Welcome to Press This, the WordPress community podcast from WMR. Each episode features guests from around the community and discussions of the largest issues facing WordPress developers. The following is a transcription of the original recording.
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Doc Pop: You’re listening to Press This, a WordPress Community Podcast on WMR. Each week we spotlight members of the WordPress community. I’m your host, Doc Pop. I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine, and my contributions over on TorqueMag.Io where I get to do podcasts and draw cartoons and tutorial videos. Check that out.
According to the World Health Organization, around 285 million people worldwide have moderate to severe vision impairment that can make it difficult for these users to access all of the content across the web.
They can access parts of it and large parts of it, but there might still be parts that are difficult for some users to reach. I feel like web designers are thinking more critically about building more accessible websites these days, and it’s been a hot topic in the WordPress community. I believe more accessible websites make the web more inclusive, but they also make the web a better experience for all users, even those that don’t identify as visually impaired.
Today we’re gonna talk to Bud Kraus, the Chief Education Officer at Joy of WP. He’s also been a Contributor at TorqueMag.io. Bud recently gave a talk at WordCamp Europe titled “Using Low Vision As My Tool To Help Me Teach WordPress.” And in his talk, Bud demonstrated the tools, methods he uses to surf the web, but he also talks about how his experience has made him a better WordPress educator.
So I’m excited to talk with Bud about this, Bud. Why did, why don’t you kick us off by just telling us how you got into WordPress?
Bud Kraus: Well, thanks Doc, and thank you for having me on your podcast. I really appreciate it. It all started back in 2009 when I was having lunch at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central New York City where a client said to me, you know, Bud, you ought to learn WordPress. And I said, no, I’m a rage against the machine kind of guy.
And he looked at me seriously and he said, no, you’ve got to learn WordPress. Here’s my username and password from my website. Go in there, fiddle around with it, see what plugins do. And I did, and I set up my own WordPress site. And once I realized, oh, maybe a year later that you could do something called a child theme and make WordPress your own, I was hooked.
And little did I know what would happen years later too. So that’s how I got started with it.
Doc Pop: You were already teaching web design at the time, or did you get into web design through that?
And back then, this was the early, you know, 2011, 2012, there was a huge market. Everybody wanted to learn WordPress, so that was great.
Doc Pop: You recently gave a talk, and you also based it on a Smashing Magazine post that you did back in 2018, which is a great article. The talk is called Using Low Vision As My Tool To Help Me Teach WordPress. And I’m curious, you mentioned in the talk that you have moderate vision impairment through macular degeneration.
I’m curious about the tools that you use to surf the web, can you tell us a little bit about the tools that you use and how not all visually impaired users use the same tools and settings?
Bud Kraus: Well, that is absolutely correct because vision loss or any disability for that matter is very idiosyncratic, so not everybody uses the same solutions. And I always believe don’t use technology for something that you don’t really need. So I don’t really need a whole lot, but I do need things that, let’s say a normally sighted person doesn’t use.
For example, I do a lot of zooming in and zooming out so I can see things. I use a lot of voice overs so I can hear things, and really that’s about it. People who are more severely impacted use JAWS and other technologies like that, which are much more complicated to learn than what I use.
Doc Pop: Yeah. I don’t have great vision myself, so I definitely use a lot of these accessibility tools myself, but for some reason, even though I’m using some of these tools, I still think of designing accessible web pages as being alt tags and making sure you’re marking headers instead of just doing like bold headers, you’re actually marking your things properly and kind of these sort of things. And so your talk was just a reminder that not everyone’s using a screen reader.
They all have different ways of using the web.
Bud Kraus: But if you use markup correctly regardless of your interest or lack thereof and accessibility, you’re doing things the right way and it’ll benefit so many things at Search Engine Optimization to mention one. So I’ve always taught people web design standards before there was really a term called web design standards.
It’s just the right way of doing things. So the best way to go.
Doc Pop: So how has your experience helped you communicate and teach WordPress to others?
Bud Kraus: Well, there’s a couple things. One is I can’t go into a classroom and just wing it. I have to be super prepared. I have to know exactly what I’m gonna be doing that day and especially if it’s new material, I have to really rehearse. Because I can’t go into class and read stuff, I have to sort of memorize it, and that’s okay.
It makes you a better teacher actually. You’re really prepared. And that’s really something that I learned from just having a vision loss is no winging it. You’ve gotta be prepared. You’ve gotta have a good lesson plan going in and so there is a disadvantage if students say, well, we wanna do something totally different.
