Over 15% of the global population has some disability, while 26% of the population (1 in 4) has at least one in the US. As you can see, these numbers are staggering, so it’s essential to keep this in mind when designing and planning out your website. Besides helping people navigate your website quickly, improving accessibility also helps your website load speed, SEO, and it’s suitable for PR purposes.
It’s important to understand that not all your visitors are the same, and while we take some things for granted (like using a mouse or reading small text on the screen), not everyone has that luxury, so keep that in mind at all times.
Luckily, there are tons of ways to make your website user-friendly, especially for visitors with particular challenges. The most common aspects you should focus on are getting the color contrast correct, ensuring that the text screen is reader-friendly, your images and videos have captions added, and that users can navigate your website using the keyboard only.
There are three easy ways to improve accessibility on your WordPress website, and we’ll discuss them in this article.
Test Your Website
Before doing any changes or work on your site, you first need to understand what needs to be fixed. Fortunately, there’s a tool that can help you find elements on your website that aren’t very accessible so you can fix them. Head to Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool (WAVE), and input your website URL:
Once you do, this simple web browser tool will analyze your website, provide helpful information on what can be fixed, and break down each element according to the severity of the issue:
- Contrast errors
- Structural Elements
Under the Summary tab on the left, you can see the total amount of elements on the webpage, and you can click on various tabs to learn more about them:
Green icons on the right show already well-optimized elements, while red and orange icons show areas where you need to improve your site.
Clicking on each icon will show a clear and informative description of the issue:
You’ll also find a code tool at the bottom which helps you track down the problematic section:
Invest your time exploring your website with this tool, as it can help you track down the major problems on your website and help you learn more about website accessibility.
Find An Accessibility-Ready Theme
Sometimes it can be hard to fix all the problems with the current theme you’re using on your site, as you simply don’t have time or the theme lacks various features and options you need to make your site accessible.
If you’re building a new website or have the luxury to change the theme you’re using, there’s also an option to opt for an accessibility-ready theme. Accessibility-ready themes are special WordPress themes that are built with accessibility features from the get-go. That way, you don’t need to work hard on adjusting the existing theme but instead have a user-friendly website right from the start.
WordPress has a theme directory where you can download themes for free and use powerful filters to find the exact theme you need. One of those filters allows you filter down to solely accessibility-ready themes:
All filters listed as accessibility-ready in the theme directory have to meet specific criteria to be listed there, so you can be sure they’re tested and work as intended. For example, all accessibility-ready themes must use proper heading structures, navigation via the keyboard, color schemes with clear contrasts, etc.
Here are some of the themes we recommend that are pretty popular for their accessibility features:
Feel free to explore the WordPress accessibility-ready themes and find the perfect theme for your site.
Install The WP Accessibility Plugin
Lastly, if you cannot change your theme, you can still improve your site using accessibility plugins (without any coding knowledge). Please note that plugins can’t fix everything (like a theme can), but they can make your site better in terms of accessibility.
Here are some of our picks:
WP Accessibility is a multi-function plugin that helps solve some common accessibility problems. The most prominent feature is a toolbar that allows your readers to adjust colors and contrast so they can easily read your content. It can also do tons of optimizations behind the scenes, like adding an outline to the keyboard focus state, using longdesc for images, add skip-to-content links, etc. Each option can be turned on or off in the plugin settings.
Accessibility Widget is a small but helpful plugin that allows your readers to enlarge text on your site. Your visitors can choose between small, medium, and large text links, and you can define HTML elements this applies to and how big or small your fonts are.
WP Accessibility Helper
WP Accessibility Helper is another all-in-one toolbox that allows you to increase the accessibility of your website for your readers. It shows a user-friendly toolbar that helps your visitors adjust the font size and choose between various color contrasts. In addition to that, your users can choose to use grayscale images, underline or highlight links, use keyboard navigation, change the font, etc.
While it can take time to optimize your website with accessibility in mind, it’s very well worth the effort, and it will pay off as you’ll be able to reach more users this way. As the number of people with some form of challenge or disability is constantly increasing, you should do everything you can to help them engage with your content at ease.