About 1.3 billion people experience significant disability, but only 2.6% of the world’s top million websites offer full accessibility, leaving a large portion of the population unable to access most websites.
Making your website usable for as many people as possible is critical. It ensures that most people have equal access to information online.
In this complete guide to accessibility on WordPress, we’ll review the importance of accessibility and how to make your WordPress site more accessible. By the end, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of the concept and how to implement it on your sites.
Understanding Accessibility on WordPress
Website accessibility is about inclusivity. It’s about ensuring everyone can use a site regardless of physical or cognitive abilities. This inclusivity covers people with visual or hearing impairments who rely on assistive technology to browse the web.
Web accessibility focuses on making websites:
- Perceivable. People should be able to sense the information somehow, like seeing or hearing it. To make your text content accessible, adding a “read aloud” option or a video tutorial is a great choice.
- Operable. Your site must be usable by all users. It fails the test if it requires interactions that some users can’t perform, like difficult captcha or links too small for users to click through properly.
- Understandable. People need to be able to understand how the site works. That means cleaning up menus, footer widgets, and overall site layout and making it as simple to navigate as possible.
- Robust. As technology changes, people should still be able to access the content, which means accessibility is ongoing. It’s not a one-and-done effort.
Laws and Standards for Website Accessibility
Web accessibility is not just a matter of good design. It’s a legal requirement in many jurisdictions.
In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that websites be accessible.
In the European Union, the Web Accessibility Directive requires public sector websites and mobile apps to be accessible. On June 28, 2025, the European Accessibility Act (EAA), adopted by the European Union in 2019, will be enforced in all EU countries. The EAA applies to both the public and private sectors. For companies affected by the European Accessibility Act, 2025 is the ultimate deadline.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) developed Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which are widely accepted as the standard.
The current version, WCAG 2.1, includes guidelines for making web content more accessible to people living with a wide range of disabilities. These include visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities.
Benefits of Improving WordPress Accessibility
Making Your WordPress Site Accessible Opens It up to More People
People with disabilities, older users, and anyone on a phone or tablet will have an easier time browsing your site. You grow your audience by adding users who otherwise might have found it difficult to use your site.
Most Changes That Make a Site Accessible Are Also Good for SEO
For example, using descriptive headings, links, and alt text for images helps search engines understand your content better. The easier you make it for search engines to understand what’s on a page, the better your site ranks.
Built-In Accessibility Features in WordPress
While imperfect, WordPress is committed to making its platform as inclusive as possible. WordPress follows web design standards and best practices for accessibility. It also continues to advance as web technologies evolve. But WordPress isn’t perfect. While it has some built-in accessibility features, it’s also up to you to make your site accessible beyond these measures.
Screen Reader Support
Screen reader software allows users, like those living with visual impairments, to read the text on the screen with a speech synthesizer or braille display.
WordPress supports screen readers by allowing users to add alternative text (alt text) to images.
A person can navigate an accessible WordPress theme with a keyboard, including all the links, menus, forms, and buttons. It also has a ‘skip-to-content’ link, which allows users to bypass navigation and other elements at the top of the page and go straight to the main content.
Some HTML elements can receive keyboard focus by default. These include interactive elements like links (<a>), form controls (<input>, <button>, etc.), and a few others. The tabindex attribute can make an element focusable and control its position in the keyboard navigation order.
Here’s how it works:
- tabindex=”0″. The element is included in the keyboard navigation order based on its position in the document. It can be focused by both keyboard and script.
- tabindex=”-1″. The element can be focused by a script, but is not included in the keyboard navigation order.
- tabindex=”1″ (or any positive number). The element is included in the keyboard navigation order before any elements with a lower (or no) tabindex. This can be used to override the default navigation order, but it’s generally discouraged because it can make navigation confusing for users.
Color Contrast Options
Good color contrast makes your content more readable for everyone, including people with visual impairments or color vision deficiencies. Color pairings should at least follow WCAG 2.1 AA based on a contrast ratio of 4.5:1. The pairings need to have sufficient contrast for use with normal text, large text, and graphics. You can generate and test your color palette and learn more with this accessible color palette generator.
Why Use Accessible Themes?
Why use an accessible theme? A better question may be, “Why not?” An accessible theme makes it easier for your site to meet responsiveness standards out of the box. In other words, if you know your theme is accessible, you don’t have to spend time trying to make it that way. It frees you to focus on other standards and upgrades.
