Today, accessibility design is everywhere, and it is of utmost importance today.
With every person wanting to feel included and appreciated, digital users want to feel welcome and appreciated as well.
“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web
Web accessibility means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that a wide range of users – with and without disabilities – can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact and contribute to it.
This includes people using different devices and input modes, people with changing abilities, people with temporary disabilities like a broken arm, people with situational limitations like bright sunlight or even people with a slow Internet connection.
It is oftentimes difficult to prioritize accessibility amongst the other factors of constantly changing new technologies, design decisions and development practices. What most organizations don’t realize is that accessibility can unlock a lot of benefits.
Today, accessibility is essential for developers and organizations that want to create high-quality websites and web tools, and not exclude people from using their products and services.
So how do you make sure your WordPress sites are accessible? Here are four things to do right now.
1. Learn about accessibility
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines explain how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. It breaks down accessibility and asks the following questions:
- Perceivable – Can the content be consumed in different ways?
- Operable – Can it function without confusion and without the use of a mouse or complex interactions?
- Understandable – Can a user understand how the user interface of the site functions and the information on the site?
- Robust – Can different assistive devices (screen readers, for example) understand the website?
2. Test your website’s current accessibility
Before you start, test the accessibility of your current website. This would give you a good sense of where you stand currently and where you need to go. This audit is the best way to plan out your roadmap.
3. Design with accessibility in mind
It is most efficient and effective to incorporate accessibility from the very beginning of projects, so you don’t need to go back and to re-do work. If you are just starting out, there are a few design elements you can be mindful of at this stage:
- Colour is a very important medium for connecting with the colour blind user base. A best practice here is not to use colour as the only visual means of conveying information. One can use tooltips, thick borders, icons, bold text, underlines, italics, etc. in conjunction with colour.
- Sufficient contrast between text and backgrounds is a good practice. Great resources for this are coloursafe and material design which help you generate colour palettes for your designs.
- People with low vision often make use of screen readers to convert text to speech so that the person can hear the words on a site. A way to allow them to perceive images is using well written and descriptive Alt Text.
- Text blocks with narrow widths are easier to read for all people, especially those with reading or vision impairments. WCAG recommends keeping a line of text’s character count below 80 characters.
- Very often, UX design uses hover for secondary actions and visibility only for primary actions. People who use speech recognition to navigate require actionable items being visible on the screen.
- One should also allow users more time to enter time-related information. And allow users to go back in the flow if they so require, as mistakes can be made by anybody, but more so by people with some inhibitory factors.
4. Use an accessibility-ready theme
Improving the accessibility of an existing site can be a huge challenge if your layout and tools are already in place.
If you’re just starting out or are willing to change the theme of your website, it’s a good idea to look for accessibility-ready themes on WordPress, although these don’t provide full compliance or protection. These themes meet certain criteria that make them easier to use for various user groups.
For example, Kadence is a free WordPress theme that is built with accessibility in mind.
5. Install a dedicated WordPress accessibility plugin or accessibility software
Of course, it’s not always easy to change the theme of your website or redesign it. And while one can create accessible websites on our own, there is a resource cost that comes with it – of time, energy and know-how.
Fortunately, there is another option. There are options of WordPress plugins you can install to your website. One particularly popular accessibility platform is accessiBe – which offers a fully automated accessibility solution alongside support and front web customization.
Over to you
Today, creating an accessible website is the responsibility and duty of designers and developers who believe in inclusivity for the digital world. And as we see here – WordPress is a powerful tool to make sure your website is accessible for a wide range of users.
There are a myriad of ways we can leverage WordPress to make sure we are making the digital world an accepting and inclusive place. And it’s time to start working towards it now!