Is An Accessible WordPress Theme Required For An Accessible Website?

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When it comes to creating customized websites, WordPress is by far the most popular tool used around the world. Currently, this content management platform powers nearly half of all websites on the internet, coming in at around 43.3%.

Considering the global dominance this platform has over creating and publishing new websites, it’s no wonder that they’re actively seeking to help their users comply with the current web accessibility guidelines through the creation and distribution of accessible WordPress themes.

WordPress has now completely committed to having an inclusive online space, currently hosting a page where they recommend 44 pre-made, accessible themes for their users. Within these themes, there are a range of options that are completely free to use, helping absolutely anyone to get started with online accessibility.

However, if you’ve had their site for more than a few years, you may be using a website structure and theme that may not be accessible. In this article, we’ll explore web accessibility, highlighting how WordPress themes become compliant, and exactly how you can make your website accessible, despite using an accessible theme or not.

A Shifting Perspective On Accessibility

Web accessibility is becoming an increasingly discussed topic in the world of web design, mostly due to the increasing number of lawsuits that are founded on these grounds. From 2020 to 2021, there was a 14% increase in the number of lawsuits in federal court.

While this number already may seem surprisingly high, it pales in comparison to the movement from 2017 to 2018, where a total increase of 177% was recorded. In the last five years, web accessibility lawsuits have become incredibly common, with the ruling set out by the American Disability Act clearly including terms that relate to online access.

The universally-accepted Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the international standard for websites. With the rising number of lawsuits related to web accessibility, and how easy it is to access the full list of requirements set out by the WCAG, it’s no surprise that website owners are making changes to mitigate the chance of  a lawsuit. 

This change, in part, is what has made WordPress take such a radical approach to web accessibility, now heavily detailing the need for accessibility within all of their developer tools, as well as outlining a range of pre-made accessible themes that users can use. 

However, not everyone is in the boat of simply just creating their website and trusting a theme. If you’re already a WordPress website owner and want to implement accessibility features into your already established template and format yourself, we’ll walk through exactly how you can do this. 

I Already Have A WordPress Theme; How Can I Make it Compliant?

There are several steps that you can take to ensure your website is accessible as possible. 

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The first step is to always read through the WCAG and familiarize yourself with the general areas that you should be focusing on:

  • Color and perception
  • Navigation and keyboard use
  • Understandable format and readable text
  • Robust for AI understanding 

These core areas are split into many parts, with each bullet point of the WCAG outlining everything you’d need to know and implement into your website.

There are also a range of tools like WAVE, which allow you to plug in your home URL and instantly get a breakdown of where you’re in line with the guidelines and where you need to improve.

From there, you have two main options to ensure that your WordPress site is compliant:

  1. Work with an experience developer
  2. Use accessibility plug-ins

The first of these has become easier than ever, with freelance websites like Upwork or Fiverr allowing you to find people that specialize in these niche services. If you reach out to them, you’ll be able to get a quote about how much it would cost to make your WordPress site compliant.

The second is a more recently developed technique, but one that is quickly sweeping the internet. WordPress accessibility plug-ins allow you to include a small disability button in the corner of your website.

When a user clicks on this button, an accessibility adjustments panel comes up. With this panel, they’re able to choose a range of options that change the profile of your site, ensuring it fits in with their personal accessibility needs, without changing the source code.

Final Thoughts

Although web accessibility has received a major shift in global understanding due to the increased pressure spawned from the recent spike in lawsuits, this further represents an important step in the development of the internet. The simple fact is that 15% of the world’s population live with a disability.

The internet is a vast source of information that the majority of people use every single day. Excluding a group of people from this wealth of information simply due to poor design choices isn’t acceptable. With a focus on creating inclusive and accessible online spaces, every website owner is able to actively lower the possibility of web exclusion.

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