To choose an accessible theme:
- Search for Accessibility. In the WordPress theme directory, use the “accessibility-ready” tag to find accessible themes. While these themes still might not be 100% accessible, they’re a great starting point. If you choose to use a third-party theme, you also can search for accessible themes.
- Read Reviews. People are serious about access, as they should be. Read reviews of any theme to see where it falls short. Determine if you want to use that theme and work on these limitations or find another option.
- Look at Update Frequency. A theme with regular updates is more likely to focus on adhering to new measures and standards than one that sits stagnant.
- Consider Responsiveness. A theme needs to display well on screens of all sizes. Specifically, make sure the theme displays well on mobile since that’s where a great deal of web traffic originates.
Text responsiveness is part of this. A quick peek at font sizes under the hood can teach you a lot. If paragraphs and headings are mostly set in px and not in rem and/or em units, chances are that the theme is not too accessible in general.
- Review Color Contrast. Make sure the site offers high color contrast. High-contrast colors, such as dark gray and white or black and off-white, can make reading and understanding your site’s content easier for people with impaired vision or photophobia.
Review color contrast, but don’t forget to use common sense. Whereas 100% white on 100% black may give you an excellent result (AAA) in a tool like Colorshark.io and any other contrast checker tool, it’s a contrast that is too stark for people with sensitivity to light.
- Keep It Simple. Avoid themes with lots of animations, including sliders, or tons of features you don’t need. Simple is best when it comes to ease of use for everyone.
- Test It Out. Test the theme yourself for good keyboard navigation, responsive design, screen reader capabilities, and contrast. If in doubt, think about whether you can change it to fit your needs or if you should go with another theme. Here’s how to activate keyboard navigation on a Mac.
- Try Tools. You can use a tool, such as the WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool, to test your site.
Five Accessible Themes for WordPress
Some WordPress themes claim to be fully accessible. Chances are, they also have limitations, but they may be a good place to start.
Five WordPress themes that claim to be accessibility-ready:
The theme is just the starting point. You can further enhance its accessibility by customizing it. Customizations include things like adjusting the colors for better contrast, adding alt text to images, and ensuring the theme can be navigated with a keyboard.
Chances are you will also install certain plugins to extend your site’s functionality. It’s important to also check if the output of these plugins is accessible. Making an accessible site is one step. The second is keeping it accessible. It’s worthwhile to review plugins the same way you review a theme for accessibility.
Accessibility Plugins for Any WordPress Site
Once you pick a theme, plugins can help ensure you’ve covered all sides of accessibility. Let’s look at some worthwhile plugins to install and set up for your WordPress site.
1. WP Accessibility
WP Accessibility is a great choice when you want to ensure your site doesn’t have issues, but you don’t have the expert knowledge to determine it yourself.
Key features include:
- Toolbar. This plugin adds a toolbar to the top of the site that allows users to customize features like font size or colors to fit their needs.
- Skip Links. Adds a way for screen reader users to bypass content that’s repeated on multiple pages.
- Removes Title Attributes. Allows you to strip title attributes from page lists, category lists, and archive menus. This feature helps avoid redundancy and confusion for screen readers.
- Long Description to Images. Uses the image’s “Description” field to add long descriptions that give more detail and context.
- Post Titles to “Read More” Links. It replaces the vague “read more” links with the post’s title to help screen readers announce what article the link goes to.
- User-Scalable. Removes “user-scalable=no” to allow resizing, helping vision-impaired people to zoom in on the site to read text.
- Diagnostic CSS. Shows CSS-detectable problems in the visual editor or on the front end of the site.
2. Equalize Digital: Accessibility Checker
Equalize Digital: Accessibility Checker displays accessibility issues on your post or page, making them easy to spot.
Key features include:
- No Restrictions. You can check as many posts or pages as you need.
- Correction Help. The plugin tells you the problem, then provides an extensive library of articles to explain why it’s a problem and how to fix it.
The Importance of Accessible Images
Images enhance user experience but can hinder users with visual impairments or other disabilities. Therefore, it’s important to optimize images.
Adding Alt Text
Alt text is a description of an image read by screen readers. In WordPress, you can add alt text in the Image block settings when inserting an image in most themes. If the theme doesn’t allow for this, you may want to reconsider it.
