How to Make Your WordPress Site More Accessible
At the heart of it, web accessibility is about creating equal access to your website and content to all users, including those with disabilities.
According to the latest U.S. court rulings, the American Disabilities Act (ADA) now extends to websites, and therefore, many businesses may face lawsuits for not having compliant websites.
Now, more than ever, when redesigning or updating your WordPress website, accessibility features should be a priority for the sake of your website visitors and the protection of your business.
5 Key Components of Creating an Accessible WordPress Site
With the rise of digital business, every website should follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG, which are the global standard for maintaining an accessible site.
These guidelines are very extensive, and it’s best to work with a web design and development team who are familiar with the best practices.
When it comes to staying on top of WordPress accessibility, the site has also implemented its accessibility standards for the WordPress core. Overall, creating an ADA-compliant website will take extra effort, but familiarizing yourself and any website administrators and evaluation tools with these five key components is a good place to start.
Understanding and using colors appropriately on your website can help your website’s overall accessibility. For those with visual impairments or color blindness, websites with colors that don’t meet the WCAG color contrast standard is poor user experience and can be extremely difficult to use. If the colors on your site make text and buttons hard to read and comprehend, visitors are much more likely to simply click away from your site.
The WCAG color contrast ratio criteria help ensure that colors are being used on websites in a way that keeps them visually accessible. To make it easier to determine if your website colors meet the specific criteria, use the Web Aim color contrast tool. It’s typically best to follow the high contrast ratio guidelines for level AA of the WCAG and this tool will automatically show a pass or fail based on the selected colors.
Alt Text (alternative text), or sometimes referred to as an alt tag, is an important piece of accessibility that can be easily missed when building out a website, but it’s extremely important for those who are visually impaired. Adding alt text for the images on your site allows web visitors the option to hear a description of an image via their screen reading tools. So, what is it, exactly?
Image alt text is a written summary of the appearance and function of an image that must be added to the image when inserting it onto the web page. It’s so vital because accessibility tools, such as screen readers rely on alt text to communicate the visual content to the visitor. The WCAG offers resources on how to write alt text and which images require alternative text on your site.
You can easily add alt text to any images in the Media Library of your WordPress site. WordPress core has recently added reminders to help you when you upload an image to the Media Library. A note will appear below the alt text field prompting a description of the image, and there’s also a link that leads to a helpful resource on alt text.
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Video content is becoming more and more popular on websites. It’s extremely engaging and, when done well, increases the overall quality of a site page. Videos on your site should have captions to ensure those who are hard of hearing can still engage with the videos.
Your videos will work best when you use a third-party hosting platform like YouTube or Vimeo. These platforms already offer automatic video captions for those with hearing impairments, and they also are better for quick buffering and overall performance.
WordPress makes it easy to embed videos from YouTube or Vimeo, and when they already contain captions, visitors can easily watch videos on the site with captions turned on.
Intuitive Navigation and Keyboard Navigation
To make your website easy to navigate for all visitors, aim to design it with an intuitive layout and simple navigational elements. Make it easy to find homepage menu items, solutions, locate key pages, and contact forms. You can do this by first making the design consistent and clear. Buttons should always look like buttons and shouldn’t be too close together or too small which can confuse visitors or make it harder for them to take action on the site.
Additionally, to accommodate web users with mobility issues who cannot use a mouse, your website should be built so that users can navigate via a keyboard. Some users heavily rely on a keyboard to navigate the internet, so it’s vital to ensure your WordPress dropdown menu is keyboard-navigation friendly. Your development team should always do quality control work to ensure that this alternative form of navigation is working properly.
Accessibility Statement and Feedback
As you work to make your website the most accessible it can be, it’s helpful to add an Accessibility Feedback page, so that you have a dedicated place for users to submit accessibility issues on the site. This area can also be a good spot to state your company’s focus on and commitment to accessibility.
So that users can easily find this area on your site, add a link to your Accessibility Statement or Feedback page in the footer of your website. The more user feedback you get, the better you can improve your site over time. Having this option for feedback also goes a long way in showing that you truly care about creating an equally accessible website for all users.
Keeping Things Up to Date
As you work to improve your website accessibility, focus on the most recent WCAG standards. It’s a good idea to occasionally audit your website for accessibility, and tools such as WAVE by Web Aim and Google Lighthouse make it easy to do so. Keep an eye out for widgets, accessibility plugins, or other assistive technologies that can improve usability, and you’ll improve your website’s optimization along the way.
Overall, ensuring your site’s accessibility will take extra effort on your part, but with the right WordPress developer and the right tools, you will be well on your way to having a website that is accessible for all.