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Choctaw Nation Veterans Archive

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Building the Choctaw Nation Veterans Archive laid the foundation for a lot of other projects, and it was a lot of fun to think through the details to make it happen.

The goal of the site was to create an archive that allowed our site’s content editor to upload assets and maintain the database on her own with minimal training while also providing a way for users to submit information themselves.

This site had a few technical objectives:

  1. Create a simple, straightforward interface on the WordPress admin side that allowed our content editor to operate with minimal training.
  2. Allow users to submit veterans themselves that our content editor could review and publish.
  3. Modify and extend Bootstrap’s bundled CSS to be as small as possible while also generating the necessary utility classes to build all the custom components we needed (like the buttons’ styling and custom theme colors).

This site is powered by React and Fusejs for its search functionality and archive markup, and Bootstrap for its UI / UX components.

This was my first time building a custom rest route and working with the Google reCaptcha API.

Key Learnings

  • Built a custom REST API route and endpoints with data validation to POST and GET data in a WordPress-like fashion.
  • Learned about and utilized the WordPress Transient API to quickly fetch veteran data to be displayed and usable for search.
  • Built a front-end form that programmatically builds new posts that integrate with Advanced Custom Field’s Groups and Repeaters.
  • Drilled down into macOS Voiceover tools to check keyboard accessibility as well as sensical aria-labels and tab indices.
  • Extended Bootstrap with custom components to create a pure-CSS solution for the button interaction styles to match the design reference and keep bundled asset sizes low.

Personal Wins

During a round of interviews, the person being interviewed asked us why we love working for the Choctaw Nation. It was the first time I was able to succinctly express why I love what I do, and I thought I would summarize my response here.

The preservation of culture

As a transracial adoptee, I deeply understand what it means to be removed from one’s culture. Sometimes it’s forcibly removed, other times it’s relinquished in order to survive (i.e. assimilation). With the Veterans Archive, as my coworker pointed out in his response, there is a clear line between what we do as web developers and the preservation of the Choctaw culture and history that doesn’t always exist when we build a more marketing-focused site.

Accessible design

The Veterans Archive has led the charge in accessible design (it is the most-accessible site we’ve built as of this writing) for our team—which is especially meaningful to me as a disabled person. I have the privilege of being neurotypical and generally able-bodied, and I wasn’t super rushed when building the site out.

Being able to take my time meant I got to deeply explore accessible design—and not just from a color-contrast point-of-view. Though I realize “perfectly accessible” is impossible to achieve, this site feels like a love-letter to my disability community and it’s a huge step forward in making all of my sites more accessible.