Whether you’re a new website owner, an established eCommerce merchant, or a WordPress.org veteran, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to enhancing the visitor experience.
This is where fine-tuning your website accessibility is worth its weight in gold.
For the uninitiated, WordPress accessibility refers to how easy it is for a wide variety of users to utilize your website. At its most basic, it covers the size of your fonts, the color contrast on your website pages, and easy navigation.
But if you’re not already, it’s time to ramp your website’s accessibility up a notch.
Does your website cater to the accessibility requirements of those living with impairments that make it trickier to navigate the web? For instance, website visitors living with blindness, mobility issues that make it hard (if not impossible) to use a keyboard, deafness, etc.
Ethically, not only is this the ‘right’ thing to do but as a website owner, you don’t want to miss out on this valuable traffic. In the US alone, as many as one in four adults live with some form of disability – which equates to a whopping 61 million people.
Plus, more often than not, enhancing your website’s accessibility makes your site more useable in general. This, as we all know, goes a long way to improving the user experience and, in turn, your bottom line.
If that isn’t enough to pique your interest, SEO certainly is. Search engines like Google now rank websites boasting good accessibility higher. Consequently, you could lose out on that much-coveted first-page spot for failing to follow WordPress accessibility best practices.
For all these reasons, WordPress takes accessibility very seriously. They even conduct their own website accessibility tests and provide a handbook on the subject.
However, ensuring your WordPress website is 100% compliant quickly becomes time-consuming and complicated – especially if you’re unsure what you’re doing. So, in this article, we’re providing a few pointers on how to advance your WordPress accessibility to help you hit the ground running.
What’s WordPress Accessibility?
As we’ve briefly mentioned, it is all about ensuring everyone can use your website. As such, accessibility isn’t only about enhancing the website experience for those living with disabilities but also improving the general user experience.
In summary, WordPress accessibility concerns itself with these three overarching categories:
- Multi-Device: Can users access the website using mobile devices and desktops? How about tablets and devices of varying screen sizes?
- Auditory/Visual/Motor/Cognitive Impairments: How easy it for visitors with these kinds of impairments to use your site? Will they be able to find what they’re looking for? Can they access every piece of content? How long will it take to navigate their way around the site?
- Economical: Some of your visitors might be limited by slow internet or older hardware. Does your website rely on high-performing equipment for it to be accessible?
To make the internet a more non-discriminatory place, the Guidelines of Accessible Web Design (WCAG) define the boxes your website needs to tick. This is a great starting point. However, if you still need a helping hand, you have two options:
- Use an accessibility plugin. This is great if you’re looking for a temporary quick fix to your site’s general accessibility while working on a longer-term accessibility strategy.
- Hire a professional. By hiring a WordPress accessibility expert, you’ll get the guidance and actionable strategy you need to ensure you’re 100% compliant. A pro should also implement these strategies on your behalf to guarantee the best possible results.
How to Improve WordPress Accessibility
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive deeper into making your WordPress website more accessible.
Picking The Right CMS/ Website Builder
If you’re launching a brand-new site, choosing the right website platform is essential. Not every web builder provides the assistive technologies you need to improve your site’s accessibility.
WordPress is commendable in this context. For one, you can access the source code to change your site’s HTML and CSS markup. This enables you to enhance every aspect of your website’s accessibility. Also, using WordPress’s Gutenberg editor you can tweak shortcodes.
You can also use accessibility-ready WordPress themes, and as previously mentioned, download accessibility plugins to help lay the groundwork. Not to mention, there’s a thriving WordPress community where you can trade best practices with fellow WordPress users.
It’s also a good idea to review WordPress’s accessibility handbook and its guidelines. This provides a useful checklist you can use as a guide as you embark on your website creation journey. You may also find the Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 useful as you go about refining your website’s accessibility.
WordPress Accessibility Audits
Suppose you already have a WordPress website up and running. In that case, it’s worth conducting a WordPress accessibility audit to see what needs fixing. By honing in on the problem areas from the get-go, you’ll save yourself loads of time.
To run a manual audit:
- Review the WCAG guidelines and make a checklist of all the areas that need covering.
- Assess each item to ensure everything’s as it should be.
- If it isn’t, note it and find out what needs doing to rectify the accessibility problem.
Alternatively, you can use the following accessibility tools to assist with your audit:
- Run your site through the W3C markup validation tool. This checks the validity of your site’s documents and verifies whether they adhere to the guidelines for the language used.
- You can use Accessibility Viewer to conduct a screen reader compatibility test. This accessibility testing tool determines whether a screen reader can successfully scan and read your content so the visually impaired can fully access your website.
- Check your site’s color contrast. If the contrast between the text and background color is too low, it might be challenging to read. This would make your website less user-friendly for visually impaired and colorblind users. To assess your website’s color contrast, run it through a11y (color contrast accessibility validator) to see if any changes are necessary.
