WordPress Gutenberg: A great example of ableism

THE ABLE-BODIED PEOPLE ARE AT IT AGAIN! WordPress 5.0 was, according to its developers “years away”, probably—there was no set timeline, so I didn’t worry too much. I was wrong there; I should have worried more.

At a glance, I’ve found the following bugs with Gutenberg:

  • CTRL+Z works to undo, but CTRL+Y does not redo.
  • I cannot TAB while writing HTML, because TAB = a new block.

There are probably more, but I’m not keen to figure them out. The second bug is probably not a bug by definition, as I was unable to with the Classic Editor, but I would have expected it to at least make a tab in coding, since the down arrow leads to a new block as well. I have a fucking headache from this shit. It’s a nightmare. It’s ableist.

What ableism is

Ableism is defined as “discrimination in favor of able-bodied people”.

The accessibility testing/standards were implemented as a mere recommendation. The users, and especially the developers, in support of Gutenberg—for the most part—agree that Gutenberg is usable. It’s ready. I mean, why else would WordPress rush to push it through in the core update? Why would they rush 5.0, why would they publish it in December—why would they do any of these things if Gutenberg was not ready?

The consensus opinion I see floating around in response to all the comments about the need for accessibility:

  • It’s not many people.
  • It’s a very small number of the population.
  • Not many of [disabled people] use it.

…I don’t know about you or them or their mother, but I know at least 100 disabled bloggers that use WordPress, many of which have or are contributing writers for a blog using WordPress. They’re diverse, too—Deaf, blind, autistic, in a wheelchair, a combination of the former, and so on. More and more blogs and bloggers of this demographic crop up everyday. WordPress is why they got into blogging, because it was easy and let them host their stuff wherever and however they wanted.

Ableism is when an able-bodied person or group decides something is irrelevant because their perceived majority is not disabled. It takes fresh eyes to determine whether something is accessible. You cannot just tick boxes off a list and call it a day, without knowing why those things are on it! You cannot say accessibility is a “core value” and not ensure your content is 100 percent accessible!

Because when you do, you’re doing it for the trends. It’s like the diverse books reading challenges: just ticking books off a list, because it’s trendy. Or inspiration porn. It’s all ableism.

Rian Rietveld left her position as the WordPress accessibility team lead, agreeing with Andrea Fercia about the Gutenberg editor being a regression in regard to an accessible editor.

Criticism is not bashing.

There is a tweet that I quite agree with:

And another that is all too real when it comes to able-bodied people vs. disabled people:

Wanting an accessible, stress-free editor is not bashing.

Calling it bashing, forcing an inaccessible and/or new editor on people, refusing to include accessibility as a requirement—this is all ableism at its core. It’s saying, I don’t care about your needs; they’re small compared to the majority.

To me, WordPress has always been a software that gave me free reign to do with as I pleased—install the plugins and themes I want, customize however I want.

Now, it’s a fucking nightmare.

Suffice it to say I’m back to the Classic Editor plugin, and keeping an eye on ClassicPress. At this time, I cannot handle the stress (albeit probably minimum) of migrating to ClassicPress; I have a lot of files and would see the opportunity as changing my root domain in my account.

A solution likely to be offered is reporting these bugs/frustrations to the developers themselves; however, I have tried that, and it’s inadequate—it’s cold, mean, and lonely to offer up otherwise unpopular opinions. I’m in the minority. The only place on which I know my thoughts will not be censored or filtered or controlled is my blog—and this is why I blog. I do not trust the WordPress developer community after my experience with them, especially not after Gutenberg. I surmise many others feel the same.

I shouldn’t have to write a blog post or file a bug to demand an inaccessible editor remain optional.

I shouldn’t have to rant about ableism to a community whose core value is, allegedly, accessibility itself.

I shouldn’t have to defend myself as a fucking minority, or to defend my opinions and/or experience just because able-bodied people still don’t get it.

