This month, in the run up to WordPress Accessibility Day, we feature Raghavendra Satish Peri, a blogger turned digital entrepreneur based in India, who specializes in web accessibility and digital marketing.
The People of WordPress series shares inspiring stories of how people’s lives can change for the better through WordPress and its global network of contributors.
Raghavendra speaking at a blogger event, 2015
Expressing myself through WordPress
Raghavendra Satish Peri says WordPress is more than a way to succeed online. It’s a community that has always answered his questions and helped him learn, and has enabled his voice to be heard across the world.
These are motivating benefits for Raghavendra, who has a vision impairment that introduces challenges to many of the things he wants to do. The WordPress community has helped him make some of his dreams come true. After chatting with others at WordPress events, about his wish to go trekking and running, he found he was later contacted by people in the community went with him to do just that.
Raghavendra training for a marathon in 2013
He also found WordPress events a way to raise the importance of accessibility issues, share tips, and connect local communities so they can collaborate on items both within and outside WordPress.
Life growing up with an enabling family
A key asset for Raghavendra has been the support of his family as he coped with his progressive blindness. His sister took charge of teaching him important social and life skills, so he could navigate his country’s rigorous education system.
Those were the early days of technology everywhere, and nobody much was thinking about using it in education and day-to-day life.
When Raghavendra got his first computer, in 2004, it was a revelation. His sister taught him to use the internet efficiently, and he taught himself a few basics of programming. Soon he was spending 10 to 12 hours a day exploring the online world and learning about the web.
Discovering WordPress and blogging
In 2006, he learned basic web design and began to sell website templates. His growing interest in search engines and content led him to WordPress. As the years progressed, his eyesight deteriorated. He had to relearn his skills and acquire new ones to compensate. When he could no longer see the computer screen, he learnt to use screen readers.
At that point there was a gap: he had the same business skills, but he couldn’t apply them as effectively until he got comfortable with using screen readers.
Raghavendra speaking at an event in Bengalaru, India in 2014
To help achieve that, Raghavendra moved to Bengalaru, where he got a full education in screen-reader technology and took a job as a consultant in digital accessibility.
He recalls learning from that time that, in his words: “Some things are important, but one needs to let them go so that more important things can take the new space.”
During his stay in Bengaluru, he stumbled on the idea of blogging and audiobooks. On his 23rd birthday, he had two firsts: registering a domain and publishing a blog post. At first he wrote about things happening in his daily life, which initially got low responses. But when he started attending blogging and tech meetups, he received encouragement from fellow bloggers who complimented him on his writing style.
Using WordPress to publish his story, Raghavendra found a love for writing and this made him want to learn and understand WordPress much better.
“Writing freed my mind and soul from the pain and sorrow; it takes a person into a Zen state where one can understand their soul once they see their own thoughts on paper.”
Raghavendra Satish Peri
There were still some ongoing challenges arising from his difficulties with seeing. For example, Raghavendra found coding was made more complicated. But he took it slowly, and he improved steadily.
He started as many WordPressers do, installing themes and plugins, and making minor changes to the code. Ultimately, he moved all of his sites to WordPress, and as he learned more about WordPress, he could help his friends and family more with their projects.
After just a few years, Raghavendra had the skills and the confidence to build just about anything in WordPress, progressing from simple to complex websites.
Today Raghavendra is a successful entrepreneur. He sees his life as full of promise. WordPress still helps him grow every day, professionally and personally.
“There is always hope for tomorrow! Do not look for the light at the end of the tunnel, embrace the darkness, listen to the quietness, and feel the airflow. You will know that light is ahead even before you see it.”
Raghavendra Satish Peri
Contribute to accessibility and WordPress
Another thing Raghavendra has in common with many WordPressers is his enthusiasm and involvement in the community. As he has learnt more about the software, he felt he needed to be involved with improving accessibility too. He started to help organize local meetups and conferences and encourages others to give time and skills to contribute too.
2016, Raghavendra speaking at WordCamp Mumbai
He follows software development closely, especially where WordPress meets accessibility.
In 2020, on learning about a global WordPress Accessibility event, he applied and became a speaker. His topic was Gutenberg Accessibility, A Screen Reader User’s Perspective. His interest continued as a result of this event, and he wanted to be part of growing its audience and impact, initially through joining its dedicated channel on Slack. Eventually, he joined the organizing team for future events.
Helping run WordPress events brought together all of Raghavendra’s existing skills. It taught him a lot about what it takes to make an event truly inclusive, from captions and sign language to media players and more.
As his involvement has grown, Raghavendra has found it has become easier to source and use resources that make events and presentations more accessible. But knows there’s always more that can be learnt in this area, and encourages others to use understanding from events like the Accessibility Days in their conferences.
Join the global WordPress Accessibility Day 2022 online on November 2-3, 2022. It’s free to register!
Sharing learning on accessibility can be a motivator
In 2021, Raghavendra underwent his most challenging event to date, when he had a kidney transplant. To motivate himself, he started a website that focuses on accessibility and inclusive design. This prompted him to start an accessibility community to help fill the gaps in accessibility knowledge. Today, it is one of India’s largest online accessibility communities, educating developers and designers and training people with disabilities to build a career in accessibility testing.
Raghavendra after his organ transplant in 2021
Raghavendra is also a keen user of the WordPress Gutenberg editor and builds all his websites using it. Though content creation and editing can still pose him difficulties, he finds the front end of the Gutenberg blocks very accessible. He believes in participating in the software to make it a better experience for all.
“I decided to live my life to the fullest and make my mark on the world. This thought keeps me motivated.”
Raghavendra Satish Peri
After a successful transplant, he lives a disciplined life with a few restrictions. He continues to enjoy working in-depth in disability, accessibility, and inclusion spaces. Raghavendra hopes others will join with him and the thousands of other people who collaborate to make a difference.
Share the stories
Help share these stories of open source contributors and continue to grow the community. Meet more WordPressers in the People of WordPress series.
Thank you to Raghavendra Satish Peri (@tarkham) for sharing his experiences for this latest edition.
Thanks to Meher Bala (@meher), Abha Thakor (@webcommsat) and Surendra Thakor (@sthakor) for interviews and writing this feature, to Mary Baum (@marybaum), Chloe Bringmann (@cbringmann), and Larissa Murillo (@lmurillom) for reviews.
This People of WordPress feature is inspired by an essay originally published on HeroPress.com, a community initiative created by Topher DeRosia. It highlights people in the WordPress community who have overcome barriers and whose stories might otherwise go unheard. #HeroPress