Yoast Care fund: An interview with Maja Benke

Maja Benke

Maja Benke

Bernhard Kau

Nominated by:
Bernhard Kau

This week’s recipient of the Yoast Care fund is Maja Benke, who was nominated by Bernhard Kau. Maja works as a freelance web designer and has a passion for accessibility and usability. Let’s find out more about Maja and her contributions to the WordPress community!

Introduction by nominator Bernhard Kau
Maja joined the WordPress community in 2015 by visiting her first WordCamp in Cologne. Being a designer and passionate about accessibility, she contributed to both teams and some of the important projects in these teams. She speaks about accessibility at different WordCamps in Europe and helped organize WordCamp Berlin in 2015 and 2017.

Since 2015, she’s also an active member of the Berlin meetup group and helps with the organization since 2016. In the last two years, she took over the organizing work almost completely due to my involvement in the WordCamp Europe organizing team. Furthermore, she founded the first Female WordPress Meetup in 2017, to welcome new female members into our community. This helped increase the diversity of our regular meetups, both in attendees and speakers.

Maja, when and why did you start contributing?
The first time I contributed was in 2015 at WordCamp Cologne. It was my first Contributor Day and I was a bit afraid because I thought contributing meant you had to have a lot of super technical skills and be a developer. And yes, I was in the wrong team, because I joined the Theme Review team because I thought it was about design, but it was about code review, which I wasn’t really good with at the time. ​

A couple of months later, I was at a different WordCamp and there was a workshop about accessibility. That’s where I became really passionate about this subject. They are a lot of problems that have to be fixed in terms of accessibility. And that’s why I decided to start contributing myself. ​

What does WordPress look like in your perfect world?
In my perfect world, WordPress would look like a true democratic publishing platform where the actual software would be developed like real open-source software. With a democratic decision-making process. Because with such a process, there would be a lot less of the issues that we have right now. ​

But besides that, I think WordPress by itself is pretty good at this point. Even with the critical points we are facing. I think it’s getting better and more accessible for a lot of people. ​

Who is your WordPress hero? And who is your WordPress mentor?
For me personally, it’s the same person for both questions: Rian Rietveld. Because she introduced me to the subject of accessibility. She was the first person I met who cared about accessibility and shared issues and solutions in the WordPress community. She was also the lead of the Accessible Team for a really long time.

Rian was really great at just encouraging a lot of people to take care of accessibility. She taught many people in a very nice way. Not by being pushy about it, but by being really empathic. It broke my heart when she stepped down as the Accessibility Team lead. But yes, she was my mentor and my WordPress hero. ​

What contribution or moment are you most proud of?
I would say, it was when the first ticket I worked on got merged into core. It was concerning the “read more link” that was not accessible. Something I learned from Rian of course. So I wrote a ticket and then some other really cool people worked on the ticket. In the end, there was a way to fix the accessibility issue, even when the theme developers had not made the link accessible, which they had to do before the fix. I would say this was my first big contribution which felt really great.

And after that, I worked on other things that got merged into core, like helping to improve accessibility for Gutenberg. I’m very proud of those contributions, as they have truly made a difference and pushed some things forward. ​

What would you love to work on in the future?
What I’m doing at the moment actually. Designing websites with proper accessibility and usability. And in terms of contributions to the community, I would like to do more work concerning accessibility and design. At the moment I contribute a lot by organizing the local meetups. Which is great, because WordPress lives thanks to its community. But in the future, I would like to focus more on accessibility and usability.

Do you know someone who contributes to the community and who could definitely use a nomination for the Yoast Care fund? Go to our Yoast care fund page to find out how you can nominate someone! And make sure to have a quick look at the recipient page to check if that person hasn’t been nominated before.