WordPress is the foundation for many websites. Roughly 40 percent of the top 10,000 sites in the world use it, including ecommerce sites, blogs, major online publications, and web applications.
Whether you’re looking to take advantage of the sophistication and ease of WordPress as a content publishing system or use it as the basis for your large ecommerce network, it’s to your advantage to know how you can work with accessibility in WordPress.
Most accessibility problems don’t come from the content management system. They come from themes and plugins. If you’re serious about accessibility, you need to make sure your theme and your plugins are accessible.
But there’s a lot you can do with WordPress — either through plugins that provide accessibility support or careful attention to detail in content creation — to provide many aspects of an excellent accessible user experience.
There are a handful of plugins focused on improving accessibility issues in WordPress. These plugins are designed either to solve specific accessibility issues or to make it easier for you to manage some of the alternative content needed to optimize your media accessibility.
You can install these plugins into any site to take advantage of their accessibility features and improvements.
One of the primary jobs this plugin does is to take the accessibility issues in the core code of WordPress and resolve them. While there aren’t many core WordPress functionality matters that impact accessibility for site visitors, there are a few — including redundant title attributes and some unconventional search form responses. Using WP Accessibility, you don’t have to worry about them.
Additionally, it takes a handful of other issues, such as links unexpectedly opening in other windows, providing keyboard focus, and removing tabindex (which can force users to tab through pages in unexpected order), and makes sure that those won’t happen on your site.
If you’ve based your theme either on the extremely popular Genesis Framework, on any of the last several WordPress default themes, or on the Underscores development framework, one of these plugins will make sure that the drop-down menus built into those themes can be used by screen readers and keyboards. The Accessible Drop Down Menus plugin may work on other themes as well; but it can’t be guaranteed.
One of the big challenges in managing video accessibly is providing access to closed captions, transcripts, and alternate-language subtitles. Accessible Video Library solves that problem by giving you a managed library dedicated to videos, where you can upload all of these important documents that need to be associated with your videos. While it’s not the only way to make video accessible in WordPress, it’s by far the easiest.
Since one of the most important aspects of accessibility is the provision of alternate content for images, identifying which of your images already have an alt attribute assigned can be crucial. It’s easy when you have only a few images, but if you have hundreds or thousands of images, it’s not.
Unfortunately, this can only test whether there’s an alt attribute saved for an image — that doesn’t mean that it’s actually been added to the site with an alt attribute. Any image that you inserted into a post before saving the alt attribute may not be right. Still, if you’re primarily using images resources in image galleries or as featured images, you’ll be set.
For a professional site, you’re almost certainly going to want to take your site in the direction of a custom design. Off-the-shelf themes will rarely give you the look that’s just right for your site. However, if you want to build an accessible site, there are a few resources that can serve as good frameworks for you to jump off from in your development.
Most websites will find these themes useful primarily as a jumping-off point — somewhere to start when building out an accessible WordPress site.
Any full WordPress theme is going to come with a particular look. If you want to get something unique, themes can be a lot of work. But if you like the look as it is, these are options that will give you an accessible site right from installation.
Building a child theme is the standard way to create a modified version of a theme you really like, without having to re-build from scratch. These are accessible child themes for three of the last four WordPress default themes. If you’re going to create a custom theme based off of one of those three default themes, using these child themes as a reference is a good place to start. They take the solid, standards-based theme development in the WordPress default themes and upgrade it for accessibility.
A framework WordPress theme comes with minimal styles, but rich feature implementation including layouts with various numbers of columns, custom tweaks, and navigation implementations. Framework sites have virtually no style in terms of looks, making them good for development.
Underscores is a theme that Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, uses for most of the themes available on WordPress.com. It’s not specifically built with accessibility in mind, but it’s got a firm grasp on the basics.
Day One, on the other hand, is a development framework built primarily with accessibility as a goal. It includes a wide variety of accessibility features built-in so that you’ll be able to use a huge variety of modern development techniques targeted at creating an accessible experience.