Or you say, no, we have to sort of stick to the plan here. And usually they do. So that’s not a problem. I mean, that’s just one. There’s other things too, like for example, there’s a principle in accessible design, grouping. We like to group things, making it easier for technology, for people to understand.
And so I group things too. Like I’ll teach things in groups, maybe we’ll do everything about pages, maybe we’ll do everything about posts, maybe we’ll do everything about themes. Sort of like to keep these things together. And I think it’s sometimes a little more understandable if you use grouping as an idea and that’s something I definitely learned from accessible design.
Doc Pop: Mm-hmm. So when you’re talking about grouping that’s a thing that you do for practicality, as a teacher. But that benefits students because it kind of helps keep things packed together
Bud Kraus: Yes. I think it’s more, instead of being all over the place that students understand where we’re gonna be, and if they have a syllabus, they can see today we’re gonna be talking all about pages, or we’re gonna be talking about posts, or we’re gonna be talking about images.
Now you can’t, from a practical standpoint, you just can’t put all these things in nice, neat little silos. We know that. But if you can, to a certain extent, keep that idea of grouping things like that, I think it’s gonna be helpful for the students.
Doc Pop: Mm-hmm. I was kind of curious about this as you were talking, we’re talking about your experience as an educator. I’m curious for students, have you ever had a group of students that themselves were maybe visually impaired, and how did that change how you taught them?
Bud Kraus: I’m going to change your question a little bit because I don’t think I’ve had anybody who was visually impaired, but I had a deaf student.
Doc Pop: Mm-hmm.
Bud Kraus: And I thought that was really interesting because what I learned from that experience was, when you’re deaf, you can’t just read the words in your mind.
Because that’s audio. So they don’t have the ability to do that. That’s what American Sign Language is all about. And that’s when I started learning, oh, now I get it. And in fact, this student who was very bright, who was a really good designer too, he brought a signer to class.
So, every time he came to class, somebody would sign whatever I was teaching, Which was kind of interesting and it worked. I thought that was a really interesting experience. I also tried to teach somebody who was severely impaired from a cognitive standpoint, from a visual and auditory standpoint.
And it was impossible. It was really, really tough. I wanna say there’s only so much you can do, and I’m not a trained person in that field, so maybe that was really on me. But you can see where this can be very difficult in some in a very, very tiny minority segment of the population.
But there are people that are severely impaired who want access to the web. And one thing I’ve learned over time is if you make things accessible for people like me, you’ll make it better for everybody. And that’s really to me, the key to accessibility, which is really, who cares about making websites for me?
Don’t you wanna make it better for everybody else? And the answer is yes. And the way to do that is through accessibility.
Doc Pop: Yeah, absolutely. The analogy I always appreciated was when they built sidewalk ramps for wheelchair users, it ended up benefiting everybody. If I sprained my ankle, now I have an easier way to get down. iIf I had a baby and I had a stroller.
It just sort of makes the experience better for everyone.
Bud Kraus: Absolutely. And it’s the same thing with curb cuts, that kind of thing. I mean, don’t we want curb cuts? It’s just so much easier to step off a curb or ride a bike or whatever. Well, sure. And also to wheel somebody down in a wheelchair, same thing. Again, the concept of making things better for everybody.
Because my vision impairment, I sort of look at it as a gift actually, in that I can see things about accessibility and usability that other people can’t see. And so, I don’t look at myself as poor me. I sort of sometimes think, lucky me because I get to see things in a different way and understand things in a different way, not saying better or whatever.
It’s just different.
Doc Pop: And that’s a great spot for us to take a quick break. We are gonna come back and continue our discussion with Bud Kraus about the conversation that he had at WordCamp Europe about being a presenter and just educating WordPress in general. So stay tuned for more WordPress news after this break.
Doc Pop: Welcome back to Press This, a WordPress Community podcast. I’m your host, Doc Pop. Today I’m talking to Bud Kraus, the Chief Education Officer at Joy of WP, who’s been teaching web design for many years, and recently gave a talk at WordCamp Europe. Bud, you mentioned at the end of the talk that this was a dream of yours.
Can you tell us about that?
Bud Kraus: Oh, I certainly can. So, in like 2015, 16, 17, I’d be watching the stream of WordCamp Europe and I’m sitting at my computer thinking, God, wouldn’t it really be cool to go to WordCamp Europe? I mean, what an experience that would be. So I don’t know what got into me, but last year I started thinking, well, I’m gonna apply to speak at WordCamp Europe.
