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Inclusive Web Design: How to Make Your WordPress Site Accessible to Everyone

Are you looking for ways to make your WordPress website more accessible? Then, this is your go-to guide!...

So, you are a web designer, developer, or marketer in the quest to create an accessible and inclusive WordPress site that can be enjoyed and appreciated by all. 

An inclusive web design ensures everyone can access and use your website effectively regardless of their abilities or visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive challenges. This approach is not only about legal compliance but also about providing a better user experience for a wider audience.

In this blog, we will walk you through:

  • Understanding web accessibility 
  • The key principles of accessible web design
  • Steps to make your WordPress site accessible
  • An insight into the tools used for accessibility testing

By the end of this blog, you will be equipped with the right knowledge and expertise for designing a WordPress website that is accessible to one and all. 

Let’s get cracking!

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Understanding web accessibility

Web accessibility refers to the practice of making websites usable by people of all abilities and disabilities, including individuals with visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive impairments. 

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide a set of standards to ensure web accessibility. Following these guidelines not only helps create an inclusive web experience but also improves your site’s overall usability and SEO.

Here’s why ensuring your website’s accessibility matters:

  1. Legal compliance: Many countries have laws and regulations that require websites to be accessible to people with disabilities. Non-compliance can lead to legal repercussions.
  2. Wider audience reach: Making your website accessible allows you to reach a broader audience, including the elderly and people with temporary disabilities.
  3. Improved SEO: Accessible websites often perform better in search engine rankings because they are easier for search engines to crawl and index.
  4. Better user experience: Accessible websites are generally more user-friendly and provide a better overall experience for all visitors.

The key principles of accessible web design

Before diving into the specific steps, it’s important to understand the key principles of accessible web design:

  1. Perceivable: Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
  2. Operable: User interface components and navigation must be operable.
  3. Understandable: Information and the operation of the user interface must be understandable.
  4. Robust: The content must be robust enough that it can be reliably interpreted by various user agents, including assistive technologies.

Steps to make your WordPress site accessible

1. Choose an accessible WordPress theme

The foundation of an accessible WordPress site starts with the theme. Many themes are designed with accessibility in mind, adhering to WCAG guidelines. When choosing a theme, look for the following features:

  • Semantic HTML
  • Keyboard navigation
  • Contrast and color schemes
  • ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) roles

Recommendation: Though WordPress is committed to ensuring the accessibility of all its themes, you can peruse Accessibility Ready Themes if you are confused about which theme to choose when designing an accessible site. 

2. Use accessible plugins

Plugins can add functionality to your WordPress site, but if not chosen carefully, they can also introduce accessibility issues. Opt for plugins that are known for their accessibility features and are regularly updated.

Recommended plugins:

  • Accessible Poetry: Improves accessibility by adding features like skip links and focus styles.

3. Optimize images and media

Images and media are essential elements of any website. To make them accessible, follow these best practices:

  • Alt Text: Always provide descriptive alt text for images. This helps screen readers describe the images to visually impaired users.
  • Transcripts and captions: Provide transcripts for audio content and captions for videos. This benefits those with hearing impairments and users who prefer reading over listening.
  • Descriptive file names: Use descriptive file names for your media files to improve SEO and accessibility.

4. Ensure keyboard accessibility

Many users rely on keyboards to navigate websites. To ensure your site is keyboard accessible:

  • Tab navigation: Make sure all interactive elements can be reached and activated using the Tab key.
  • Skip links: Provide skip links to allow users to bypass repetitive content.
  • Focus indicators: Ensure that focus indicators are visible and clear so users know which element they are interacting with.

5. Improve color contrast and readability

Color contrast and readability are crucial for users with visual impairments. Take care of the following to enhance these aspects:

  • Contrast ratio: Use tools like the Contrast Checker to ensure sufficient contrast between text and background.
  • Font size: Use a readable font size (at least 16px) and line height to improve readability.
  • Avoid relying on color alone: Ensure that information is not conveyed by color alone. Use text labels and patterns in addition to color.

