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Skills-Based Volunteering case study - Accessibility and technical documentation with Greenpeace

Cynthia Lo image

Cynthia Lo @csmlo

Program Manager, Skills-Based Volunteering, GitHub Social Impact

April 26, 2022 // Tech for Social GoodSkills-Based Volunteering

Published on: April 26, 2022

How Greenpeace works to nurture and protect our environment

Greenpeace uses non-violent creative action to pave the way toward a greener, more peaceful world, and to confront the systems that threaten our environment. Founded in Canada in 1971, Greenpeace works directly with communities on the frontlines to help them protect the environments they call home. Its international network comprises of 26 independent national/regional organizations in over 55 countries across Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, as well as a co-ordinating body, Greenpeace International, based in the Netherlands.

Planet 4, Greenpeace’s website builder and digital engagement platform, is used by many of these national/regional organizations as their primary web presence. With a total of 48 websites in 35 different languages, Planet 4 is crucial to bringing Greenpeace’s global footprint to scale. The objective of Planet 4 is to be more than a vehicle for putting content on the internet, but for driving people to take action.

Skills-Based Volunteering project 1: Improving accessibility

In early 2021, Greenpeace International reached out to GitHub’s Skills-Based Volunteering program for help with improving Planet 4’s accessibility. Prior to the outreach, Greenpeace International performed an audit based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Guidelines to identify what improvements can be made to the platform to improve user accessibility.

With the help of GitHub’s skills-based volunteer, Andrew Eisenberg @aeisenberg, led the Greenpeace team into a deep dive into the GitHub Issues from Greenpeace’s repository to denote opportunities for improved inclusivity.

For this project, the Greenpeace team had analyzed the current output and concluded that the middle-dot characters and number sign of the hashtags are not read aloud for screen readers. Then the GitHub team, led by Andrew Eisenberg, focused on teasers, or blocks of text that preview a blog or article on the site, and screen reader text. Andrew made sure for the rest of the content,date, author, and other metadata read as a single piece of text, and with no special characters read aloud. By fixing the text-to-speech errors, the team significantly improved comprehension for screen readers.

Skills-Based Volunteering project 2: Documentation and technical writing

Following the accessibility project, Greenpeace furthered the partnership with a documentation and technical writing project on the Planet 4 platform. The goal of this project was to improve the quality, findability, and usefulness of the support materials to better assist the users, especially those who are less technical or have less capacity to.

Together with two GitHub volunteers, Inayaili León @yaili and Sarah Seacrest @sseacrest, and the Greenpeace team:

  • Audited the existing documentation and support materials including: case studies, best practices, handbook website, Gitbook, Medium blog, YouTube channel, and more
  • Reviewed feedback from the community
  • Created a plan to reorganize content, including selection of platforms and information architecture
  • Over the course of six months, the GitHub project team led a number of discovery sessions to create two reports on Content Style Guide and the Content Template Outlines for Planet4’s team to action on.

Project learnings

Initially, each of the projects had challenges with setting up the environments, subsequently delaying the timeline and precluding GitHub employees to jump on board due to the hurdles with setting up their local machine. While this was a minor setback, it was a positive learning to explore leveraging a development environment hosted in the cloud, like GitHub Codespaces, could have aided in this instance. In tandem, we learned that developing documentation internally for how volunteers can get involved would be helpful to provide context and time-scoping for volunteers. This would be useful both internally for the program, as well as for any open source contributor.

As these two projects were a part of the initial pilot launch of Skills-Based Volunteering, we are grateful for the support and understanding of the Planet 4 team to collaborate with us on building out best practices for this program. We look forward to working with Greenpeace again in the near future!

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