WordPress Accessibility: Creating and Testing Accessibility on WordPress

WordPress Accessibility: Creating and Testing Accessibility on WordPress

When designing a website, it’s important to think about your audience. If you don’t optimize the site for a variety of users, you will limit who can view your content. Without actively thinking about WordPress accessibility, it can cause users to quickly leave your site and never return.

Focusing on accessibility in WordPress enables more people to navigate and interact with the site. With an accessible design and inclusive features, the overall user experience (UX) can be improved for people with disabilities.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at WordPress accessibility options and how to implement them on your website. Then, we’ll show you how to test new features before publishing your content. Let’s get started!

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Web accessibility is the process of making a website accessible to a variety of users, including people with disabilities. Even if someone has a visual or motor impairment, web accessibility can give them equal access to online content.

An Introduction to WordPress Accessibility

For example, a simple, contrasting color scheme will enable color-blind users to read content easily. Additionally, since other visitors might not be able to use a mouse, you can make your website navigable by just using the keyboard.

Barclays.com, an example of a well-thought-out website design with accessibility features in mind

After the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed, web accessibility became required by law. If you’re a web developer or website owner, you must keep the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) in mind when designing your pages.

For instance, the content needs to be:

  • Perceivable. Online users should be able to discern the information on a web page, even when they’re using assistive technology like a screen reader.
  • Operable. A website must be easy to navigate, whether visitors use a mouse, keyboard, or voice commands.
  • Understandable. Your content has to be readable and easy to understand.
  • Robust. Users should be able to access your content with a wide variety of technologies, including mobile devices, browsers, and screen readers.

When it comes to WordPress, accessibility options can be a hit or miss. Although the WordPress Accessibility Team always evaluates core software, themes, and plugins, there’s no guarantee that these features will be compliant.

Essentially, developers and content creators are responsible for selecting their own accessibility toolkits. This can take extra time and effort, but it offers many benefits:

  • Enable a wide range of users to view your content
  • Improve the overall user experience for people with disabilities
  • It helps to establish trust with your audience

In short, you want everyone to be able to access your WordPress website. Many websites exclude users with visual impairment or other disabilities, but you should actively consider them during the development and design process.

What Are the Key Features of Web Accessibility?

You’ll need to work on several features when making your site accessible. These include:

  • Navigation. Visitors should access any part of the website using just their keyboards or assistive technologies.
  • Alt text. Use descriptive text for visually impaired users so they can access the information using screen readers.
  • Color scheme. The color palette should have contrasting shades which makes the content more readable.
  • Font. All text on the website should be at least 16 pixels in size and use a legible font style.

Even though you can’t account for all medical conditions, these features can ensure that more people can engage with your website.

8 Tips for WordPress Accessibility

Now that we’ve looked at the importance of web accessibility, let’s discuss how to optimize your website to meet these guidelines.

1. Select the Right WordPress Theme

When designing a website, you might be tempted to pick one of the best free WordPress themes. Although many options are popular, affordable, and well-designed, this doesn’t mean that they are accessible.

Certain themes can make it difficult for people with disabilities to view your content. For example, a default color scheme might have similar shades, which means that color-blind users won’t be able to identify the difference.

Yale School of Art, an example of a poorly designed website where it is difficult to discern written information

However, you’ll find several accessibility-ready themes on WordPress. These options have passed an accessibility audit, providing additional features for easy navigation and clear visibility.

Here are some basic features you should look for in an accessible theme:

  • Keyboard navigation
  • Reasonable HTML heading structure
  • Contrasting color scheme

When searching for a WordPress accessibility-ready theme, you can narrow down your options using a filter. On the Theme Directory, simply click on Feature Filter and select Accessibility Ready.

Different filter options in the WordPress Theme Directory with Accessibility Ready option selected

After applying the filter, you can view all themes that meet WordPress’s accessibility requirements. Many of these options will have a simple design and offer support for assistive technologies.

A glimpse at available WordPress themes with accessibility features present

However, it’s important to note that these themes are only required to meet the minimum accessibility requirements. A particular theme might not account for the varying degrees of disabilities and their specific needs. To make sure a theme is suitable for you personally, you’ll need to read the description and evaluate the accessible features it provides.

2. Add Functional Features With Plugins

Another simple solution is to use WordPress accessibility plugins. When you install a WordPress plugin, you can automatically boost the site’s accessibility without needing to do any maintenance.

When it comes to accessibility, two types of plugins can help – some plugins are designed to help you build accessible content, while others can make an existing website more inclusive.

You can find a WordPress ADA compliance plugin by applying the right filter. If you’re using the Plugin Directory, make sure to browse your results with the “accessibility” plugin tag.

A glimpse at available WordPress plugins with accessibility features present

One of the best WordPress plugins for accessibility is One Click Accessibility.

