Making this WordPress Site More Accessible

As I eluded to in my post about getting accepted into the Guild of Accessible Web Designers, I had to make some edits to this site to strength its overall accessibility.

Some of these changes stemmed from WordPress limitations and others were just things I missed or wasn’t aware of. All in all, though none of the changes were out-of-this-world complex or obscure, it was an excellent learning experience for me. While this site’s accessibility no doubt isn’t “perfect” yet (is such a thing possible?), I feel better knowing that I’ve made definitive strides forward.

Here are some of the changes that were recommended to me by GAWDS:

Skip Navigation option
This is perhaps less of a must-have on a site like mine without header navigation, but it is advisable to provide an option at the top of your site for skipping straight to the main content.

Screen readers read from top down, and as such, when a visually-impaired navigator hits each page of a site, he or she has to hear the navigation spoken aloud before getting to the meat of the page. Providing the ability to skip past that to the meaningful content makes the experience much more straightforward and less tedious.

What I did: I added the “Jump to Content” anchor link you see at the top right of this page.

Proper Header Order
Correct usage of header tags (<h1>…<h2>…<h3>…etc) provides greater accessibility on a couple fronts. One, screen readers like JAWS offer a key command for reading off headers in order. They also announce the number of headers up front.

The WordPress template I’m using followed proper procedures like having only one <h1> tag, and subsequent <h2> and <h3> tags. However, there were a few instances, based on certain content showing in certain situations, where <h2> was missing. Skipping from an <h1> to an <h3> can cause confusion for screen reader users.

What I did: I straightened out some of the inconsistencies to ensure that on all pages of this site there is one <h1> followed by <h2>’s. I didn’t find the need to go beyond <h2>’s.

Link Focus
For those navigating through a site via a keyboard, making it obvious what link they are focused upon is good accessibility. The unformatted dotted-line box around the focused-upon link isn’t the most visually discernible, across the major browsers.

What I did: I chose a distinctive orange color to clearly denote what link you are focused on when you tab through the site.

a:focus, a:active {
text-decoration : none;
background: #ffce00;
}

Color Contrast
When you have text on top of a background image or solid background color, if there isn’t a strong enough contrast between the respective colors, certain visual disabilities such as color blindness may prevent users from properly differentiating the elements.

WCAG 2.0 call for a minimum contrast ratio of 4.5:1 (3:1 for large text).

What I did: Using an online contrast ratio calculator, I followed the most stringent Level AAA WCAG requirement by ensuring that my “the art of web accessibility” header text was at least a 7:1 ratio from the blue cloud background image.

Likewise, I made sure that my aforementioned link focus background color adhered to a 7:1 ratio from the text on top of it.

Ambiguous Linking
Last and certainly not least, the WordPress usage of “No Comments” or “X Comments” linkage for all blog posts is a link that provides no clear-cut direction as to where it will take the user. Links on the same page should also be worded uniquely and specific to the target.

When you see “No Comments”, you don’t intuitively know that clicking on it is your avenue to posting a comment on a specific topic, much less when there are 5 identical “No Comments” on the same page.

What I did: Given the handy code below, I changed the offending link in the Main Index Template so that, as you can now see on any post on this site, it reads something like “Comment on X topic”. That way, it is more obvious from the link that clicking on it takes you where you can post a comment on the specific post “X topic”.

<?php if('open' == $post->comment_status) : ?><p 
class="comment_link"><?php comments_popup_link('Comment on 
'.$post->post_title, '1 Comment on '.$post->post_title, '% Comments on 
'.$post->post_title,'postcomment','Comments are off for 
'.$post->post_title); ?></p><?php endif;?>

I made a few minor tweaks here and there, but these suggestions from GAWDS were very helpful and set me in a good direction for making this site closer to practicing what it preaches.

2 thoughts on “Making this WordPress Site More Accessible

  1. dani

    Steve, I still have a question about self-linking in post-title. Should we put-off the link or not? What do you think?

    I hope to receive the answer notification (WordPress subscribe-comment plugin?) via e-mail. It would be more usable, I think. 🙂

  2. Pingback: 25 Ways to Make Your WordPress Website More Accessible | WordPress, Multisite and BuddyPress plugins, themes, news and help – WPMU.org

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