6. Structure content with semantic HTML

Using semantic HTML helps screen readers and other assistive technologies understand the structure of your content. This includes:

  • Headings: Structure your content logically using heading tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.).
  • Lists: Use ordered (ol) and unordered (ul) lists appropriately.
  • Landmark roles: Use HTML5 elements like <nav>, <main>, <aside>, and <footer> to define different parts of your page.

7. Provide clear and consistent navigation

Navigation should be intuitive and consistent across your site. This includes:

  • Descriptive links: Use descriptive text for links instead of “click here” or “read more.”
  • Breadcrumbs: Implement breadcrumbs to help users understand their location within the site.
  • Consistent menu: Ensure your navigation menu is consistent across all pages.

8. Test your site with assistive technologies

Testing your site with assistive technologies is a crucial step in ensuring accessibility. This includes:

  • Screen readers: Test your site with screen readers like NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) or JAWS (Job Access With Speech).
  • Keyboard only: Navigate your site using only a keyboard to identify any accessibility issues.
  • Accessibility testing tools: Use tools like WAVE and axe to identify and fix accessibility issues.

9. Provide accessible forms

Forms are a common interaction point on websites, and making them accessible is essential. Try following these tips:

  • Labels: Ensure all form fields have descriptive labels.
  • Instructions: Provide clear instructions for completing the form.
  • Error messages: Offer descriptive error messages and guide users on how to correct them.
  • Tab order: Ensure the tab order is logical and follows the natural flow of the form.

10. Educate content creators

Accessibility is an ongoing effort that involves everyone who creates content for your site. Educate your team on best practices for writing accessible content, including:

  • Use of headings: Properly use headings to structure content.
  • Alt text: Consistently provide alt text for images.
  • Link text: Use meaningful link text.
  • Plain language: Write in plain language to ensure content is understandable to a wide audience.

An insight into the tools used for accessibility testing

Utilizing tools can streamline the process of making your site accessible. Here are some valuable tools:

  • WAVE: WAVE (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool) is an online tool designed to help web developers and content creators ensure their websites are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. Developed by WebAIM (Web Accessibility In Mind), WAVE provides visual feedback on the accessibility of web content, making it easier to identify and fix accessibility issues.
  • axe: Axe is a powerful accessibility testing tool designed to help developers ensure that their websites and web applications are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. It can be integrated directly into browsers and various development environments to provide comprehensive accessibility analysis.
  • Google Lighthouse: Google Lighthouse is an open-source, automated tool designed to improve the quality of web pages. It provides comprehensive audits covering performance, accessibility, SEO, and more. Lighthouse is particularly useful for developers who want to ensure their web pages are optimized and accessible to all users, including those with disabilities.
  • NVDA: NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) is a free, open-source screen reader for Windows that enables visually impaired users to access and interact with digital content. Developed by NV Access, NVDA is designed to be a powerful and reliable tool for both users and developers who need to test the accessibility of websites and applications.
  • JAWS (Job Access With Speech) is a robust screen reader developed by Freedom Scientific. It is widely used by visually impaired individuals to access and navigate digital content, making it an essential tool for developers and testers to ensure their websites and applications are accessible.

In summary

Inclusive web design is ultimately about making the web a better place for everyone. By following the steps outlined above, you can ensure your WordPress site is accessible to all users, regardless of their abilities. This enhances the user experience, boosts your SEO, broadens your audience reach, and ensures legal compliance.

Please note accessibility is not a one-time effort but an ongoing commitment. Regularly test your site, stay updated with the latest accessibility guidelines, and educate your team to maintain an inclusive web presence. By doing so, you contribute to a more inclusive internet, where everyone can access and enjoy your content.

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Naina Sandhir - Content Writer

A content writer at Mavlers, Naina pens quirky, inimitable, and damn relatable content after an in-depth and critical dissection of the topic in question. When not hiking across the Himalayas, she can be found buried in a book with spectacles dangling off her nose!

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