One Click Accessibility WordPress plugin banner

Once you’ve built your site, this tool can add new features so that anyone can view the content. For instance, enable a skip-to-content feature for keyboard users and alter the color scheme with negative contrast, light background, or grayscale options.

3. Describe Your Images With Alt Text

Images are just as important to a website as any other type of content. In fact, they’re frequently preferable to blocks of text as they can provide necessary information instantly and more creatively.

When read by screen readers, a well-written alt text (also known as alt tags or alt descriptions) can provide similar information about the image to a visually impaired person, fully experiencing the site’s content.

Alt texts also play a significant role in WordPress SEO as search engines use them to return search results. As a result, taking care of your alt descriptions is something that shouldn’t simply be glanced over.

After uploading a photo in WordPress, go to the Attachment Details on the right-hand side of the page. Here, you’ll see options to add a title, caption, description, and alt text.

Including an alt text and description to an uploaded image in WordPress

For the alt text, make sure to write a description of the image without going over the word limit (around 125 characters). Since search engines also use this information to understand the image, don’t forget to include target keywords to boost your rankings.

Although captions are optional, they can provide additional information for the readers. While alt text should be short and descriptive, you can go into more detail in your captions.

Adding alt text and captions to images can be a simple way to make your WordPress site more accessible. Even if users cannot physically see these visuals, they can understand them by hearing their descriptions.

Another helpful WordPress accessibility plugin is Bulk Auto Image Alt Text.

Bulk Auto Image Alt Text WordPress plugin banner

As its name suggests, this tool enables automatically adding alt text to multiple images all at once. It generates alt tags from image names, post titles, or keywords, and is compatible with Yoast SEO and WooCommerce.

4. Use Legible Fonts

When designing online content, you might not consider fonts to be an accessibility issue. However, the wrong font style and size can make it difficult for people to read your content.

If you choose a decorative custom font, such as a cursive style, some people might struggle to understand it. Therefore, you’ll want to opt for simple, easy-to-read styles, such as Calibri, Arial, and Times New Roman.

Another element to consider is the font size. Generally, accessible font size should be at least 16 pixels in size. If your readers have limited vision, they’ll also need to be able to zoom in or resize the display.

When using a block theme, you can edit the site’s fonts using the Site Editor. In your WordPress dashboard, open Appearance -> Editor. Then, select Typography.

The typography block in WordPress site editor

Next, click on the Text element. This will open customization options for your font style and size.

Further text customization options in WordPress

To enable font resizing, use a plugin such as Zeno Font Resizer.

Zeno Font Resizer WordPress plugin banner

With this tool, you can enable visitors to adjust the font size to their preference. Additionally, the plugin uses cookies to save the user’s preferences.

5. Select Contrasting Colors

As you’re customizing the color scheme of your website, it’s important to consider viewers who are potentially color blind. If you choose colors with very similar shades, people with poor vision might not be able to tell the difference between them.

When selecting contrasting colors, any visitor will easily read your content. Often, black text with a white background is the most preferable choice because of its striking contrast.

New York Times website, an example of the most common form of contrasting colors—black letters within a white background

Fortunately, WordPress will automatically notify if you try to use similar color shades. When it detects a color combination that is hard to read, it will suggest a dark background and a bright color scheme instead.

Automatic WordPress message when choosing a poor text:background color combination

You can also use the WebAIM Contrast Checker to find accessible colors for your website. This tool allows for trying out different shade combinations and to see whether they have enough contrast.

WebAIM Contrast Checker, a tool to experiment with different shade combinations

After you pick the colors, the WebAIM Contrast Checker will give a contrast ratio. If the colors have a ratio of at least 4.5:1, they’ll pass the WCAG accessibility requirements. Plus, you can preview the chosen colors in action and decide whether they’re suitable for your website.

6. Add Headings

When writing new posts, you’ll need to organize them with appropriate headings. By breaking up text into different sections, your content will be easier to read and understand.

No one wants to read a long section of text with no breaks. Therefore, headings and appropriate spacing can be an effective way to keep readers engaged. Especially if your viewers have a learning disability, adding headings can prevent them from getting frustrated and leaving the site entirely.

The WordPress Block Editor makes it easy to add and organize headings for your website. You can simply add a new Heading block, then choose what size you want it to be.

Heading customization in WordPress Block Editor

After formatting the headings, you can check whether they’re the correct size. To do this, click on the Details button in the top left corner. If there is an incorrect heading level, WordPress will provide an alert message.

An example of an incorrect heading placement in WordPress

By adding appropriate headings to your posts, you will encourage visitors to read a post from start to finish. This will, in turn, reduce the bounce rate and increase user engagement.

7. Use Descriptive Anchor Texts

Another way to increase WordPress accessibility is to label your links. When writing a post, you might want to include external and internal links to direct users to different web pages. However, if you simply use “click here” as the anchor text, this won’t describe the link’s destination.

