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Web accessibility, WCAG and ADA Compliance for WordPress

WordPress is the most popular open-source website building platform, hosting about 35% of websites. It’s flexible, versatile, and free to get started, all of which contribute to its popularity. 

However, when it comes to accessibility WordPress has a long way to go. According to WordPress, the current state of their accessibility is “perfectly capable of being accessible, but it entirely depends on the developer building the site. A poor theme or inaccessible plugins make all the difference.”

For an accessiBe installation guide with WordPress, click here.

Basically, what they’re saying is that there is potentially a ‘perfect combination’ of themes and plugins that will result in an accessible website. However, it is up to the user to not only do extensive research to achieve this but also manually incorporate and implement all of the adjustments.

As far as accessible themes go, Worpress has 92 free accessible themes. However, according to their team, “commercial themes typically have more effort, attention, and support put into them compared to free themes. So, if your website is important enough, you might consider a paid theme instead of a free one.” What does this mean for WordPress users? That if they consider their website “important”, they can’t choose an accessibility theme because it’s free. 

Currently, none of the paid themes on WordPress are up to the accessibility standards of the WCAG, the web content accessibility guidelines. These are the most updated and widely adopted standards for accessible websites worldwide. Ironically enough, in order to have an accessible theme, WordPress refers users to the WCAG for manual implementation.

WordPress plugins are highly well-known and recommended for certain features. However, none of their accessibility plugins offer full WCAG compliance. The majority of WordPress plugins only cover 20% of the WCAG and do not offer remediation for screen reader compliance and keyboard navigation.  Without these adjustments, your website is not accessible to blind people and the motor-impaired. Both of these elements are central for full compliance, making up 80% of the entire WCAG. 

Ultimately what it comes down to is if a WordPress user wants to make their website accessible, they have to remediate an accessible theme or create one from scratch by manually implementing the meticulous but necessary WCAG. This is a task that can take months to finish, and even then there needs to be consistent maintenance for all changes made to the website. If you choose to outsource this project, keep in mind that manual remediation can cost you thousands upon thousands of dollars.

The importance of an accessible WordPress website

When you build a website, you don’t go into it planning to deny access to a certain group of people. In fact, your main goal is to reach as many people as possible or at least deliver an enjoyable experience for those who do want to interact with your website. Making your website accessible enables access to your content, increases your customer base, and enhances your brand reputation.

Another reason to ensure full WCAG compliance is to protect your business from web accessibility lawsuits. Since the 2018 DOJ affirmation that websites are considered places of public accommodations according to the ADA Title III, website owners are actually at risk of litigation if their websites are not accessible. In fact, web accessibility lawsuits have increased by 300%.

Using accessiBe with WordPress

With accessiBe, WordPress users can make their websites entirely accessible to people with disabilities according to the WCAG 2.1 AA. accessiBe uses AI and automation to remediate websites within 48 hours, all by just implementing one line of JS code. This way, users don’t need to manually code or spend valuable resources to fund an accessibility project. accessiBe offers WordPress users the peace of mind that they are compliant with all accessibility legislation and provides round-the-clock maintenance for ongoing compliance.

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