolent.

    It might be that this is the same situation with Chris. Without seeing any of that, I have to assume the best, and so I simply can’t judge the situation the way you can, being in it. I CAN say that Chris is generally fairly sensitive to such issues in my experience. Generally. She has been, in the past, at least. If she’s failing as an ally now, that’s not necessarily a permanent and indelible state of being.

    At least, until it becomes a pattern. At which point, let slip the dogs of war.

  15. 20

    Dysomniak: thanks! That helps a lot.

    Jason: No, Chris has definitely not recognized that she did wrong by people, as her subsequent post titled “There will be no more Sunday Funnies” consists of:

    The sanctimonious commenters win. They’ve succeeded in sucking the fun out of Sunday Funnies and will just have to find somewhere else to go rant about how grievously offended they are.

    To me, that does not look like anyone who has recognized that they did wrong! Since she took down the previous post, all the people reading now that there are no more Sunday Funnies are going, “Oh, man I didn’t know what happened, those commenters must have been the worst!” And she’s saying we were “lying” about her, although I can’t think how (she seems to think, despite having this explained to her three times, that we were calling her “an ableist” [emphasis mine] rather than pointing out that this instance of her behavior was, without realizing it, ableist, and she was being hurtful to people whether or not she intended to). Now, I was quite frank about calling her ignorant for how she was posting things like (paraphrasing) “well my neighbor was really condescending to a blind person once so which of us is the ‘ableist’?” and “well would you say Helen Keller was a racist?” and I explained thoroughly (if not particularly tactfully) WHY those things were ignorant.

    Dysomniak has the second half of the exchange saved & linked if you want to see what was going on.

    She also said “Screw you!” to Stella when she asked her to include alt tags on her images. Pretty epic ally fail if you ask me!

    Anyway, I’m not asking you to step in about her mod policies or anything like that; I just wondered if it would be possible for me to salvage a copy of all the text, to have for my records & in case I wanted to discuss it elsewhere.

  16. 21

    LSP: Sorry, no. She deleted the post outright. If you have a browser form saver, e.g. Lazarus plugin for Chrome/Firefox, you might be able to recover it from that cache, though.

    Also, I’m sorry that this is happening at all. That’s totally shitty. I hope she realizes people were trying to help her stop stepping on someone’s feet eventually, and this is just a one-time bout of petulance at being told she’s doing so.

    What bothers me is all the people shouting “ignore the haters, do it anyway”. Either they’re lacking the context or they simply don’t give a shit what was actually bad about the previous comment thread. I kinda wish I could see the entirety to make a better analysis of where it all went sideways.

  17. 22

    Jason, LSP,

    If you do find the entire thread, please let me know.

    There were several people defending their right to point and laugh at disabled people, insisting that doesn’t make them prejudiced. And Psul Loebe repeatedly posted Helen Keller jokes in braille text.

    Actual disabled people posting about their life experiences were ignored.

    Chris characterized LSPs attempts at education as “political correctness.” What she said in the more recent post is a very dishonest characterization.


  18. 23

    Okay, so I found the first 38 comments on a google cache, and then I could reconstruct everything except my posts from my subscription. It’s here:

    This stops where dysomniak’s starts.

    Jason, you can see from here how it all got started, and all the ignorant and insensitive things Chris Rodda was saying (but you can’t see the middle section of me calling them ignorant, but you know my general style so I’m sure you can roughly fill in the blanks unless someone can come through with the actual text).

    From what I can understand, only one of the people posting to ignore the haters actually made a reference to the actual thread. Most have no idea what was going on (hence why it was so shitty of Chris to disappear the post!). Some even explicitly assumed it was “wingnuts” who were complaining about the funnies.

  19. 24

    Most have no idea what was going on (hence why it was so shitty of Chris to disappear the post!).

    Totally agree. Not that it’s anybody’s responsibility, but it would certainly be nice if someone with a louder voice would draw attention it.

  20. 25

    Welllll….lookey here!

    You [commenter asking why he got modded] didn’t do anything. I just temporarily turned on moderation for all comments because I don’t want the commenters who caused me to do this continuing their crap on this thread, so I’m moderating all comments.

    I’m also not posting any comments that people have made with links to other sites that have the thread from the post I took down. I don’t want more comments about it.

    I’ve never done any censoring on this blog, but in this case I temporarily need to.

    So, she’s actively opposed to people seeing what went down on that thread? Strike two for the “she must be recognizing it was wrong,” I’m sorry to say! I find the irony delicious in “need to.” It seems to me the brutal fact of the matter is that she “needs to” censor because of how badly she and her friend behaved, but I doubt she’s aware of that double-meaning.

  21. 26


    I thought from the first that she disappeared the thread because it doesn’t show her in a good light.

    But it was all your fault, or all my fault, you see.



  22. 27

    YAAAAY!!!!! Thanks to throwaway and dysomniak, we now have the entire thread!

    Jason, this is of course your blog, and I realize that my own personal frustration with dishonest blogging practices might not be shared by all, but it seems to me that Chris feels like she can dismiss the criticisms from us about her behavior as just “sanctimonious bloggers.” However, being held accountable by a colleague might not be something she could brush off as easily. Furthermore, quite frankly, I’m a big fan of the Streisand effect for this sort of thing, especially given the misleading characterizations she’s given her readers about the whole incident.

    So, it’s totally up to you, but if you take a gander at the thread, see how you feel about it, & would consider it appropriate, you could easily make a top-level post with the link to the whole thing, perhaps with some commentary about casual tolerance of ableism at FTB, and/or how a community should handle head-on criticism.

  23. 28

    Heh, the comment I left for Rodda after she made it clear that she wouldn’t be allowing any discussion of what actually happened basically just consisted of advising her to google “streisand effect”. Yeah, it really fucking galls me that she thinks she can just pretend she never did anything wrong, and the PC fun police are forcing her hand.

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