GUEST NOTE: When building a WordPress site, accessibility isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. Instead, people are prioritizing aesthetics, SEO, and even which plugins they want to install while postponing UX and navigation for a later date.
However, as our global society becomes more focused on issues of social justice, accessibility is gradually becoming one of the most important aspects of digital content strategy. Additionally, failing to improve the accessibility of your websites can have serious consequences, ranging from giving your competitors a competitive advantage to facing a costly lawsuit.
What is Digital Accessibility in WordPress?
Being accessible means that the information in your WordPress site is provided in a consistent and open format, ensuring open access to everyone. As such, digital accessibility is the inclusive practice of ensuring that all forms of digital media are made available to all individuals, regardless of ability level. This includes disabilities such as blindness, deafness, motor and cognitive impairment, etc.
The WCAG 2.1 is the universally accepted set of guidelines detailing the criteria that websites must meet if they are deemed accessible. If a website fails in any of the four main accessibility categories (understandable, usable, noticeable, and robust), then it risks violating the Americans with Disabilities Act Title III (ADA).
How to Make WordPress Sites More Accessible
With that said, let’s now look at a few ways to improve the accessibility of your WordPress site to provide an inclusive experience for all users.
Choose an accessible WordPress theme
There are thousands of WordPress themes. Some of them are more accessible than others. If you plan to prioritize accessibility, you should choose an accessible theme from the start. Generally, this means simplicity and minimalism options over fancy designs. This is because users who rely on assistive technology will have a much easier time navigating your website if it isn’t littered with unnecessary web elements.
Include alt text for images
Alternate text should be provided for images so that screen reader users can access the same information as everyone else.
Include captions on video and other visual media
Continuing from the previous point, all visuals should include captions or transcripts. Additionally, videos should not be set to autoplay, as this may interfere with assistive technology.
Pay attention to color contrasts
It is estimated that there are more 300 million color blind people in the world. Many of them will have difficulty reading online text with poor color contrast. You should generally strive for high contrast, such as black text on a white background. WCAG 2.1 requires a minimum ratio of 4.5:1 for normal text and 3:1 for longer text. You should also avoid using color as the primary differentiator within your website.
Structure content logically
Screen readers typically struggle to navigate poorly structured content. In light of this, remember to properly label all your headings (H1, H2, H3). Doing so will ensure that your content is compatible with assistive technology and that users will be able to easily interact with your website.
Don’t forget your documents
If your website uses any type of digital document to interact with users, these must also be made accessible. This may include documents such as menus, manuals, e-books, etc. However, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF accessibility do not come standard with these documents, which means that you will have to correct them manually.
Why Accessibility Matters
Besides being the morally and ethically right thing to do, web accessibility is important to your WordPress site for several reasons. Let’s dive into some of the key benefits below:
- Reach a wider audience – A more accessible website means that your products, services and content will be open to a much wider audience. According to World Health Organization, 15% of the world’s population is disabled. Therefore, if you fail to implement measures, you could inadvertently exclude millions of people from your site. Conversely, an accessible site could give you access to a largely untapped part of the consumer market.
- Costly Lawsuit Mitigation – Web Accessibility Lawsuits Hit absolute record in 2021. Now that the precedent has been set, it is likely that plaintiff law firms will continue to target companies that operate inaccessible websites. Therefore, striving to be WCAG and ADA compliant can help keep your business out of the courtroom.
- Provide a better user experience – A more accessible website will benefit all users, not just people with disabilities. Features like improved navigation, readability, color contrast, and captions will make your website more user-friendly, which will only help provide a better user experience for everyone.
While it’s easy to get distracted by other aspects of your WordPress site, it’s essential that you keep accessibility in mind. As stated earlier, there are many laws and guidelines that regulate online accessibility, and failure to meet the proper criteria can put you at risk of legal action. Besides the legal ramifications, everyone should aim to promote accessibility and maintain an open and inclusive website. Not just for the business benefits and also because it’s the right thing to do.