WordPress Accessibility and Why It’s So Important
It’s more important than ever to make sure your site is accessible to the widest spectrum of the world’s internet users. We take a look at the most common accessibility pitfalls and what you can do to help your site improve.
15% of the global population live with some kind of disability. Barriers such as negative attitudes, lack of provision of services, and inadequate policies and standards can lead to higher rates of poverty, poorer health outcomes, and less economic participation.
Engaging with the issues surrounding accessibility is hugely important in allowing visitors with disabilities to engage with web content without issue. WordPress powers over 33% of the net, and so understanding the ways in which we can all work to make WordPress sites more accessible can have an impact on the lives of hundreds of millions of people. As a WordPress site owner making your site accessible is the right thing to do.
Sure, there are other benefits like having a site that offers a better user experience, ranking higher in the search engines, and avoiding fines and lawsuits. But, there’s a lot more that goes into creating an accessible site than just compliance. An accessible WordPress site means no matter the disability, everyone will be able to access your site’s content.
In this post, you’ll learn about the ins and outs of WordPress accessibility, why it matters, how well WordPress handles accessibility, and the steps you can take to make your site accessible today.
What is WordPress Accessibility?
At the core, web accessibility is about making the web a usable place for everyone. If you’re in the business of running a WordPress site or building a website for clients, this is something that needs to be at the top of your mind.
There are multiple different types of accessibility important for your website.
Accessibility for Visitors With Disabilities
The main focal point of website accessibility will be on making your website entirely accessible for those who have certain disabilities.
Your website needs to be accessible for the following types of users:
- People who are visually impaired and need to use screen readers to navigate the web
- People with forms of color vision impairment who need to be able to see all of your site’s content easily
- Visitors who are hard of hearing or visually impaired who might not be able to access the video or audio content on your site
- Those who have limited motor control and use a keyboard or voice-based navigation to get around a website
- People who have a hard time reading specific fonts, such as those with dyslexia
If your layout is too complex, your site is confusing to navigate, or your content is difficult to read due to font choice, color, or design options, then you have poor accessibility.
You want your website to support people finding the information on your site quickly and easily.
Visitors With Economic Disadvantages
Another point of accessibility commonly overlooked is those with economic disadvantages or are using an older technology.
Many modern websites with custom CSS or advanced widgets don’t perform well on older web browsers or computers that are more than a few years old.
One way around this is to have versions of your website that rely on less code, like how Gmail has a version that will load over a slower internet connection.
Your site might not look the same as your main version, but your site’s core information can still be accessed.
There’s an ongoing shift towards a mobile-first web. Responsive design is a must-have for your WordPress site. Luckily, almost every modern WordPress theme is responsive right out of the box.
Still, there could be issues with how your site looks and performs across devices of different sizes.
Accessibility across multiple devices means that your website should perform and be used in the same manner no matter how it’s viewed.
Common Accessibility Guidelines
The guidelines for website accessibility vary across different sites and organizations. For example, US government websites adhere to the Section 508 Accessibility Guidelines, which includes some of the following:
- Websites have built-in accessibility support like keyboard navigation
- Visitors using screen readers and other assistive technology are supported
- Website is compatible with hearing aids and other assistive listening devices
- Video and multimedia includes captioning and audio descriptions
The Human and SEO Benefits of Accessibility
The most apparent benefit to accessibility is that people with disabilities can read and enjoy your website’s content, products, and any services you offer.
When you place a focus on making your site accessible, you can:
Grow Your Audience
People with disabilities make up a significant portion of the global population. Failing to make your website accessible means losing out on that entire segment. Building an accessible website for you or your clients means you can serve this audience effectively.
Serving this market isn’t only the right thing to do, but it’s good for your traffic and your bottom line.
Increase Your Overall Usability
Accessibility is primarily focused on people who have disabilities. However, specific accessibility-related tasks can help to make your site more usable overall.
Having an accessible site means cleaning up any inefficient html code, and making your UI simpler to use and navigate.
Fully accessible websites won’t require a mouse to navigate, which means improved navigation for all of your visitors. Having a clean navigation menu, adding image alt text, and speeding up your website, adding glossaries for your content will help elevate how easy your site is to use.
Improve Your Search Engine Rankings
Google’s overall goal is to provide the most relevant and helpful experience for its users. The better experience they can provide, the more their users will trust them. This is a big reason Google has placed such a high importance on accessibility, and Google’s search algorithm will reward sites that make the effort to improve on this front.
