Accessibility and Content Management

Experienced web designers and developers control their own destiny when building sites from scratch, as it relates to web accessibility. How much (or how little) they choose to adhere to accessibility standards depends on their coding acumen and knowledge.

That’s fine and well for web site development from the ground up, but many people are opting to use trusted content management systems (CMS) for blogging, site upkeep, etcetera. I myself have been in the web industry for over a decade, but opted to use WordPress for this blog instead of taking the extra time to come up with something from scratch.

When you utilize such products, accessibility is at the mercy of their developers, not you, especially when it comes to custom templates.

For starters, let’s look at three of the big players in free CMSs, and see how they tackle the issue of web accessibility. At a later date, I’ll cover some of the bigger commercial tools, such as SharePoint.

(accessibility statement
WordPress states that it is, out of the box, web accessibility compliant. However, and it perhaps should come as no surprise, it cannot stand behind how well or how poorly people who create their own WordPress templates keep that accessibility intact.

Their accessibility standard then proceeds to do a nice job providing basic guidelines for template creators, covering topics such as alt and title tags, color blindness, browser and mobile considerations, and testing for accessibility. 

(accessibility statement)
 Joomla’s accessibility statement appears to be somewhat dated. It states that Joomla’s front end will be web accessibility compliant, as it pertains to WCAG and Section 508, by version 1.5 (which has been out for some time now). However, beyond that, there is no confirmation or detail about the efforts they have or will make.

It then explains how the coding necessary to make the back-end WCAG compliant is intensive and requires ground-up rework, and therefore is targeted to be tackled in the 2.0 versioning.

Like WordPress, Joomla cannot stand by the accessibility of templates that 3rd parties create.

I was unable to find an accessibility statement for Drupal, but there is an Accessibility Group. Therein are articles and posts discussing various accessibility tips and topics. Drupal by its nature is very clean and simple — so while I haven’t ripped the cover off enough to get a true feel for its accessibility, the prognosis is positive.

If you have any experiences with these or other free CMSs, as it pertains to web accessibility, please feel free to share. I myself have used WordPress (as this blog would indicate!), and soon will be using Drupal and/or Joomla for projects. I’ll delve deeper in a follow-up post later on.

4 thoughts on “Accessibility and Content Management

  1. William Lawrence

    At it’s basics a CMS is just a web site with content. This is where we use WCAG. When talking about the accessibility of a CMS you have to keep in mind that it is a web content authoring tool and therefore must meet ATAG, Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines,

    Joe Clark did an ATAG assessment of WordPress 2.01 a few years back. Take a look:

    Great website. I’ll be back often. Cheers!

  2. Steve Post author

    Thanks for your comments, William.

    I appreciate the two links — I’m familiar with the Authoring Tool guidelines but haven’t combed over them in detail yet. Joe Clark’s assessment is new to me — I have some reading to do!

  3. John Lange

    HI Steve

    I have been using Joomla quite extensively. I have not done any studies on accessibility, but understand the basic principles required by blind users and the value of text vs graphical design for blind readers.

    Your right, the use of some templates are absolutely non-compliant, but the stock templates that come with Joomla are pretty good.

    The backend, however friendly for less trained “sighted” end users is probably not well suited, By removing the css from the admin, it all turns to text, might be a plus.

    If you have any questions, let me know.
    JOhn >

  4. Daniel

    While I was thinking about such a review you wrote it 🙂 Great job! Clear and concise! Do you think I can translate and publish it at my russian blog on web-accessibility?

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