What the heck? They’ll never pick me, so I don’t have to worry about anything, you know, just apply. And I did. I chose the one topic I felt like I had one story in me to give. And that was how I using low vision as my tool to help me teach WordPress. And I applied and I waited to hear, and the day I heard was March 31st. I’ll never forget, 6:15 in the morning, I go into my office, I look at the email and the first there words were “We are thrilled.”
And I stopped right there and I knew, and I said to myself, oh, they must have made a mistake. This is sent to the wrong person. And I kept on reading and it really was me and I was very tempted to wake up my wife. And tell her, because she’d been wanting to go to Greece and Santorini forever. She got up and when she saw it, she did a double take. And she said, I guess we’re going to Greece. And of course I had told everybody that I applied, but the chances of me getting picked were like, one in a thousand. And it turned out not that bad of an odds, but pretty slim odds.
So I’m forever grateful to the WordCamp Europe organizers for choosing me.
Doc Pop: Up until this point, you had never even been to WordCamp Europe, which is one of the largest, if not the largest WordCamps in the world ever. And your first time going, you gave a massive presentation. Kudos on that.
Bud Kraus: Well, my wife said I did a really good job and she’s a very tough critic, so if she said I did a good job, I’ll take it. It was really an honor of a lifetime. It was an experience. It’s impossible to forget. And I don’t wanna forget it. And I met so many people that I already know, but more important or as important, I met a whole lot of new people that I sort of met in the weeks leading up to WordCamp Europe. I was reaching out and meeting new people on Twitter and LinkedIn and elsewhere. And it was great. I feel like, geez, I’m so fortunate to have done all this. I mean, I get to go to WordCamp Europe and really just talk about myself.
Now, if I may say, I gave this talk in Boston a couple years earlier, and I was terrible and I would’ve booed myself off the stage. And I said to myself, if you ever give that talk again, you better do a much better job. So really, I rebuilt the whole thing, and I think I did a much better job.
Doc Pop: Awesome. And so now that you’ve got this under your belt, are you getting ready for your pitches next year? Are you gonna try to give a talk at WordCamp Asia?
Bud Kraus: Well, that’s funny you should say. Though I haven’t had the drive to go to WordCamp Asia, but I’m thinking like It would be kind of cool to go to Taiwan. So I am starting to consider, but then I’m thinking like, well, what would you talk about?
Well, I actually have two ideas. I mean, the one I gave at WordCamp, Europe is definitely one of them. But would they cross check to see if I gave that talk already and who knows. What’s the harm in applying? There’s no harm at all.
Doc Pop: Mm-hmm.
Bud Kraus: I have to say too, when I applied to speak at WordCamp Europe, I really spent like no time at all putting the topic together because I just felt like why waste a lot of time here?
They’re never gonna pick you. But it happened.
Doc Pop: Well, let’s go back a little bit to your experience as a web designer and someone who’s been using the web for a long time and got into WordPress and really found home here. As a visually impaired user yourself, how do you feel about WordPress as a tool for other users?
And have you heard from other members of the community about their experience?
Bud Kraus: Yeah, fair question. I am not at all plugged really into the WordPress accessibility community. Because I’m a stakeholder, but I’m not really, you can see I’m kind of struggling to articulate this.
I don’t really consider myself impaired. I mean, I know I am. In the year 2000, I was teaching a course at Prat Institute called Accessible Web Design. So it’s not like I’ve never heard of this stuff. Okay. I mean, I was teaching it when browsers didn’t support it.
People didn’t know what the heck I was talking about. What does that mean accessible design? What does, so it’s not like, I don’t know the subject, but I am not an expert. I couldn’t tell you all the ins and outs of the web content accessibility guidelines 2.1 or whatever it is now.
I know it exists and I know the fundamentals of it. I’m a stakeholder and it’s a subject that interests me, and I certainly know when something is not usable or accessible and there is a difference between the two, but it’s not something that interests me, let’s say on a professional level.
So I made the decision quite a while ago that I wasn’t going to become an expert in accessibility for the web. And I’m not by any means. So can I tell you all about how accessible Gutenberg is? No. I cannot tell you.