There are also ranking factors that have overlap with accessibility like:
- Adding video transcripts
- Accessible navigation
- Adding image alt text or alt tags
- And more
Overall, there’s a clear overlap with accessibility and SEO. By focusing on making your website more accessible, you can see your search engine rankings rise in the process. Overall, it’s a great idea to align your website’s goals with that of Google.
The Risks of Not Having an Accessible Site
It’s easy to think of accessibility as a means to create a better user experience and improve your search engine rankings. But your goal should be to provide the best possible site experience for all potential users; all being the essential part. The positive impact you can create by focusing on accessibility goes well beyond marketing, traffic, and adding new features.
For those who have disabilities, the internet may be one of the most effective ways to actually interact with your business, particularly in the field of e-commerce. By accommodating everyone’s needs, you can create an inclusive and holistic experience for every single visitor who comes to your website. By making your website more accessible, you provide an engaging and quality experience for everyone.
However, there’s also the potential for lawsuits for website owners who don’t follow the guidelines outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The number of cases continues to surge, and not just for physical retail; especially companies with sites with a ton of information can find themselves afoul of the law if their sites aren’t organized correctly or perfectly align with accessibility requirements.
The right to access information is a right for everyone. By putting a focus on accessibility, you put your visitors first, no matter who they happen to be.
What Parts of Your Site Need to Be Accessible?
Making your website accessible can seem like a tremendous task. But, there are core areas of your site on which you can focus that will make the most significant difference.
If you’re building a WordPress website from scratch or redesigning a client’s website, you can keep the must-have accessibility features below in mind:
Images and Alt Text
Screen readers will use alt text to help visually impaired users navigate your site and understand the context of images.
All images that are not purely decorative should have alt text, including featured images and images within the content. Your alt text should describe the image and give it useful context.
Beyond images, other forms of media like podcasts, interviews, and videos should include transcriptions.
Keyboard Accessible Navigation and Menus
Users who are mobility impaired and can’t use a mouse will often need to navigate around your site using a keyboard.
Your site should be accessible by keyboard commands, and this includes your homepage, menus, all navigation elements, and all your interactive elements of your website.
Screen-Reader Supported Links
Screen readers allow users to navigate between website pages by going from link to link. So, if your link text is only “read more,” this won’t give your user enough context to know where the link will go. Instead, you can create more descriptive link text to understand navigation better, using ARIA labels or screen-reader-only text.
Your color contrast should support people who are visually impaired who have trouble reading low contrast backgrounds. If you’ve got custom CSS or a fancy-looking site that means the contrast between text, background, and interface elements is too low, those who are visually impaired won’t be able to read your website.
The minimum WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines require a 4.5:1 aspect ratio for normal text and a 3:1 aspect ratio for large text.
Clarity of Text (Acronyms/Shorthand)
If your website uses acronyms or shorthand within the text, a screen reader won’t interpret these correctly. There’s also an overlap with the elderly and those with learning or cognitive disabilities who might have difficulty remembering abbreviations.
The goal here is to communicate the meaning behind acronyms and subtext more effectively.
Contact Form Labeling
The contact forms on your site need to have clear labeling. Without clear labels, those using screen readers will have difficulty navigating the form and the information that needs to be entered in each form field.
Your forms need to have clearly labeled forms fields; you can use placeholder text as well, just make sure that the text doesn’t disappear from the field when it’s clicked.
It might be tempting to choose a bold and fancy font, but getting too crazy with your font choice can make it difficult for all users. Typography isn’t a requirement, but it can go a long way.
Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing a font:
- Select serif or sans serif fonts and avoid cursive fonts
- Avoid fonts that rely on too much uppercase or alternating case
- Use font sizes that are at least 16px
You can also use fonts sized in em or rems to better support content and font resizing.
The following accessibility tools and accessibility checkers will see how your site currently stands:
Does WordPress Have High Accessibility Standards?
Trying to handle all of your WordPress accessibility for your website and client sites can be a lot of work, especially if you’re beginning with a WordPress theme and a selection of plugins that make accessibility difficult.
So, just how accessible is WordPress overall?
The WordPress core is designed to be very accessible right from the start. WordPress has its own accessibility team dedicated to making the WordPress admin area and bundled themes as WCAG 2.0AA standards.
The goal of WordPress is to conform with the W3C’s Authoring Tools Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 – but currently it isn’t in complete alignment with these guidelines.
