20 Free Responsive WordPress Themes that Meet Section 508 Requirements

“Responsive” means that a web theme will adapt as needed when appearing on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. As screen sizes change, layouts must adapt to the limits of the device they are running on. Some sites achieve this by using theme switchers, but now many themes morph using their own mobile variations to give a consistent look and feel. Designing your web site with device independence in mind is a good strategy to help maximize Section 508 accessibility. But not all responsive themes will pass automatic verification for Section 508 compliance. Some free responsive WordPress themes pass Section 508 automatic verification with no problems.

To find these Section 508-ready themes, I searched the theme showcase at WordPress.com and found 29 free responsive themes. I also added some I knew of that were not found by that search. Each theme has a link to a standardized demo site. I ran each of the demo home pages through Section 508 testing using Cynthia Says.

The Winners

Here’s my list of responsive free WordPress themes that pass automatic Section 508 compliance verification, with links to the demo pages that passed verification. Keep in mind that just because one demo page passes does not mean that your site will pass. It just means that the theme is capable of meeting Section 508 requirements (unless you screw it up on your own). I made the first tests on 31 October 2012 and added to the lists since then. Because themes are updated often, and the testing protocol at the testing site may change, you should re-run tests often to verify current results.

  1. Ascetica http://asceticademo.wordpress.com
  2. Bouquet http://bouquetdemo.wordpress.com
  3. Foghorn http://themes.wptheming.com/foghorn/
  4. Fresh & Clean http://freshandcleandemo.wordpress.com
  5. Gridly http://www.eleventhemes.com/gridly/
  6. Hatch http://devpress.com/demo/hatch/
  7. Lovebirds http://lovebirdsdemo.wordpress.com
  8. Mixfolio http://mixfoliodemo.wordpress.com
  9. Origin http://origindemo.wordpress.com
  10. Oxygen http://oxygendemo.wordpress.com
  11. Pachyderm http://pachyderm-demo.calobeedoodles.com/
  12. Quintus http://quintusdemo.wordpress.com
  13. Respo http://wpdemo.themnific.com/pre/02/
  14. Sampression Lite http://www.sampression.com/sampressionlite/
  15. Sight http://sightdemo.wordpress.com
  16. Skylark http://skylarkdemo.wordpress.com
  17. Suffusion http://aquoid.com/news/themes/suffusion/ One of the most customizable WordPress themes.
  18. Sunspot http://sunspotdemo.wordpress.com
  19. Twenty Eleven http://twentyelevendemo.wordpress.com
  20. Vintage Camera http://vintagecamerademo.wordpress.com

The Losers (but some may work anyway)

Several free responsive WordPress themes failed automatic verification for Section 508 compliance. But keep in mind that a failure of automatic testing does not mean that a page can’t be tweaked to meet Section 508 requirements. Sometimes failure just means that a human being must look at the page to determine compliance. The most common reason for failing automatic testing was using an IFRAME with no descriptive content. I’ve written before on the use of IFRAMEs on Section 508 sites (See Can you use an IFRAME on a Section 508-compliant site?). While having an IFRAME will cause Cynthia Says to fail automatic verification, mitigating factors may permit 508 certifiction following human checking. I did not study the failures closely to determine why the IFRAMEs were being used, or if there was a way to modify their behavior by changing a theme setting. Here are the themes that failed automatic 508 testing, showing the reason(s) for failure:

  1. Able http://abledemo.wordpress.com Failed due to Rule 1.1.6 – All IFRAME elements are required to contain element content.
  2. Ari http://aridemo.wordpress.com Failed due to Rule 1.1.6 – All IFRAME elements are required to contain element content.
  3. Babylog http://babylogdemo.wordpress.com Failed due to Rule 1.1.1 – All IMG elements are required to contain either the alt or the longdesc attribute; also failed due to Rule 1.1.6 – All IFRAME elements are required to contain element content.
  4. Balita http://tokokoo.com/demo/wpec38/balita/ Failed due to Rule 1.1.1 – All IMG elements are required to contain either the alt or the longdesc attribute.
  5. Balloons http://balloonsdemo.wordpress.com Failed due to Rule 1.1.6 – All IFRAME elements are required to contain element content.
  6. Blaskan http://blaskandemo.wordpress.com Failed due to Rule 1.1.6 – All IFRAME elements are required to contain element content.
  7. Bonpress http://demo.wpzoom.com/?theme=bonpress Failed due to Rule 1.1.6 – All IFRAME elements are required to contain element content.
  8. Chateau http://chateaudemo.wordpress.com Failed due to Rule 1.1.6 – All IFRAME elements are required to contain element content.
  9. Codium Extend http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/codium-extend Failed due to Rule 1.1.2 – All INPUT elements are required to contain the alt attribute or use a LABEL. Also failed due to Rule 1.1.6 – All IFRAME elements are required to contain element content.
  10. Destro http://www.themealley.com/destro/ Failed due to Rule 1.1.1 – All IMG elements are required to contain either the alt or the longdesc attribute. Also throws a warning (but does not fail) due to Rule 1.1.2 – All INPUT elements are required to contain the alt attribute or use a LABEL.
  11. Esplanade http://demo.onedesigns.com/esplanade/ Failed due to Rule 1.1.2 – All INPUT elements are required to contain the alt attribute or use a LABEL. Also failed due to Rule 1.1.6 – All IFRAME elements are required to contain element content.
  12. Ever After http://everafterdemo.wordpress.com Failed due to Rule 1.1.6 – All IFRAME elements are required to contain element content.
  13. Grisaille http://grisailledemo.wordpress.com Failed due to Rule 1.1.2 – All INPUT elements are required to contain the alt attribute or use a LABEL.
  14. Hum http://humdemo.wordpress.com Failed due to Rule 1.1.6 – All IFRAME elements are required to contain element content.
  15. Monster http://monsterdemo.wordpress.com Failed due to Rule 1.1.6 – All IFRAME elements are required to contain element content.
  16. Neni http://neni.pixxels.at/ Failed due to Rule 1.1.2 – All INPUT elements are required to contain the alt attribute or use a LABEL.
  17. Reddle http://reddledemo.wordpress.com Failed due to Rule 1.1.6 – All IFRAME elements are required to contain element content.
  18. Runo Lite http://runolitedemo.wordpress.com Failed due to Rule 1.1.6 – All IFRAME elements are required to contain element content.
  19. Skeleton http://themes.simplethemes.com/skeleton/ Failed due to Rule 1.1.1 – All IMG elements are required to contain either the alt or the longdesc attribute.
  20. Something Fishy http://somethingfishydemo.wordpress.com Failed due to Rule 1.1.1 – All IMG elements are required to contain either the alt or the longdesc attribute; also failed due to Rule 1.1.6 – All IFRAME elements are required to contain element content.
  21. Sundance http://sundancedemo.wordpress.com Failed due to Rule 1.1.6 – All IFRAME elements are required to contain element content.
  22. Twenty Twelve http://twentytwelvedemo.wordpress.com Failed due to Rule 1.1.1 – All IMG elements are required to contain either the alt or the longdesc attribute.
  23. Yoko http://yokodemo.wordpress.com Failed due to Rule 1.1.6 – All IFRAME elements are required to contain element content.
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