I’ve heard lots of things and I have not heard good things, but I’m not an expert at all, so I don’t feel myself qualified. Whenever I see something that I think is just, just terrible, I’ll say something to somebody in the community, but that’s about it. Accessibility is not a specialty of mine, let’s just say that, but I certainly have familiarity with it,
Doc Pop: That’s a good spot for us to take our final break and when we come back, we will talk with Bud a little bit more about some of the other projects he’s working on and some news he might have in the future. So stay tuned for more WordPress news after this quick break.
Welcome back to Press This, a WordPress Community podcast. I’m your host, Doc Pop. Today I’m talking to Bud Kraus. We’ve talked about his experience teaching at WordCamp EU and his experience as a WordPress educator for many years. And now I wanna talk about the things, Bud, that you’re working on now.
What are some of the projects that you have going on this year, now that you got that talk out of the way?
Bud Kraus: Well, one thing I have to say is, I am not a site developer, okay? So I don’t have projects like that. In fact, I call myself a reluctant site developer. What I am doing these days, and this started about six months ago, is providing WordPress content for WordPress businesses.
So a company like Insta WP will say, will you do some videos on something like how to convert an elementary site to Gutenberg? Sure. Or will you create a course for us? Let’s say this is OS Training that has a lot of training on WordPress courses and I just finished something called Elementor 101 for that. or will you write blog posts?
Like right now I’m working on or about to start one for GoDaddy, which is about how to use ChatGPT to spin up a custom post type plugin, which is really cool. I mean, I just love that and it really points the way of how developers will work going forward. Now, I’m not a developer, but what’s so great about it is you really don’t have to be, you just have to know how to use the prompt in ChatGPT and then maybe how to do some edits in the code.
But it’s not very difficult. It’s very cool. So I’m excited about doing that. And other projects. I will be doing a webinar for the Learn WordPress initiative. It’s called “Demystifying the Navigation Block,” which everybody seems to be struggling with, for good reason if you ask me.
So I’m always looking for opportunities to either write, create videos, any kinda WordPress content for WordPress businesses. So, that’s gonna be my thing from now on. And I must say too, it really leverages all the contacts I have in the WordPress community. ‘ve been very fortunate to meet and know a lot of people in the great community.
It’s sort of like by accident. I said, I could work with these people. I would love to work with these people. So that’s really what is really happening now with me. And I’ve sort of turned away from developing websites cuz if you do it long enough, you’re just gonna eventually hate yourself and hate web development.
Doc Pop: And you’re, you’re gonna be at WordCamp US, not giving a presentation, but you said that you were gonna be part of the Community Summit.
Bud Kraus: Yeah. I’m excited to be going to the Community Summit because number one, I really don’t know what it is. I know that it is something that’s been restarted after Covid. I believe it’s basically gonna be two days of talking about how to strengthen the WordPress community.
And I’ve pitched an idea to the organizers about what we could talk about. But we’ll see. It should be great. I mean, I know that I’m gonna be in DC for like five days now because of the community summit. And I won’t be at Contributor Day, but I will be at the two days of WordCamp US.
I’ve been very fortunate this summer because I started out at WordCamp Europe and then two weeks after that I went to WordCamp Montclair, which is a small community in New Jersey. And saw a lot of the WordCamp Europe people there as well, and then onto WordCamp US in August.
So Wow. I really feel like I’ve been at WordCamp all summer, which is great.
Doc Pop: Let’s wrap this up here. What’s a good spot for people to be able to follow the project you’re working on? Reach out to you with any questions they might have.
Bud Kraus: Sure. If you wanna contact me, I have a contact form on my site, which is JoyofWP.com. It’s really easy to remember now. And you can also email me, which is [email protected]. So I don’t make it hard to get a hold of me. It’s really easy to get a hold of me.
And please do.
Doc Pop: And, and I just wanna reiterate, because you said this too, but I just wanna say anyone listening, if you are looking for some content, you’re looking for videos, you’re looking for articles, Bud is taking orders now, now’s a good time to reach out to you, right?
Bud Kraus: Yes. Thanks, Doc.
Doc Pop: Thanks for listening to Press This, a WordPress community podcast on WMR. Once again, my name’s Doc and you can follow my adventures with Torque magazine over on Twitter @thetorquemag or you can go to torquemag.io where we contribute tutorials and videos and interviews like this every day. So check out torquemag.io or follow us on Twitter. You can subscribe to Press This on Red Circle, iTunes, Spotify, or you can download it directly at wmr.fm each week. I’m your host Doctor Popular I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine. And I love to spotlight members of the community each and every week on Press This.