Captioning Images and Videos
First, let’s get a wording issue out of the way. We are referring to captions that add extra information to an image or a video on a page.
A caption for an image is an extended description of an image. Alt texts should be short and concise but should not contain information like copyright, as the copyright does not describe what is in the image.
A good reference to learn about correctly creating alt texts and image captions can be found in the Style Manual on the website of the Australian Government. A caption for a video describes what’s in the video, for example.
WordPress allows easy addition of captions to images and videos in the block settings.
Captions provide a text version of audio content in videos. It’s helpful for people with hearing impairments and those who choose to watch videos without the sound on.
A channel like YouTube will automatically generate captions, but they’re usually only a starting point.. They lack punctuation, for example. If you turn these into closed captions via their free Studio tool, you can correct that which improves accessibility and usability even more, and it’s great for SEO as Google indexes closed captions.
Providing Audio Descriptions and Transcripts
Audio descriptions verbally describe visual elements in videos, aiding users who are visually impaired. Transcripts are text versions of audio content. You can use an audio transcriber like Temi or Otter to speed up the process.
Designing Accessible Navigation and Menus
Accessible navigation allows all users to easily find and access the content they need. When navigation isn’t accessible, it can create barriers that prevent people from using a website effectively.
For example, a person with a visual impairment might struggle to navigate a website that relies heavily on visual cues. Similarly, a user with motor disabilities might find it difficult to use a website that requires precise mouse movements.
Best Practices for Accessible Menus
When designing accessible menus, it’s important to follow certain best practices. These practices include:
- Clear and Simple Navigation. Avoid complex dropdown menus (like mega menus) that can be difficult to navigate with a keyboard or screen reader.
- Use of ARIA Roles. Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) roles help assistive technologies understand the purpose of different elements on a page. For instance, the “navigation” role can be used to identify a section of a page that provides navigation links if the navigation was not wrapped in a semantic <nav> element.
- Keyboard Accessibility. Ensure that all menu items can be accessed using the keyboard alone. This keyboard ability is important for users who can’t use a mouse or touch screen.
- Visible Focus Indicator. A visible focus indicator helps users know which element is currently selected or active, which is helpful for keyboard users.
- Link Text. The text of your links should be descriptive and make sense out of context. Avoid vague anchor text like “click here.”
- Consistent Navigation. Keep your navigation consistent across all pages. This structure helps users know where to find things and what to expect.
Breadcrumb navigation is a chain of links, usually displayed at the top of a page, that shows how you arrived at the current page.
Breadcrumbs are useful for users to understand their location within the site’s hierarchy, and they can also help users navigate back to previous pages. Breadcrumb navigation is typically used on websites with a lot of content and/or a complex structure
Skip Links and Focus Indicators
Skip links allow users to go directly to the main content of a page. This ability is particularly useful for keyboard and screen reader users, who would otherwise have to tab through every link in the navigation or listen to a lot of repetitive information every time they visit a new page. A skip link is typically hidden until it receives focus when someone enters the page via keyboard.
Focus indicators, on the other hand, are visual cues that show which element on a page currently has keyboard focus. They’re essential for keyboard users to know where they are on a page and what action they can take next. Chrome, Edge, and Firefox all use default focus indicators that have an outer white outline and an inner blue outline. These different colors can provide contrast when the controls appear on different color backgrounds.
Creating Accessible Forms
Some key form considerations include using form field labels to describe the purpose of all fields, indicating required fields, providing autocomplete options when relevant, and ensuring all text color combinations within the form have a sufficient contrast ratio.
Three popular WordPress form plugins:
- Gravity Forms. The Gravity Forms plugin has made significant accessibility improvements, including offering full WCAG 2.1 AA compliance out of the box.
- Formidable Forms. Formidable Forms allows you to add proper support for accessibility without overcomplicating the setup.
- Contact Form 7. The free and open-source plugin Contact Form 7 doesn’t advertise its accessibility features, but it’s so flexible that you can build fully accessible forms with some code.
Testing and Auditing Accessibility in WordPress
After you implement various measures, how do you ensure they’re working well? Tools that test your site can help.
Automated Accessibility Testing Tools
Automated accessibility testing helps identify issues on your site. Here are some of the top automated testing tools to try:
- WAVE Accessibility Checker. WAVE helps you identify WCAG and other errors.