If you loved this post, please share or buy me a pretzel:

Leave a comment

Comments on this post

Goodness thank you for mentioning the classic editor plugin. I didn’t know a big update was coming, and when I opened my blog this morning to do a little bit of writing before work I found the new editor and… Goodness I’ve been struggling with it for the last hour and have hated it. I was about to look up how to undo it, so thank you for this.

That really stinks that it’s particularly harmful for the disabled community. I can see what they had in mind with the format but… It’s just so clunky and difficult to work with.

Reply to this »

I use Blogger because WordPress just seemed super confusing to me when I started blogging, so I’m not 100% sure what you’re talking about. Then I wished I’d gone with WordPress because Blogger is so limited in what you can do with it, but nowwww I’m kind of glad I didn’t go the WordPress route… HMM. I was also super confused because at first I thought this had something to do with WordPress linking up with Project Gutenberg (https://www.gutenberg.org/)!!

But it seems like yeah, they [Wordpress] definitely aren’t living their values if they went ahead and pushed an update without making sure it was working for all their users. I’m on a Disability Awareness ERG [Employee Resource Group] at we just got the OK last year to launch along with a bunch of existing ERG (African Ancestry, Asian Affinity Connection, and Pride being a few of the ones that have been around for longer). We’re still working on nailing down what we’re calling “categories” so we can make sure we’re getting our arms around all the different areas that are included when you talk about disability. Right now we’re working off the CDC’s list that classifies disabilities into vision, movement, thinking, remembering, learning, communicating, hearing, mental health, and social relationships. I feel like vision, hearing, and movement are what people think of first, and more and more people are accepting mental health into the fold, but the other less visible forms of disability get glossed over because, like you said, they don’t fit into easily understood (and easily checked off) little boxes.

Sorry, this comment got really long and didn’t really say anything. :/ I guess I’m just commenting to say – I hear you, I see you, I’m sorry you’re struggling. WordPress really should have reached out and gotten user acceptance testing and feedback from disabled people, and they could have gotten this feedback about things like CTRL+Y to redo and whatnot.

Reply to this »

This is concise but really insightful! I am so shocked with these changes and I still have to educate myself more on this, but thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!

Reply to this »

Oh, and there’s another thing I’m really uncomfortable with – Gutenberg was a guy that made printing available. So essentially, a very good thing. Now, his name is getting mixed up in all sorts of negativity because of this stupid editor. They are sullying Gutenberg’s name!

Reply to this »

I absolutely have my fingers crossed about the classic editor plugin staying alive throughout new updates of wordpress. I tried gutenberg on a free blog (I didn’t even bother switching on my real one) and that was enough to realize that gutenberg is nothing more than a big, big headache. Ugh… wish they didn’t push this on everyone! It’s super annoying because while me and you are self hosted and CAN actually switch to the old editor, most people who can not afford to pay for hosting will not be able to. It’s depressing.

Reply to this »

Is WordPress.com switching to it, too? I thought they weren’t, something about their editor being “everything”. Ugh. All of it is 💯 frustrating.

Also: Agreed! That’s why I think it’s so pretentious, re: naming it after the guy who invented the first movable type printing press. It doesn’t even make sense to name it after him, considering WordPress isn’t the first to come up with such an editor. I highly doubt Gutenberg himself would appreciate such a regression as the Gutenberg editor.

Reply to this »

I’ve read your previous post regarding the latest update and a lot of bloggers who seemed to be a bit fearful of Gutenberg. For awhile, I didn’t want to have anything to do with my blog because I’ve been experiencing some coding issues, which thankfully I’ve gotten the code figured out. But I too use classic editor. Not ready for Gutenberg, which creating themes is complicated enough.

Reply to this »

I was going to recommend the Disable Gutenberg plugin https://perishablepress.com/disable-gutenberg/ (which I’ve just activated after upgrading to 5.0) but you may not need it if the Classic Editor plugin works for you.

I’m not as aware of ableism as I should be – I like diversity and I try to be inclusive rather than not. I resolve to learn more.

Reply to this »

I was trying to look for something like that! Although I suppose now it’s futile for me. 😅

Reply to this »