In our increasingly digital world, website accessibility has become an unskippable aspect of creating inclusive online experiences. When you build your website or app, you don’t just want it to look on-brand and on-trend; you want everyone to enjoy using it. You need to consider how people with disabilities can effectively and easily navigate and interact with it. And that means thinking about accessibility from the beginning of the process because an excellent user experience includes all kinds of users and different ways for site visitors to navigate and enjoy your content and flow.
WordPress is one of the most popular website creation platforms, with a range of powerful accessibility tools that can enhance the usability and inclusivity of your website. In this article, we’ll show you some WordPress accessibility tools that will transform your site into a digital playground that’s truly accessible to all. Get ready to rock the web and make inclusivity your superpower!
Understanding Digital Accessibility
Digital accessibility refers to the practice of designing websites and all online or digital content so that it is accessible to people with disabilities. These disabilities may include visual impairments, hearing impairments, cognitive disabilities, motor disabilities, and others. Creating a website that serves the needs of everyone, including people with disabilities, is what digital accessibility is truly all about. It’s like adding the digital equivalent of ramps and elevators to your website, making sure everyone can enjoy the ride. So, let’s dive into the world of digital accessibility and see how it can make your site better, smarter, and more inclusive.
Business Benefits of an Accessible WordPress Site
Before we jump into the tools, let’s talk business. Having an accessible WordPress site isn’t just about being a decent human being (although that’s an awesome goal if your villain career isn’t working out). It also brings some sweet paper perks: ROI or, as we prefer to think of it, dollar bills, AKA the currency of your choice.
- Improved SEO: Did you know that making your site accessible can boost its search engine ranking? Accessibility features such as alt text for images, well-structured headings, and descriptive link text not only assist users with disabilities but also contribute to better search engine optimization (SEO). Accessibility pushes your site up the search results ladder. Say hello to more traffic!
- Wider Audience Reach: With an accessible site, you open the doors to a larger audience. Think about it—people with disabilities are a significant part of the online community, both in numbers and in clout. You want them to enjoy what you have to offer too. And by removing barriers to access, you can tap into a significant market segment and increase engagement and conversions.
- Legal Compliance: Don’t find yourself tangled up in legal drama. Having an accessible website helps you meet accessibility regulations, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the United States, the European Accessibility Act (the new EAA) and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) globally, which require websites to be accessible to individuals with disabilities. So, you can keep the legal eagles at bay, mitigating the risk of non-compliance and potential legal issues.
Options for Making Your WordPress Website More Accessible
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s get down to the nitty gritty: the tools. Below, you’ll find some of the best current options that make your WordPress website work smoothly for accessibility.
Choosing an Accessibility-Ready WordPress Theme
Why are they so useful?
- Good to go: these themes are ready-made accessibility champs, saving you time and effort.
- Full of features: they come packed with built-in accessibility features, such as proper heading structure, keyboard navigation support, and color contrast considerations, making your site immediately more inclusive.
- Easy to find: check out the official WordPress Theme Directory for a veritable treasure trove of accessibility-ready themes.
What are the drawbacks?
- A little stiff: customization options might be limited compared to other themes.
- YMMV: test and make sure the theme covers all your specific needs before committing.
Let’s explore specifics:
- Twenty Twenty-One: It’s the classic mean, clean machine of accessibility-ready themes—sleek, stylish, and ready to tackle any accessibility challenge.
- Astra: This theme is super versatile, with accessibility features and customization options that will make your site pop.
- Polyclinic: Built with medical and health sites in mind, this is one of the current top accessible themes. And it’s flexible enough to work for plenty of other purposes, too.
- Monument Valley: This business-focused theme is an accessible speed demon. It uses a variety of page-building options.
Plugins and Widgets
What sets them apart?
- So smart, it’s uncanny: these magical mechanisms target specific elements of your site, making them accessible.
- Smooth as silk: installation and configuration are really easy, even if you’re not a coding wizard.
What are the disadvantages?
- Heavy at times: too many plugins can slow down your site, so choose wisely, my friend.
- May fight each other: compatibility issues might arise when mixing different plugins.
Let’s take a look at examples:
- WP Accessibility Plugin: A first choice directly from WordPress.org, the WP Accessibility Tools & Missing Alt Text Finder plugin is powerful, tackling common accessibility issues like a pro. It improves keyboard navigation, handles alt text, and more. And, it’s open-source, with frequent updates.
- WP Accessibility Widget: It’s like having a mini-accessibility genie at your fingertips. There are a range of WordPress-compatible widgets that let users resize fonts, adjust color contrasts, and personalize their browsing experience. WP Accessibility also has some interesting features such as a CSS checker and a form labeling tool.
What makes them worth using?
- Rework without rebuilding: Overlays are like a pair of glasses, making your site accessible without messing with its code or basic structure.
- On the spot: They’re a quick fix for existing websites that need an accessibility boost.
- Non-expert level: No need to be a coding ninja—implementing overlays is a breeze.
What are the downsides?
- Shortfalls: Overlays might not cover all accessibility requirements, so double-check your site’s needs.
- May be friction: They can sometimes clash with existing assistive technologies or introduce new issues.
Let’s take a look at a few overlays:
- AudioEye: AudioEye adds text-to-speech functionality and assistive navigation to make your content available to the public.
- UserWay Accessibility Widget: This tool is like a customizable accessibility Swiss Army knife. It lets users personalize their browsing experience, giving site visitors what they specifically need.
- AccessiBe: A popular if sometimes controversial widget, this tool uses AI to help offer greater accessibility to users with disabilities.
Importance of Regular Accessibility Testing and Continuous Improvement
Wrapping up, we’ll leave you with a critical reminder. Accessibility isn’t a one-time fix—it’s an ongoing journey. Regular testing, monitoring, and continuous improvement are crucial to keep your site accessible to all. At a more professional level, conducting accessibility audits, utilizing accessibility checkers, and involving users with disabilities in testing can help identify areas for improvement. It’s a constant process of fine-tuning your performance, keeping your WordPress site accessible and inclusive for all users.
So, whether you’re a bone-fide WordPress wizard or a wannabe compliance conjurer, you are a significant part of making the web a truly inclusive experience. With these accessibility tools in your arsenal, you can help create a digital realm that’s accessible to all. Let’s make the internet a better place, one accessible WordPress site at a time!