WordPress Acessibility: Do you need it and how you can improve it

Website accessibility, in short, means that anyone visiting your website should be able to use and navigate through it. Adding better accessibility to your website means that more people – no matter their hearing, sight, or cognitive abilities – are able to use your website the same as anyone else.

In essence, this equates to making the internet fair for anyone to use, and also means that more people can engage with your website and become recurring visitors.

The Web Accessibility guidelines are managed by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WIP) of The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

How important is website accessibility?

Around 1 billion people in the world live with some kind of disability [1] – this might be mild or a more serious condition. Having bad website accessibility means that at least a portion of these people are not able to use your website as intended.

As we’ve said above, accessibility makes your website and the content within it available to more people, making it easier to consume and making your website more user-friendly in general.

This, in turn, also allows people with certain disabilities to use your website more easily, or with certain helper tools such as the ones that blind people might use.

For the moment, there are no enforceable laws on web accessibility, unless you’re running a government website.

In the US, you can refer to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which is not being enforced at the moment. However, there have been cases where companies have lost lawsuits due to their websites not being accessible to everyone.

How you can improve WordPress Accessibility

Unfortunately, there isn’t a plugin that we can guarantee will instantly resolve all your accessibility issues.

The best way to test your website for accessibility is to put yourself in your visitor’s shoes and imitate a disability.

An easy example is to forget about using a mouse and only use the keyboard to navigate the website. This will help you identify locations that are unreachable without a mouse.

While improving accessibility is not an easy task, it is important to have this in mind, and so, we’ve gathered some tips and tools you can use to make the task easier.

1. Start with an accessibility-ready theme

Screenshot of wordpress repository showing the accessibility-ready filter

The easiest method to have great accessibility is to not have to manually improve it. If you choose a WordPress theme with great accessibility, then most of your job is done, although you might still need to make small improvements.

Accessible themes are different from regular themes because they were built with wordpress accessibility in mind, built according to the accessibility guidelines.

Popular themes and builders will usually feature accessibility-ready design and functions, however, make sure to check just in case.

One tip we can offer in this regard is if you’re installing a theme from the official WordPress repository, you can open the filters and choose “Accessibility Ready”. This will show you only themes that were built with website accessibility in mind.

2. Use a plugin to improve accessibility

Screenshot of wordpress plugin repository showing top results for accessibility

While not always the best option, there’s always the choice of using a plugin to improve accessibility on your website.

Keep in mind that it’s usually always better to manually make changes to your website than to offload the work to a plugin. Plugins might not always do a good job and can introduce additional bloat to your website. However, the option to make such changes is not always available.

If you search for “accessibility” in the WordPress plugin repository, you’ll find plenty of options you can use. Some are paid options that have more options and might provide a better result for you.

In case you’re just starting out and just want a free option to try it out and check how well it works on your website, you can check out One Click Accessibility. It comes with a lot of features such as:

  • Resizing the fonts
  • Changing the contrast
  • Add outline focus
  • Change the font

Since it’s a free plugin, you can always try it and see if it works. If you feel it’s not good enough, you can check out one of the paid options.

3. Keep accessibility in mind when adding content

While much of the issues with accessibility can be resolved with a theme and plugins, there’s a certain part where you – or other people adding content – come in. This means that you need to keep accessibility in mind when publishing.

3.1 Page / Post structure

You might already know this, but it’s still worth a mention.

Having proper structure refers to using tags in a logical order – from largest to smallest.

For example, H1 headings are usually reserved for titles and you should not have more than one of these on your page. The rest of your page or post should be structured with H2 to H6, from least important to most important, by logical hierarchy.

Usually, H3 would be nested under H2, H4 should be under H3, and so on.

3.2 Alt text on images

Alt text on images is a quick way to describe an image on the page. In the event that the image cannot be loaded for some reason, the alt text will be shown to verbally describe what the image represents.

Image alt text is used by screen readers to explain the image to visually impaired visitors. Due to this, alt text is one of the most important options you can use to improve accessibility.

4 Using online scanners to detect areas that need improvement

If you have an existing website that you do not want to make big changes to, this should be the first step to improving your wordpress accessibility.

These kinds of tools simply crawl your website. Once done, a report will be generated for your web page which will identify places where you have room for improvement in regard to accessibility.

Using a scanner such as WAVE(Web Accessibility Evaluation) is pretty easy, as easy as inputting your website and waiting for the report to be generated.

Conclusion

The internet has become an essential part of our lives, it provides us with much-needed information and helps with various things in life. In the end, it’s our responsibility to ensure that the web is equally useful for everyone.

Unfortunately, some people weren’t as lucky as others, however, we need to ensure that people with any kind of disability are able to use the world wide web.

Apart from helping others be able to live better lives, this can also help your website have more visitors, and perhaps even increase revenue for your business.

We hope we’ve provided you with great tools and tips to improve your WordPress accessibility, and that we’ve managed to make your life easier.

 

Sources:

[1] WHO report on disability – 2011