Accessibility with Wordpress
Wordpress is certainly the most popular blogging system out there. Incidentally, it has also developed into the preferred content management system for many website providers. In this article I explain how to become more accessible with WordPress. My cooperation partner Silta does not implement accessible Wordpress websites, but offers advice and support for accessible websites.
The operation of the Wordpress backend should generally be possible for blind and other disabled people. Next to Drupal, it is one of the most accessible backends I have seen so far. It is therefore the ideal basis for a diverse online content management team.
The choice of theme
Wordpress can be viewed as a framework that can be adapted to different requirements. This applies in particular to the layout. Very few will be satisfied with the standard WordPress themes. However, they are relatively accessible. Of course, the theme should be mobile-friendly. This makes it easier to enlarge for visually impaired users. With WordPress itself can be filtered for accessible themes. Irrespective of this, however, you should check for yourself whether the self-assessment of the person making the entry is correct.
In the case of third-party themes, you must check for yourself whether they are accessible. If you know of a website that already uses the theme, you can test it automatically with a tool such as WAVE or manually with a test procedure such as the WCAG test. Feel free to ask the developer whether the theme is accessible. Especially if the theme is paid, the developer should take such requirements into account. You also create awareness that there is a demand for accessible themes.
If you develop a theme yourself, WordPress itself offers information on accessibility. You can find the link at the end of the article.
Unfortunately, the Wordpress text editor TinyMCE - today Classic Editor - and the Gutenberg editor do not have all the necessary functions for accessible text creation. For example, commands for subheadings or abbreviations are missing. The marking of subheadings, lists and other elements makes it easier for the blind to recognize the task of the element. You see some bold and contrasted text and you know it's a subheading. Blind people don't see that. For your auxiliary software, the information about the task of a piece of text is conveyed via HTML markup. In addition to subheadings, lists, quotations and abbreviations can also be marked.
To create these formattings with a graphical editor, you need the Plugin TinyMCE Advanced.
If you know a little HTML or Markdown, you don't need another editor. Switch the text editor to HTML and enter the appropriate markups manually. The few award commands are quickly learned.
Wordpress offers good options for providing images with alternative descriptions. This is important for the blind or visually impaired who cannot see or recognize the image.
Image description options appear in the right column of the library. Once the image is selected, you can set alternative text or title.
The alternative text is read to the blind. The title is displayed when you hover over the image with the mouse cursor. So it is geared more towards the visually impaired. Alternative text and title should not be the same, as the blind assistance software will read both. However, plugins like Access Monitor will respond if the two texts are the same. In such cases, the tool assumes that the fields have been filled in automatically.
As a rule of thumb: Blind people cannot see the picture and need basic information: What is actually on the picture. For example "The diagram shows the business development in 2015". The values for this should of course be in a table or in the continuous text. The visually impaired may have problems recognizing the image content, so a more general description of the image structure will help them. For example: "The bar chart shows the business development in 2015, the individual bars represent the months". .
Captions can also be added. They are displayed to all users and can be used as an alternative to the title as they are visible to all users.
Finally, I would like to point out a few plugins that may be helpful. Whoever installs these plugins is certainly not accessible, conversely one does not have to install these plugins in order to become accessible. I'm just showing what options there are. There are free versions of all the plugins mentioned.
Hurraki is a German dictionary that explains everyday terms in simple language. The Plugin hurrakify makes it possible to display explanations from Hurraki for individual terms from a text. ,
The Access Monitor checks your Wordpress content for accessibility. As with all automatic testing tools, it takes experience with digital accessibility or a lot of time to be able to understand the individual error messages. The tool cannot tell you whether images have a meaningful alternative text, you have to decide that yourself. This is a freemium model. There is a free and a paid version.
WP Accessibility upgrades a text enlargement function and a contrast view for Wordpress. Such features used to be all the rage in accessibility circles, but have been considered undesirable for a number of years. It is argued that the operating systems, the browsers and the assistive technology perform these tasks better than the error-prone website functions. That's certainly correct, but there are actually still people who don't know how to enlarge text on the desktop or activate a high-contrast view and they are grateful for these little help. And the others don't suffer either, as long as the rules of accessibility are taken into account when designing the theme. There are now quite a few plugins of this type, but WP Accessibility has the most reviews.
The Content Author Accessibility Preview plugin shows content creators any accessibility issues before the post is published.
At this point, a small warning about the ReadSpeaker plugin for reading texts aloud: The plugin increases the loading time of the website significantly, it takes several seconds longer before the page is actually displayed. Especially on mobile devices, many users are likely to jump off because they consider the website to be unavailable. Apart from that, read-aloud functions are completely superfluous, there is no recommendation for such a plugin.
You should also keep your distance from so-called accessibility overlays. They are called AudioEye, Accessibe or EyeAble - these tools promise to make the website accessible with a few lines of code. In truth, they add a few typically useless features, but add no accessibility benefit. That's wasted money.
- Wordpress Accessibility Information
- Official Blog of the Wordpress Accessibility Team
- Wordpress Accessibility Handbook
- Accessible WordPress page builder
- Regular Wordpress Accessibility Meetup