Is your WordPress site accessible? There are several reasons to make sure that it is. The more people that can access your great content, the better. There are legal requirements for some organisations and government websites. An accessible site can be great for search engine optimization, and some accessibility measures just make websites easier to use for everyone. Building accessible WordPress sites doesn't have to be difficult, but many people aren't sure where to even begin.
The WordPress project now has an accessibility team which is working to make the WordPress core more accessible.
The team has made suggestions for improvements to the WordPress UI and has been submitting tickets to help get changes into WordPress 3.6 and the upcoming 3.7. The team is compiling a list of resources and testing tools as well as planning coding and styling guidelines for accessible sites, a formal outreach effort for developers, and working on a global accessibility statement for WordPress.
Official theme accessibility audit
The WordPress Theme Review Team is the group that tests and approves the WordPress themes that make it into the official directory. At the moment, if you look in the official WordPress theme directory and search for 'accessibility', only three themes come up in the search results. However, the group has published a set of guidelines that any developer should be able to incorporate into a theme with minimal effort.
For example, developers are advised to include informative alt text, to prevent repetition of link text (such as the default 'Read more' links), to check colour contrast and take several other measures. The idea is to make themes easier to use for people with visual impairments as well as for those using text readers and keyboard navigation.
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The WordPress codex has additional information along with some examples. The review guidelines are an optional step in the official theme accessibility audit for themes submitted to the WordPress.org theme repository. It's probably best to think of this as a standardised process to ensure your theme has bare-bones accessibility.
Themes submitted to the directory that pass the audit will get an 'accessibility-ready' tag that will help people find those themes. The accessibility audit is currently a draft proposal.
The main plug-in used to increase accessibility is the WP Accessibility plug-in. The plug-in adds common accessibility features to most themes and corrects the most common accessibility issues at the same time. For example, it adds the post titles to 'more' links to make them more useful for people using screen readers.
There are also a number of other accessibility plug-ins in the official WordPress repository.
Words: Shannon Smith
This article originally appeared in net magazine issue 247.