Thank you to everybody around the world who has submitted an application to speak at WordPress Accessibility Day 2024! We have over three times as many applicants as we have spots, so – sadly – we already know we can’t accept all of you. So how does our process work now?

WordPress Accessibility Day is committed to principles of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in our speaker selection process. But we also want to make decisions based on quality content. Here’s how our process works:

First Pass: Anonymization and Content Review

A member of the organizing team, who is not part of the speaker selection team, will go through all of the submitted results in a spreadsheet and remove all identifying information. Anything that might specifically identify a speaker or give us context about their characteristics is removed from the data.

This is where your pitch matters the most. The only information we have is what you wrote, so you may be an amazing, well-known speaker – but if your pitch said “I’ll talk about something relevant; details to come later.”, then you’re not getting very far.

Based on the submitted talk title and description alone, each member of the speaker selection team will give a score of 0 (no) through 5 (yes) on the talk.

Scores are summed, and we’ll identify the most desired 23 talks based on score alone.

However great we agreed a talk was, we want to avoid a lot of subject duplication. We will then swap out any duplicate topics for the next highest scoring talk on a different topic. As much as we’d love to have 24 consecutive talks on the evils of accessibility overlays, the audience could get bored.

Second Pass: Ensuring diversity

Once we’ve made decisions based on content alone, we’ll look at the complete data, and adjust our choices based on that information.

  • We’ll remove duplicate speakers. It has happened before that we selected three talks by one speaker in the first pass… but we only want people speaking once.
  • We’ll review the selection for overall diversity. Do we have diverse representation of genders, races, ethnicities, etc.? If we don’t, then we’ll start swapping talks by whatever group has the highest representation and replacing them with highly scored talks by under-represented groups.
  • We’ll start building a schedule. At the end of the day, one thing we have to be able to do is get 24 consecutive talks scheduled around the clock. So we’ll build out the schedule to see whether we have gaps that no selected speaker can fill. If they’re close – within an hour or so of what the speaker said they could do – we’ll just ask if the speaker can adjust. If they aren’t, we’ll look at the remaining talks again.

When we replace a speaker, we start by looking at talks on the same or similar topics, so we maintain diversity in subject matter throughout the event.

Diversity requires intention

We can’t achieve diversity and inclusion without being intentional. Regardless of what gets the best score in a submission, most of our applications are probably going to be great talks – far more than the ones we actually accept. We can ensure a breadth of representation and opportunity through intention.