- Tenon.io. Tenon.io is an API that can add accessibility tests to pretty much any automation framework you might already use. Tenon also tests against WCAG.
- Automated Accessibility Testing Tools (AATT). Developed by PayPal, AATT is a browser-based testing tool.
Please note that you can’t rely on automated testing alone. Automated testing only catches about 30-35% of all potential accessibility issues.
Manual Testing Techniques
While automated testing can give you technical details, manual testing shows you issues from a user’s perspective. Ask your testing team to browse different pages of your website and identify any glitches or issues that may hamper website access.
Once you’ve thoroughly researched within your team, take the website out into the real world. Ask people to browse your site for access standards and report back on any issues they notice.
Creating Accessible Content in WordPress
Creating accessible content in WordPress involves writing accessible headings, formatting text for readability, using proper link text and descriptions, and making tables accessible. Let’s delve into each of these aspects.
Writing Accessible Headings and Subheadings
Headings and subheadings are crucial in structuring your content and making it accessible. They provide a hierarchy that helps users, especially those using screen readers, understand the organization of the page.
Tips for writing accessible headings and subheadings:
- Use Headings in a Logical Order. Start with H1 for the main heading, followed by H2 for subheadings, H3 for sub-subheadings, and so on. Avoid skipping heading levels (for example, don’t jump from H2 to H4).
- Make Headings Descriptive. Headings should give an idea of the content that follows. Avoid vague headings like “Section 1” or “Part A.”
- Limit the Use of H1. There should only be one H1 heading per page, typically used for the page title.
Formatting Text for Readability
The way you format your text can significantly impact its readability.
Tips to improve formatting include:
- Use Short Paragraphs. Blocks of text can be difficult to read. Break your content into short paragraphs instead. One sentence paragraphs are acceptable online.
- Use Bullet Points and Numbered Lists. These can make your content easier to scan and understand, especially for complex information or step-by-step instructions.
- Use Bold and Italics Sparingly. These emphasize certain points, but overuse can make your content difficult to read.
- Limit the Paragraph Text Width. A maximum of 75 characters, including spaces, improves readability, especially for people with dyslexia.
- Avoid Centering Paragraphs. As pretty as centered text may look to you, it’s difficult for people with dyslexia and a nuisance for people who use a screen magnifier or who zoom in on a page.
Using Proper Link Text and Descriptions
The text you use for links also can affect the accessibility of your content.
Tips for using proper link text and descriptions:
- Use Descriptive Link Text. The link text should give an idea of where the link will lead. Avoid vague link text like “click here” or “read more.”
- Avoid Using URLs as Link Text. URLs can be long and confusing when read out by screen readers. Follow the first tip.
- Provide Context for Links. If the link text isn’t self-explanatory, you can provide additional context in the surrounding text.
Making Tables Accessible
Tables can be a great way to present complex information, but they can also be challenging for screen reader users if not properly formatted.
To make tables accessible:
- Use Simple Structure. Avoid merged cells or nested tables.
- Use Table Headers. Table headers provide context for the data in the table.
- Provide a Caption. Add a caption to provide a summary of the table.
WordPress Accessibility Resources and Communities
The need for open access doesn’t stop when you launch your site. It’s ongoing and changing.
There are numerous resources and communities dedicated to WordPress accessibility. These platforms provide valuable information, support, and training to help you make your WordPress site more accessible.
- Official WordPress Resources. WordPress Codex provides tons of information on accessibility, including guidelines, techniques, and best practices.
- Online Communities and Forums. Websites like Digital A11Y and Equalize Digital host meetups and communities where you can connect with other professionals, share knowledge, and learn from experts.
- Training and Events. Websites like Section 508 and Interaction Design Foundation offer training. You can also attend events and conferences like the Design Accessibility Summit to stay updated with the latest trends and developments.
- Blogs and Articles. Blogs like Usability Geek, Usability.gov, W3.org, and many others cover accessibility in detail and help you keep up with the changes in the field.
Embracing a More Inclusive Digital World
Making your website accessible opens doors to more people. Accessible sites are easier for everyone to use, get better search rankings, and are legally compliant.
The key factors for having an accessible site are:
- Learn the basics.
- Bake them into your website design.
- Keep testing and improving your site as technology advances.
We hope this complete guide to accessibility on WordPress helps you make your website more accessible.
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