How to Find and Fix Common WordPress Accessibility Issues
Internet is one thing that has in many ways empowered the unprivileged, given voice to the common, and enable the disabled. It is a medium that distributes power and gives access to information and knowledge to everyone irrespectively.
Today, there are strict standards of web accessibility that one needs to adhere to so that their website is accessible to all. While developing a site, a lot of developers consider the work done once it is functional for regular people. However, 15% of the world’s population is disabled in some way and if your website doesn’t have access options for them, you are missing out on a large segment of the population.
WordPress has gone to lengths to make its platform WCAG 2.0 AA compliant. Their dedicated accessibility team makes sure to create features and make changes in the core. A major reason why WordPress is relatively more accessible than other CMS is:
- It’s open-source
- WCAG 2.0 AA Compliant
- It aims to conform to ATAG or Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 of W3C’s
WordPress community applauds and values the importance of accessibility goals but they are yet to make progress to arrive at them fully.
Why is web accessibility important?
Having a web-accessible website is beneficial on multiple levels. However, the most fundamental importance of accessible sites is that it benefits people with disabilities. Internet is all about making information available to all without boundaries. Accessible sites offer an opportunity for everyone to access information and knowledge the way they can perceive it.
Here are few more benefits of an accessible site:
- You can avoid legal complaints
- Have a wider reach
- Improves your SEO
- Builds positive PR
Search engines also reward a website for being accessible. It is seen that search engines rank websites higher that are accessible. The Blog Starter has all good blogging tutorials to try and make your blogs more user-friendly and profitable.
Let’s look at how you can fix accessibility issues on your website.
Choose Accessible Themes
Understand that not every theme is accessible. It takes a lot of effort and testing to create an accessible theme. The accessibility team at WordPress has identified 115 free accessibility-ready themes in the repository. However, if you choose to buy a premium theme, make sure to go through its accessibility features, customer reviews, etc. Usually, premium themes put in more effort and testing to integrate accessibility features.
This is, however, just the first step. You need to be careful to use plugins and codes that do not cross any of the accessibility features.
Selecting The Right Plugins
Plugins are the backbone of WordPress. They add additional features to the CMS which are not present by default. This is the reason people choose WordPress over other CMS.
However, wrong plugins can cause accessibility issues. A few areas that you must be extra careful while choosing plugins are:
- Page builders
- Interactive plugins
- Form plugins
However, there are specific plugins that can also enhance the accessibility of your site. You can find over 100 plugins under the accessibility tag on wordpress.org which claim to add accessibility functionality. However, many developers have serious reservations about plugins that claim to enhance accessibility.
Alternative Text for Non-Textual Content
Today, media forms most of the website’s content. This can overwhelm a person with a disability. A blind person cannot perceive images or videos, a deaf person cannot perceive audio, and so on. Thus, it is important to put alternative text which can be read or heard along with media content.
Alt text allows the user to put text along with media content and decorative content. This simple practice of adding alt text to images, transcripts for videos, audios, and diagrams, etc. are great accessibility practices.
Websites use a lot of automated media in form of GIFs, graphics, vectors, pop-ups, etc. As soon as a user loads a page, any media present on the page begins automatically. This includes audio also. However, it is best to let the users manually turn a media element on or off. This not only improves your page load speed but also gives users a wider range of control.
Appropriate Colour Contrast
WordPress allows you to change the colour of various elements on a webpage. This gives you the ability to control the colour contrast of a page. This is important because a lot of people have various visual disabilities and a wide range of visual abilities. Thus, the text and elements on your page must be easily distinguishable to all.
WCAG 2.0 AA requires a minimum of a 4.5:1 ratio for normal text and 3:1 for larger text.
Keyword navigation is perhaps one of the most important forms of accessibility. It allows users to navigate a website using a keyboard alone without the help of a mouse. You can even test your website for keyboard navigation accessibility.
Use Tab to navigate down and Shift+Tab to navigate upwards on your webpage. Check if you can traverse through all links present on your web page.
A lot of people who use a screen-reader or have poor vision cannot read a link and choose to navigate to other areas of a website. A link that says, click here or read more is not descriptive enough. Thus, using a descriptive link enables them to figure out what a particular link is about and where it’ll take them.
Forms are an important feature. We all are required to fill a form or two occasionally. However, forms prove to be one of the biggest hindrances to accessibility.
A form should inform the users of the following things to make it more accessible:
- What info needs to go in what box
- Which boxes have incorrect information and why
- What to change in username or password for it to be acceptable
- Universal symbols to show error, acceptance, modification, etc.
- Use of basic colors to show right and wrong
Web accessibility is not just a matter of ranking your website or building a good PR. It is about enabling more people to access information and knowledge by breaking barriers of all kinds. Accessibility does not only mean catering to people with a physical disability. People can be disabled because of many reasons. The difference in language, connectivity, internet availability, socio-economic disparities, etc. can also be a cause for people to have inadequate internet access.
The fundamental principle of the web is that it is for all by all. Thus, it is in some way a moral responsibility to make our websites accessible to people irrespective of any differences. These simple tips can help you take significant steps towards a more inclusive web experience.
Artem Pavlov is an enthusiastic blogger and technical writer. He manages all the editorial aspects of WP Daily Themes and loves to contribute at posts on top blogs.