Businesses have many things to consider when creating a new WordPress site. They must focus on issues like branding, design, content, SEO, CRO, information architecture, and social media integrations. So—due to this multifaceted development—accessibility can slip between the cracks.
If businesses target the average internet user—disregarding the deviants—they’re excluding a large pool of potential customers.
There’s no excuse for a modern website to ignore the needs of differently abled visitors. In fact, by implementing a few simple accessibility improvements, websites can easily expand their audience.
Apple CEO, Tim Cook, recently said:
People with disabilities often find themselves in a struggle to have their human dignity acknowledged; they’re frequently left in the shadows of technological advancements that are a source of empowerment and attainment for others.
Further, if sheer human decency isn’t compelling enough, another thing to realize is that what’s good for accessibility is also good for SEO. This is because search engine crawlers benefit from the same clarity in structure as screen readers used by the visual impaired.
In this article, I will look at three modifications that WordPress site owners can make to optimize their accessibility.
It’s important to note that these modifications won’t make a site fully compliant with the best practices advised by the WW3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, but they will make a positive impact on accessibility.
Choose an Accessible Theme
WordPress sets standards for theme accessibility. When submitting a theme to the WordPress.org theme repository, developers can indicate if their themes are accessible, and then go on to submit them to an accessibility review.
Accessible themes are then tagged with “accessible-ready” in the repo.
Most businesses will get themes from outside of the WordPress theme repository. There’s no real standard for theme accessibility in the various premium theme markets, so site owners should discuss the issue with individual developers.
Install WP Accessibility
WP Accessibility isn’t a replacement for choosing an accessible theme, but it does help improve some of the more common accessibility issues.
Some of its features include:
- Adds skip links to pages, which helps those using screen readers to navigate pages.
- Adds a keyboard focus status outline for people who use a keyboard to navigate pages.
- Implements a toolbar for toggling settings that make a page easier to read for visually impaired people.
This plugin will also address issues which can be inconvenient to users of screen readers—such as target attributes on links and modify “read more” tags.
Use Correct HTML for Structuring Pages and Posts
Screen readers rely on the proper use of header and paragraph elements to deliver content in a comprehensible and organized manner. If site owners misuse these elements, screen readers can get confused. To address this problem, HTML elements that are used for decoration rather than structure should be avoided.
Additionally, WordPress users should also pay attention to image metadata. Including relevant and descriptive ALT information within images helps visually impaired people understand the content and context of images.
As I pointed out earlier, these changes are exactly what an effective SEO consultant would also advise.
There is little reason for a WordPress site to present an interface that makes life difficult for visitors with accessibility issues. Making a site at least minimally accessible doesn’t involve much hard work, and will dramatically expand the reach of your website.
How do you make your website accessible?
Rachel is the technical writer for WiredTree, a leader in fully managed dedicated and vps hosting. Follow Rachel and WiredTree on Twitter, @wiredtree, Like them on Facebook and check out more of their articles on their web hosting blog.