WordPress.org Accessibility team contributor Joe Dolson had this to say about the current state of WordPress accessibility, “The front-end of WordPress is pretty much in the same place it’s been for years: perfectly capable of being accessible, but it entirely depends on the developer building the site. A poor theme or inaccessible plug-ins make all the difference. The admin has continued to improve—it’s been a hard road to move the Gutenberg editor along towards better accessibility, but progress is being made. That said, it’s a constant battle to avoid accessibility regressions with any new interface component.”
Overall, the WordPress community values accessibility, but there’s still progress to be made, especially considering the massive theme library and plugin selection.
Even if you are starting with an accessibility-ready theme, that doesn’t mean that it’s automatically going to have perfect accessibility.
Plus, if you customize the theme’s code, change the color scheme, or make other tweaks, you could effectively ruin the existing accessibility.
WordPress has an extensive plugin library of over 50,000 free plugins – let alone the swathes of premium plugins available. Each new plugin installed adds new features, but it can also create accessibility issues.
How accessiBe Can Make Your Site Accessibility Ready
The WordPress accessiBe accessibility plugin was designed to help overcome existing accessibility problems with your website without making changes to your design or code yourself.
It acts as a shortcut to making your site fully accessible to a wide range of people with disabilities, including:
Screen Reader Optimization for Blind Users
People who are blind rely entirely on screen readers to navigate the web. Many websites don’t have the appropriate alt text, ARIA text, and behavior-based cues to navigate the site successfully.
accessiBe’s machine learning will analyze and interpret every element of your website. It then uses ARIA attributes and behavior adjustments to give screen readers complete context of the site. Every aspect of your site is supported, including drop-downs, forms, pop-ups, and more.
Keyboard Navigation for the Motor Impaired
Those with motor impairments, injuries, or arthritis who have difficulty using a mouse rely on a keyboard to effectively navigate the web.
The contextual AI engine built into the accessiBe plugin makes changes on a code level, so your site is entirely accessible by keyboard navigation. It can handle everything from drop-down menus to pop-ups.
Live Dictionary for People With Cognitive Disorders
Some users might read a web page but have trouble understanding the phrases and content.
A built-in dictionary helps to overcome this by letting users quickly check the meaning of words, abbreviations, slang, and references.
Stop Website Flashing for the Prevention of Epileptic Seizures
People who have photo-sensitive epilepsy can get triggered by flashing animations or GIFs. For those who suffer from epileptic seizures, there’s a button labeled “Stop Animations,” which immediately stops all flashing elements, videos, and patterns that could trigger an episode.
Live Design Adjustments for the Visually Impaired
Many sites have content that’s impossible for those with color blindness, blurred vision, or other visual impairments to read. Users have access to the accessibility interface to adjust the scaling, spacing of text, change color ratios, and more.
Beyond ensuring your site is optimized for the groups above, accessiBe ensures that your site will always remain compliant with accessibility checks run every 24 hours to fix any new issues, and in-depth monthly compliance checks to ensure your site is in full compliance.
How to Install accessiBe and Get Started Today
The goal of accessiBe is to replace the costly and manual process of making your site accessible with a single line of code and state of the art AI technology.
The process of making your site accessible becomes simple and easy with accessiBe. The process for adding the WordPress plugin to your site is straightforward and just takes a couple of minutes to set up:
- Install and activate the accessiBe WordPress plugin on your WordPress site
3. The accessibility interface will appear on your website
4. accessiBe will scan and analyze your website
5. After 48 hours, your website will be fully compliant and certified
6. Every 24 hours, your website will be scanned again, and any new errors will be fixed
Most of the heavy lifting of making your site accessible is taken care of by a single plugin. Here’s how your site will appear to your visitors who need to make accessibility adjustments:
Wrapping Up: Get Accessibility Ready Today
WordPress accessibility isn’t simple to achieve by any means, especially when you bring in the flexibility and control that WordPress offers its users.
However, making your website accessible will open your website to the world, no matter what disabilities people may have.
WordPress’s foundation, including the Gutenberg editor and the continual strides it makes towards improved accessibility, is a great place to start. But, to truly make your site accessible you’ll need to ensure your WordPress theme and plugins are compliant.
If you want accessibility the easy way, then consider using the accessiBe plugin, which will make your entire website accessible without any additional work.
accessiBe also offers affiliates the opportunity to provide added value and earn commission while doing something good. As web accessibility becomes a must-have for all businesses, accessiBe affiliates can receive 20% commission and up to $1000 purchase value of every customer referred. Not to mention, a free accessiBe license for your own site. Sign up now to start earning while doing good.