If your audience uses screen readers, it’s a good idea to make the anchor text more descriptive. This way, users will know precisely what they’re clicking on before taking action.

For example, you might want to direct users to take online courses. By anchoring the page link with “my courses,” you will inform viewers where the link leads to.

You can also add buttons to highlight links and make them easier to read. To do this, simply insert a button block in the post editor.

The clickable buttons for easier navigation in WordPress

Then, write a short description that specifies where the link will lead. By editing the button’s text and background color, you can set contrasting shades that will be easy to read.

Editing text:background color combination for link button in WordPress

In summary, you’ll want every link on the website to be well-described and well-designed. When visitors use screen readers, descriptive anchor text can inform them of a link’s destination. This enables them to navigate the content without too much difficulty.

8. Write Captions and Transcripts for Videos

If your website contains videos, it’s essential to make this content accessible as well. For readers who are hearing or auditory processing difficulties, you can create video captions and transcripts. This will help them understand the content clearly.

One of the easiest ways to add a video to WordPress is by inserting a YouTube block. Fortunately, YouTube has an automatic caption feature. This can save the time of creating the captions yourself.

An example of the automatic caption feature while watching a YouTube video

For longer videos, consider creating a transcript. This involves translating every spoken word in a video into a written document.

Transcripts can help readers understand everything that is happening in the video. If you post podcast videos, turning this into a transcript provides a helpful listening guide.

Once you’ve decided to write a transcript, type this out in a WordPress post. This can be a simple option if you’re a good listener and a fast typer.

However, helpful transcription software to process the video is also available for you. With a tool such as VEED.IO, you can upload an audio file and convert it to text in just one click.

VEED.IO website homepage

This tool can auto-transcribe an audio file and translate it into over 100 languages. You also have the option to edit the transcript before downloading it.

How to Test WordPress Accessibility

Once you made a website, it’s important to test its accessibility. You’ll want to ensure that every feature is functioning correctly before launching it.

A simple way to do this is by conducting automated tests. This involves running the website through an accessibility evaluation tool to see how well it performs.

One popular tool for testing WordPress accessibility is WAVE. After entering your website’s URL, WAVE will give a summary of the available accessibility features, as well as a list of improvements that you can make.

An example of testing WordPress accessibility features using the web accessibility evaluation tool

When scrolling through the preview window of your site, click on the alert icons for areas of poor accessibility. WAVE will notify you of any contrast errors, skipped heading levels, or redundant links.

An example—taken from Spotify—of a poor text/background color combination for a link button

Meanwhile, the Structure tab will tell if your content is easy to navigate.

Wave's web accessibility evaluation tool to preview more information about the Spotify website's structure

Although this tool can be very helpful, it might not catch every accessibility problem. Therefore, you might also want to consider manually testing the website.

For a manual test, go to the front end of your website and attempt to navigate the content as if you’re a fresh visitor. First, check to see if there are any flashing or moving elements that could distract or confuse users. Then, evaluate whether the font size and color scheme are easily readable.

Here are some additional tips for running a manual test:

  • Make sure you can navigate the site using just the keyboard
  • Use a screen reader to find out how your content sounds when read aloud
  • Test the font resizing feature

Once the website is successfully launched, you might want to collect feedback from your visitors. If you receive comments on how to make the content more accessible, try to implement these changes.

Conclusion

Focusing on accessibility features can be the key to retaining your online visitors. When considering people with disabilities, you can easily provide alternatives for them. This will help to establish trust with the readers and keep them coming back for new content.

To review, here are some ways to make your WordPress site more accessible:

  1. Select a suitable theme
  2. Add functional features using WordPress plugins
  3. Describe the images with alt text
  4. Use legible fonts
  5. Select contrasting colors for the website design
  6. Include headings for longer pieces of text
  7. Clearly label links
  8. Write captions and transcripts

We hope that this guide helped simplify WordPress accessibility so that you can make the website available to all types of visitors. Make sure to use WordPress hosting for a more seamless experience as well.

WordPress Accessibility FAQ

So far, we’ve discussed some practical ways to make your site more accessible. Now, let’s look at some common questions about WordPress ADA compliance.

Is My WordPress Website ADA Compliant?

If you’re unsure whether your WordPress website meets the ADA guidelines, use plugins like Accessibility Suite. These tools will give you detailed reports about your website’s accessibility.

How Accessible Is WordPress?

WordPress doesn’t guarantee that all its software is accessible, but certain themes and plugins are checked by an expert from the Accessibility Team. Plus, WordPress expects its coding to conform to at least level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

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Will Morris

Will Morris is a staff writer at WordCandy. When he's not writing about WordPress, he likes to gig his stand-up comedy routine on the local circuit.