Task 15: Theme Features: Accessibility

Some WordPress themes do a better job than others at conforming to good practices for accessibility by people with disabilities. In this task you will learn how to evaluate your site for accessibility problems. Even if you are not required by law to consider the needs of people with disabilities, it’s still the right thing to do.

Users of your site may have various disabilities that affect how they experience web content. A significant number of your visitors will have disabilities such as limited vision, hearing loss, cognitive challenges, limited motor skill reaction time, inability to use their hands, and many other limitations. For example, about 15% of your users will have some sort of problem with visual acuity. This may include limited sight or changes in perception of color that can render parts of your site unreadable.

Some web sites are required by law to conform to specific standards for accessible design. In the United States, if your work is funded by the government, you must comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. These standards are part of the Federal government’s procurement regulations.

Section 508 is a specific implementation of a more general international standard called the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).

Some types of accessibility problems are caused by content or design choices that you make, and are not due to the Theme you are using. But other types of accessibility problems can be caused directly by the Theme you choose for your site. Not all themes test equally well when subjected to standardized accessibility testing. You can read more about this in the accompanying article on WordPress Themes that Meet Section 508 Requirements.

A full review of these issues is beyond the scope of our introduction to WordPress. All you need to do now is to get a basic idea of how accessible your site is given your current setup. If you want to learn more about the technical issues, here are some resources:

  1. The official blog for the WordPress accessibility group, dedicated to improving accessibility in core WordPress.
  2. Joe Dolson’s site, www.joedolson.com, which explains his WP Accessibility plugin.
  3. Jim Thatcher’s tutorial on web accessibility issues.
  4. The web site devoted to WordPress accessibility issues at wp-accessible.org.

To complete this task…

Do a Section 508 assessment of your site using the free online checker at Cynthia Says (cynthiasays.com). After you run the report you will have an option to view the report in a print-friendly format. Save or print the report and read it over, even if it does not make much sense to you. Look for items that are marked in red. Discuss the results of your your report with at least two other members of your learning team.

For a different view of your compliance you can run similar tests at wave.webaim.org.

How well does your current Theme do when tested in this way? Can you find a different Theme that produces fewer red flags?

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  1. pierre on

    Nice to see pepole care about other netsitizens experience of the web. I want to give feed back about your own sites accessibility in the spirit of what you wrote. I am visualimpaired surfing from a Nexus 4 and color on links give low contrast and hard to read. Have decoration under link helps alot to point out it is a weblink for colorblind pepole.

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