- Check that keyboard navigation works. Click on the address bar and use only the keyboard to navigate the entirety of your site. Using the Tab button, you should be able to access different parts of the menu, select links, and interact with all your site’s core functionality.
Use an Accessible WordPress Theme
Optimizing your WordPress site’s accessibility is much easier when you start with an accessible template. There are 93 free accessibility-ready themes to choose from. However, unless stated otherwise, most templates don’t assure accessibility – so be sure to double-check for this. You’ll want to benefit from the accessibility features these ‘accessibility ready’ templates have to offer.
Improving WordPress Accessibility One Element at a Time
Once you’ve audited your WordPress site, you may have identified areas that need improvement. To help make the necessary corrections, you can do a few things to optimize specific elements for accessibility:
Adopt a Clear Layout
Ensuring clear web page layouts is a good usability practice for helping readers find what they’re looking for.
A straightforward website structure should:
- Make it obvious which paragraphs and headlines belong together.
- Organize website content into clear categories that correspond to an item on your navigation bar.
- Critical information should be accessible with a single click from your top navigation.
Your website’s readability is influenced by color, contrast, font, font-size, spelling, and sentence structure.
To boost the readability of your web page’s do the following:
- Make sure the color contrast between your text and background is high.
- Choose a font that isn’t difficult to read. Swirly or elaborate handwritten fonts are often challenging to decipher. A basic sans-serif or serif font is your best friend when it comes to readability.
- Similarly, some people might struggle to read the text if it falls below a specific font-size: the bigger, the more readable. So, try not to have any paragraph fall below 16px.
- When writing your website’s copy, keep it simple. The more straightforward your wording, the more accessible your website will be for a broader audience. Avoid jargon, technical, and scientific terms where possible.
- Double-check your written content for spelling and grammar
- Spell out acronyms for any visitor that might not know the term.
Ensure Your Website Navigation Menus Are Accessible and Responsive
Keep your website’s navigation simple. Users should be able to land on critical web pages (like your contact and about pages) with just a click or two.
Dropdown menus immediately complicate navigation because visitors can’t be sure they’ll find the info they’re looking for under the tab they click. So, where possible, stick to a simple header-style menu at the top of your homepage.
Lastly, double-check your navigation is responsive so visitors can work their way through the entirety of your website, no matter their device.
Optimize Icons and Images with Alt Text, Captions, and/or Text Alternatives
For anyone using a screen-reader, image alt tag descriptors are crucial for translating visual content into audio. This empowers visually impaired users to get the context they need to enjoy your site to the fullest. You can also use image captions and text-alternatives (like voiceovers) to provide further description.
Top Tip: Avoid displaying important information in pictures. However, where that isn’t possible, say, in an infographic, make sure text is available to explain what’s going on.
Clearly Label Your Contact Forms
Labeling each contact form field makes it easier for users to fill in the correct information. To further enhance the accessibility of your contact forms, your text should be left-aligned and only use standard terminology.
Anchor Texts Should Always Be Descriptive
Screen readers have an easier time identifying links and defining where they lead when the anchor text is descriptive. For example, the anchor text “Find out more about our services here” is more precise than hyperlinking the word “here.” Should a visually impaired user be searching for links within the text, the latter gives them next-to-no information about where the link takes them, whereas the former does.
Use Appropriate Colors
While color contrast is essential to consider, appropriate color usage is too. Avoid using too many contrasting colors. Bright, conflicting colors are noisy. At the worst, they are overwhelming for some users, and at best, they’re uncomfortable to look at. Where possible, stick to a consistent color scheme consisting of neutral colors and lots of white space.
Add an Accessibility Statement to Your Site
To legally protect yourself against accessibility-related lawsuits, disclose whether any parts of your site aren’t accessible and outline any alternative, accessible content you’ve put in place. That way, users with significant impairments can decide for themselves whether to spend time on your website. You might also wish to provide your contact details here to encourage people to report accessibility issues.
How an Expert Can Help Address WordPress Accessibility
A professional WordPress developer with experience in web accessibility can make this whole process a lot easier. Before agreeing to work with anyone, ensure they boast the following know-how:
- A firm understanding of how to undertake thorough WordPress accessibility audits.
- A solid grasp of accessibility rules and regulations (both nationally and internationally, for example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ).
- The technical skills needed to implement any necessary changes to ensure compliance.
With a WordPress expert that satisfies the above criteria, you can rest easy knowing your WordPress accessibility is in safe hands.
Find The Right Accessibility Partner with Codeable
WordPress accessibility should be a core concern for all website owners. To recap, complying with accessibility guidelines helps guarantee:
- The production of non-discriminatory web content
- Adherence to regional and international accessibility laws
- An improvement to the general usability and look of your site
- Better SEO
- A wider reach
If you’re not ready to tackle a big project like fine-tuning the accessibility of your website alone, Codeable can connect you with vetted accessibility experts that specialize in WordPress development. So, what are you waiting for? Submit your project on Codeable today to get a free estimate from a selection of vetted freelancers or create your own accessibility team – the choice is yours!