WordPress Accessibility

Is WordPress Accessible?

WordPress has an Accessibility Team whose mission is:

The Accessibility Team works to make WordPress accessible to everyone, including the more than one billion humans with disabilities. This means making sure people are not just able to read webpages but also to make websites. You are a part of this mission. You benefit from this mission. So in the spirit of one of the largest open-source communities in the world, let’s fight for universal accessibility.

The Accessibility Team created a handbook that explains how to implement accessible HTML, such as multimedia alternatives and use of color. The handbook also includes pages with some accessibility tools that users, designers, and developers may find useful. They also include information about projects they are testing, guidelines for theme developers, accessible themes, and how to get involved with the Accessibility Team.

On March 21, 2016, the WordPress Accessibility Team announced that “all new or updated code released into WordPress core and bundled themes must conform with the WCAG 2.0 guidelines at level AA.” This is wonderful because WordPress runs 27% of the entire internet.

(You can follow the WordPress Accessibility Team’s updates if you want to know the latest news.) And this means that any new default theme that WordPress creates will be accessible right out of the box. Twenty Seventeen is accessibility ready. It has the accessibility-ready tag, which is necessary if a theme wants to be filtered under Accessibility Ready in the WordPress repository. Themes that want to have that tag must undergo an accessibility review. WordPress’s announcement is very important, because many WordPress users stick with the default core theme. The Twenty Seventeen theme has over a million installs, which means over a million users, whether they use their site or not, have a site that’s accessible at its core.

Moreover, the Accessibility team has compiled a list of plugins as well that can help make a site accessible. They also have development tools to help you make an accessible theme and/or plugin. I tried some of the plugins, and here are a few I recommend:

  • WP Accessibility – allows a user to toggle to high contrast mode and desaturated (grayscale) mode, and make the text larger. In addition, it allows you to have skiplinks and remove title attributes, and more.
  • SOGO Accessibility – adds accessibility features to the site front end. It also allows users to toggle to different contrast modes and different text sizes. You can also add custom CSS.   
  • wA11y – The Web Accessibility Toolbox – provides a plethora of tools to help you evaluate and improve the accessibility of your site.

In addition to using built in WordPress features and WordPress plugins to make your site accessible, you can also run your site(s) through accessibility evaluation tools. One, ACE: the Accessible Colour Evaluator specifically checks color schemes for your site and shows you what people with different kinds of color blindness may see. Another is SortSite – Accessibility Checker and Validator from Powermapper that checks for WCAG 2.0 (118 separate tests), WCAG 1.0 (86 separate tests), and Section 508 (55 separate tests). This is not the only one-stop accessibility checker, but it seems to work well. The same tool also tests the accessibility of various file formats such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PDF, GIF, and Flash.

In short, WCAG is…

The primary guidelines and standards for accessibility on the web are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). For lack of better phrasing, Wikipedia offers a concise explanation of what WCAG is:

“The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are part of a series of web accessibility guidelines published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the main international standards organization for the Internet. They are a set of guidelines that specify how to make content accessible, primarily for people with disabilities—but also for all user agents, including highly limited devices, such as mobile phones. The current version, WCAG 2.0, was published in December 2008 and became an ISO standard, ISO/IEC 40500:2012 in October 2012.”

WCAG is geared toward, but not limited to:

  • Web content developers (page authors, site designers, etc.)
  • Web authoring tool developers
  • Web accessibility evaluation tool developers
  • Others who want or need a standard for web accessibility, including for mobile accessibility

(Source)

WCAG provides information on how to make web content, such as “text, images, sound, and code or markup that defines structure, presentation, etc.” more accessible to people with disabilities. WCAG 2.0 takes accessibility further by having 12 guidelines that are organized under 4 principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Furthermore, each guideline is subject to testing and categorized into three levels: A, AA, and AAA. For more, you can check out W3C’s quick reference to WCAG 2.0. Lastly, WCAG 2.0 was also added Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (amended 29 U.S.C. 794d), which protects US Federal employees with disabilities by stating that should have access to information comparable to US Federal employees without disabilities.

Making a site or transforming a site to be accessible may seem overwhelming, but there are tools out there to help. The ones I listed above are a great start. And the process is iterative, so you shouldn’t feel like you have to fix everything at once. Ultimately, creating a site that is accessible to individuals with disabilities is something we should all strive to do, and gradually making adjustments will allow more people to access the content on your site.

Featured image by John Moore, Unsplash.