Open letter to the Joomla! community

To be able to work without barriers for me is more than a nice feature but also more than taking over public sector projects. It is something that is really important for me. A system that is as widely distributed as Joomla! has the power to modify the net, to make accessible pages more natural and thus to make access to information easier for so many people.

With Joomla1 1.5 we now have the opportunity to overwrite the preset HTML-output in the template itself.
On this basis, I started to develop Beez; the first accessible Joomla! Template.

Beez’s goal is twofold: One, it makes possible the development of accessible pages, second, it makes it possible in a way that it can also be used by people who only have a limited knowledge of programming.
Wouldn’t it be great if even the football club that my daughter is a member of had an accessible website?

For professionals it is a lot easier with BEEZ to create barrier-free projects-the development time is a lot shorter, this saves money, barrier-free webpages become more reasonable. This is a market advantage for Joomla! which must not be underestimated, as in many countries we are obliged by public sector contractors to fulfill high standards of accessibility (Section 508 or BITV).

The possibility of the template override, however, does not cover all demands of an accessible webpage.

Two really important features are missing, and that’s the snag:

The contents of the so-called ‘read more’ link cannot be influenced.

With Joomla!, the user can create article overview pages on which single articles are teasered. Behind each of these teasered articles, one finds the note ‘read more’. Whenever this link appears within a web presence, it has the same wording: ‘read more’. Since tools may only show the links of one page, it is necessary that the contents of link texts be formulated- this is one basic precondition of all accessibility standards. The naming of links isn’t part of programming logic, it’s a part of document content too.

Is this not fulfilled, a website will fail at its first mechanical test as concerns accessibility.

In our hack for versions 1.5, we quickly found a solution; we use the parameter title-alias which had up to now not been allocated. However, without consulting with us, the title -alias was used differently, and we could no longer use it.

Early this year, we pointed out to some core members that it is necessary to differentiate the link texts. However, we were put off until later. Like this, it is impossible for the foreseeable future to create webpages with Joomla!/Beez, which correspond to Section 508 or BITV. An easier solution to the problem (effective working time 5 minutes!) as well, which Robert suggested in the forum was not taken into consideration. In fact, we did not even receive an answer.

Header hierarchy

Beez offer the chance to modify the header hierarchy of the actual contents to control the semantics of the documents in terms of contents. This offers the necessary flexibility, which only makes the creation of semantically correct documents feasible. This feature has been a component of Beez since its inception.
A few days ago, someone pointed out that this solution was too performance-consuming.

Enno Klasing and Robert Deutz suggested a possible solution to that specific template performance problem and informed those responsible.
They did not receive an answer.
This important feature for the creation of accessible pages was deleted from the trunk without any consultation.
The explanation that was offered later was more than flimsy. Allegedly it was not Joomla!’s goal to incorporate a perfect, barrier free template in the core but only to show how flexible Joomla! has become. They suggested that we could develop a Beez-Pro, offer it for download and thus demonstrate our technical knowledge…
Like this, the core team has said good bye to the goal of ‘no barriers’. It will be impossible to develop barrier free pages with Joomla! without having to fall back on (often quite unreliable) hacks or own core modifications.

The decision to scrap a major feature after publication of the RC1 does not seem very professional and fair to me.
Who should get involved in Joomla! 1.5 if they don’t even know what else will be changed before its release?

Just as frightening is the lacking ability of working in a team displayed by the some core members.
Why are feasible suggestions simply ignored? Why don’t we receive an answer to our questions?

Communication is the linchpin of good project management, which, at least with us, leaves a lot to be desired in a number of cases.
I have put a lot of time and effort into the development of Beez. This effort did not get put into the development of the code itself but repeatedly into trying to get myself heard. This is most tiring. I am worried about the advancement of Joomla!. To me, decisions appear to be little transparent; one gets the impression that they lie in the hands of only a few people.

Isn’t it true that the potential of open source lies in pooling knowledge and competencies?

Finally, I would like to say that the advancement of Joomla! is very dear to my heart, and that I would be very happy if my ideas did not fall on as deaf ears as they have so far. I would like to make a difference.