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How to Help Make a WordPress Website ADA Compliant

Posted September 06, 2022


Posted September 06, 2022

An empty form on a landing page, with an accessibility symbol in the lower left corner.
An empty form on a landing page, with an accessibility symbol in the lower left corner.

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires most businesses to provide accessible websites. Here’s how to improve compliance on WordPress.

Does your website use WordPress? If so, you’re in good company.

As of September 2022, about 43% of websites are built with WordPress. That’s not a surprise, considering the platform’s reputation for flexibility and ease of use.

However, many WordPress sites aren’t fully accessible for people with disabilities. The decisions you make when building your website can create barriers that affect your visitors — and potentially violate Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

To help make sure your site is ADA compliant, you’ll need to know the best practices of accessible design — and common accessibility issues to avoid. Here’s a look at both:

Why Does My Website Need To Be ADA Compliant?

There are plenty of business reasons to make sure your site is accessible, but there is also an element of risk mitigation.

Each year, thousands of companies face litigation for alleged web accessibility issues, including major corporations like Domino’s and Hy-Vee, Inc. And while the ADA doesn’t include specific technical standards, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has referenced the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as a reasonable standard for compliance.

Setting an Accessibility Goal for Your WordPress Site

WCAG contains 78 success criteria, pass-or-fail statements that address accessibility barriers such as low-contrast text, missing video captions, and keyboard accessibility issues. These criteria are organized into three levels of conformance: Level A (the most essential and least strict), Level AA, and Level AAA (most strict).

Most WordPress sites should aim for Level AA conformance with the latest version of WCAG (2.1, as of September 2022).

A web page that shows common accessibility issues, including missing alt text, low contrast text, missing skip links, and poor semantic markup

Common Accessibility Issues for WordPress Sites

WordPress offers a number of default templates that follow the latest accessibility best practices, such as color contrast, keyboard navigation, and form/link focus.

However, you can create accessibility barriers — no matter which template you use — if you don’t consider the needs of all users when customizing your template or publishing content.

Some of the most common WordPress accessibility issues include:

Missing Text Alternatives

According to WCAG Success Criterion (SC) 1.1.1., all non-text content should have a text alternative. This enables people to change the way content is presented to fit their needs and preferences.

For example, if an e-commerce site adds image alternative text (also called alt text) to all of its product images, people who use screen readers can understand what each one depicts.

WordPress’s Media Library supports alternative text for images, but content creators still need to write descriptive, accurate alt text.

Installing Inaccessible Plugins

WordPress plugins allow developers and content creators to add new features or extend existing functionality. Unfortunately, some plugins aren’t designed for accessibility.

For instance, some media player plugins might not have accessible controls, which could lead to a frustrating experience for people who browse with a keyboard alone (no mouse).

Likewise, adding a form to your website via a plugin might help potential customers reach your business — but if the form doesn’t use appropriate markup, keyboard users may become “trapped” on one of the fields and won’t be able to complete the form.

Low-Contrast Text

In the accessibility space, color contrast refers to the difference in light between a foreground element (like text) and its background. WCAG SC 1.4.3 lays out specific requirements for the minimum level of color contrast for web content.

If your website fails to meet these thresholds, people with color vision deficiencies (CVD) and other visual impairments may be unable to read your text.

Curious about your website’s color contrast? Check your colors with AudioEye’s free Color Contrast Checker.

Missing Skip Links

Skip links (also called skip to content links) enable people using keyboards, screen readers, switch controls, and other assistive technologies (AT) to reach the content they want faster. The most common skip link is the first interactive element on a page, which lets users skip past global elements like the logo, search bar, and header menu.

Many WordPress themes have built-in skip links, which may not be visible until the user presses Tab. However, some themes don’t include this important accessibility feature, and creators may unintentionally disable skip links when updating their content.

To see an example of a skip link, reload this page and press the Tab key.

Icons for the four WCAG principles: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust

Tips for Building an Accessible WordPress Site

Your website should provide an equal experience for all users — regardless of their abilities, preferences, or the tools they use to browse the internet.

With that in mind, here are three tips to help you make your Wordpress site accessible to all users:

1. Start With an Accessibility-Ready Theme

If you haven’t designed your website yet — or if you’re considering switching to a new theme — you can filter WordPress themes to view Accessibility Ready options.

Just remember that you can still introduce accessibility issues to accessible themes. For example, you might choose a color scheme that fails to meet the latest WCAG standards for color contrast, or fail to provide adequate alt text for images.

The bottom line: Choosing an accessibility-ready theme is an excellent first step, but you should still test your website for accessibility.

2. Follow the Best Practices of Accessible Design

Digital accessibility isn’t just about accommodating people with visual impairments, hearing disabilities, or any other specific condition. The goal is to improve online experiences for everyone.

WCAG is based on four principles, which establish a foundation for creating better content:

  • Content should be perceivable. It shouldn’t rely on a single type of sensory perception.
  • Content should be operable. You shouldn’t require interactions that the user cannot perform.
  • Content should be understandable. Users should be able to understand the information on your website and the operation of the website’s interface.
  • Content should be robust. Your website should work with a wide variety of user agents, including screen readers and other AT tools.

3. Audit Your Website for Accessibility

Regularly testing your website and digital content against WCAG is the best way to identify and resolve accessibility issues. At AudioEye, we recommend a hybrid approach that combines the power of automation with manual testing and remediation.

An accessibility icon connecting the WordPress and AudioEye logos, with stylized web browsers in the background

How AudioEye Helps WordPress Users Create Accessible Content

Through our continuous investment in research and development, AudioEye has created an automated test suite with 400+ test outcomes and 70+ automated fixes that allow us to solve the majority of common accessibility issues in real time.

But we also recognize the role of human expertise in delivering the highest level of accessibility to people with disabilities. To that end, we provide manual testing and remediation services and use the insights from manual audits — run by certified testers and members of the disability community — to develop new automated fixes and solve issues proactively.

Whether you’re building on WordPress or another platform, we’re ready to help you identify — and address — the barriers that impact your users. Get started with a free scan of your website.

Ready to test your website for accessibility?

Scan your website now.

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