How to Make Your WordPress Site Accessible in 2024?

How to Make Your WordPress Site Accessible? Have you ever thought about whether your WordPress site is accessible to people with disabilities? Many website owners don’t consider accessibility, but ensuring your site is accessible is important for providing an equal user experience for all visitors. It also has SEO benefits and is required by law in some cases.

In this complete guide, I’ll walk you through all the steps and best practices to make your WordPress website accessible and compliant with ADA and WCAG 2.1 guidelines. We’ll cover actionable tips for improving navigation, text content, images, forms, and more. Let’s dive in!

Why Accessibility Matters

Here are some key reasons why accessibility should be a priority:

  • Expand your audience: There are over 1 billion people in the world with disabilities. An accessible site allows them to use and enjoy your content.
  • Required by law: Many countries require websites, especially of government agencies and public entities, to meet accessibility standards. This includes Section 508 in the US and the Equality Act in the UK.
  • SEO benefits: Sites that follow accessibility best practices tend to be more optimized for search engines. This can lead to higher rankings.
  • It’s the right thing to do: An accessible site provides an equal user experience for all people, regardless of abilities. It’s about inclusion and social responsibility.

WordPress Accessibility Basics

WordPress has many built-in features that help make sites more accessible if utilized properly, including:

  • Semantically correct HTML: WordPress generates HTML code for your content that uses proper header tags (H1, H2, etc), paragraphs, lists, and other elements. This provides structure and meaning.
  • ARIA attributes: These attributes can be added to elements to provide further roles, states, and other properties to assistive technologies. For example, aria-label provides a label where a visible one is missing.
  • Keyboard navigation: WordPress sites support navigating and accessing all functions via keyboard without requiring a mouse.
  • Color contrast: You can manually check contrast levels to ensure text is readable.
  • Text alternatives: Adding alt text to images and transcripts to audio/video provides text alternatives for those who cannot see/hear.

Now let’s go through practical steps to optimize your site for accessibility.

Tips for Accessible Navigation Menu

Your website’s navigation menu is one of the most important components. Here are some tips for making it as accessible as possible:

  • Use a semantically correct <nav> element to contain the menu.
  • Keep your navigation menu simple and intuitive. Avoid too many submenus if possible.
  • Make sure all menu links have descriptive text. Don’t use “Click Here” or vague names.
  • If using an icon-only menu, provide hidden text for screen readers via ARIA labels.
  • Allow keyboard access to navigate and activate all menu items.
  • Provide hover and focus states to indicate the current page and where users are in the menu.
  • Make sure color contrast between text and background passes standards.
  • If the menu appears on multiple pages, place it in the same location each time for consistency.

Optimizing Page Content for Accessibility

Here are key best practices for your page content:

  • Use heading tags like <h1> through <h6> to create structured headings and maintain the semantic hierarchy.
  • Break content into short paragraphs. Big blocks of text are hard to follow.
  • Make hyperlinks descriptive. Avoid saying “click here”, instead use meaningful text like “Learn more about WordPress accessibility”.
  • Watch your color contrast. Light gray text on white backgrounds fails standards.
  • Provide text transcripts for any audio or video content.
  • Use alt text on all images, infographics, and charts to describe what they convey.
  • Place important images near the top to benefit low vision users who zoom in.
  • Ensure no content flashes rapidly. This can cause issues for seizures.
  • When listing items, use bullet points, numbered steps, or HTML lists for screen reader clarity.
  • Write in clear, straightforward language. Avoid jargon, slang, idioms, and overly complex text.
  • Allow for text to be resized up to 200% without breaking the page layout.

Tips for Accessible Images

Here are some tips specifically around making images accessible:

  • Use concise but descriptive alt text. Explain what value an image provides.
  • Decorative images should have blank alt text (alt=””) so they are skipped by screen readers.
  • For complex charts/graphs, provide a full text description nearby to explain the image content.
  • When inserting images in WordPress, fill in the alt text field, not just the title.
  • Verify color contrast between text and background images is sufficient.
  • Watch that text inside an image is large enough to read if zoomed in.
  • If using linked images as call-to-action buttons, include descriptive text.
  • Ensure all content is understandable without the image visuals.

Creating Accessible Forms

Forms present many potential accessibility issues. Here are best practices when building forms:

  • Label every form field clearly and associate it programmatically using <label> tag.
  • Explain any required fields and formatting expectations.
  • Only use title case or sentence case, not all caps, to avoid screen reader pronunciation issues.
  • Make sure form fields are in a logical order top to bottom.
  • Add ARIA attributes like aria-required to indicate required fields.
  • Provide text instructions and confirmations for selections made.
  • Allow keyboard access and tab order that makes sense.
  • Use the WordPress built-in contact forms which have accessible markup.
  • Show clearly what was filled out incorrectly upon error and how to fix it.

Accessibility in Design Elements

A few other important accessibility tips related to design:

  • Ensure color contrast of all text meets minimum ratios. Contrast checkers can identify issues.
  • Avoid conveying meaning through only color. Also use icons, text, or patterns.
  • Make sure interactive elements show focus for keyboard users.
  • Heading styles should cascade properly (don’t skip from H1 to H3 for example).
  • Ensure UI components like carousels, sliders, and dialogs are operable with keyboard.
  • Allow customization of text size without breaking layout.
  • Carefully test how site panels and hidden content react to screen readers.

Choosing Accessibility Plugins

WordPress plugins provide helpful additions to improve accessibility:

  • Accessibility – Logs accessibility issues to improve your site.
  • WP Accessibility – Allows you to easily adjust fonts, colors, spacing for accessibility.
  • UserWay – Adds widgets like a screen reader translator and read aloud tool.
  • Access Monitor – Scans your site against WCAG criteria and gives suggestions.
  • Essential Accessibility Tools – Supports modifying colors, text size, reader tool.
  • ** accessibility-ready** – Automates implementing best practices for compliance.

Testing for Accessibility

Be sure to test your WordPress site for accessibility issues before launch:

  • Use keyboard only navigation to ensure it works properly.
  • Test with the NVDA or VoiceOver screen reader Chrome extensions.
  • Run automated accessibility checkers like Axe, WAVE, and Lighthouse.
  • Go through your site with content highlighted and contrast checkers.
  • Ask others to review using assistive devices like screen readers.
  • Continuously scan and monitor to catch new issues.

Making your WordPress website accessible is an ongoing initiative, not a one-time task. Follow these best practices from the start, use accessibility plugins, run frequent tests, and make adjustments as needed. Your site will provide a better experience for all users.

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