7 essential elements for a more accessible WordPress website
WordPress is one of the most widely used platforms for web development today. Its many features and plugins allow developers to create custom sites for whatever purpose they may need. This includes the native ability to create an accessible WordPress website.
There are various factors in which one could assess a website. One of them is accessibility, according to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Creating ADA-compliant WordPress websites can help persons with disabilities use the internet more efficiently.
What does an ADA-compliant WordPress website look like? Read below to learn more.
Importance of ADA compliance
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a civil rights law, prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities across various areas. These areas of life include employment, communications, transportation, public accommodations, and access to government programs and services.
While the ADA has explicit stipulations on more traditional forms of communication like telephone and television, website regulation is still pretty murky.
However, it’s still a good idea to ensure your website complies with the principles under the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Not only will it legally protect your site, but it will also allow more people to access and use your content more efficiently.
Research shows that 75 percent of Americans with disabilities use the Internet daily. Making your website more accessible to them allows you to engage with more people and grow your company or organization’s audience.
WCAG principles of accessibility
The ADA may not have set specific guidelines or standards for website accessibility. However, there are still some standards that organizations and businesses can use as a reference.
Many web developers currently use the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to assess their websites’ accessibility. It has four main principles. Ensuring your website adheres to them can help improve your site’s accessibility, especially for people with disabilities.
Users must be capable of perceiving the information presented, meaning it should not be invisible to all senses.
Ensuring your website is perceivable could mean including text alternatives, such as large print, audio options, or symbols.
Users must be capable of operating the interface. Your website should offer various options for using navigation functions.
Ensuring operability could include allowing keyboard navigation and giving users enough time to use your content.
Users must be capable of understanding the information presented and the operation of the user interface. Some ways to improve understandability can include the following:
- Using simple language and page layouts
- Offering input assistance to help users avoid mistakes
Content must be able to be interpreted by various agents, including assistive technologies like screen readers or text-to-speech devices.
Many people with disabilities often use assistive technologies in their daily life, including when surfing the internet. Your WordPress website must have the infrastructure to support these tools.
Elements of an ADA-compliant WordPress website
Incorporating the elements below when building your WordPress website can help improve accessibility for people with disabilities. Talk to your development team and plan these features ahead of time.
1. Organized navigation
Ensuring your website has an organized navigation system and logical structure helps all users, not just those with disabilities. Planning your navigation systems and making them as simple as possible can make it easier for users to navigate across different pages and sections.
Consider your website’s navigation systems across different devices, as well. Many users will likely access your website through smartphones, tablets, or other mobile devices. Test your website’s navigation on these devices to see if the experience is as smooth as your PC version.
2. Alt text and alt tags
Alternative (alt) attributes like alt text and alt tags are brief descriptions of images or non-text elements on your web page. These attributes allow screen readers to communicate the content of your photos to visually impaired individuals.
These elements help them get a better experience when browsing your web page, especially if you use a lot of pictures. Alt attributes are also helpful when the page doesn’t load your images correctly.
Aside from improving accessibility, alt attributes aid your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. Through alt text, search engine crawlers can consider your images when displaying search results.
3. Text transcripts
If you plan to post videos or audio content on your website, adding text transcripts can help make them more accessible. People with disabilities can then easily use screen readers to understand these pieces of content without needing to watch or listen to the actual content.
You can also use closed captions on your content. Many video hosting tools allow you to enable automatic captioning. However, these captioning tools can sometimes be inaccurate. Make sure to edit them to improve accuracy and accessibility.
4. Color contrast
Color is another important aspect of web design. The colors you use can have significant impacts on the way users can perceive and understand your content.
Make sure all website elements have good or high color contrast. High-contrast color palettes can significantly improve your site’s readability. You can use light-colored text on a dark background or vice versa. Apply this principle to all visual elements, such as text, buttons, menus, links, etc.
5. Organized headers
Organizing the information you present well can greatly improve the user experience. Use HTML headers like H1, H2, etc., to divide content sections appropriately.
It is recommended to use only one H1 tag, as it should be reserved for the main title of the page. After that, H2-H6 tags should be used in a hierarchical manner to properly structure the content. This ensures that screen readers and other assistive technologies can easily navigate the content and provide a better experience for users with disabilities.
HTML headers allow users to skim through your content quickly. They can also help screen readers identify the information hierarchy on a page. While different colors and typography elements can add to this effect, headers are more direct and recognizable. It is important to note that header tags should not be used simply for styling text, as this can lead to confusion for assistive technologies and hinder accessibility efforts.
When dealing with text, make sure your content stays understandable and readable. Readability is essential for all users that come across your website. Many people prefer content that is easy to digest and understand.
Write with simple language and keep sentences and paragraphs short. Try to avoid using overly complicated jargon, and if you must, make sure to add definitions.
7. Accessibility audits
Before launching a newly built or redesigned website, perform an accessibility audit. This process can help you gain a more objective view of how well your site has adhered to the WCAG principles.
These audits can be automated or manual. Several assessment tools are available online that can help you evaluate different aspects of your website. You can also hire someone to perform the audit for you.
Automated tools are quicker and usually cheaper than hiring an accessibility specialist. However, a specialist can give you a more detailed overview of your site’s accessibility and provide tailored advice to help you improve.
Prioritize accessibility for your WordPress website
Website accessibility benefits all users, not just people with disabilities.
Making accessibility a priority in your web design and development process can take more time and resources. However, an accessible website can improve user experience and increase website traffic and engagement. With the growing importance of online accessibility, it is essential for website owners to prioritize ADA compliance to create a more inclusive online experience for everyone.