When it comes to making your site rank better in search engines, you will often find advice that focuses on promoting your site and improving your SEO. But, there is another piece of the puzzle that is often neglected by many website owners. That puzzle piece is accessibility.
The truth of the matter is that focusing on accessibility goes hand in hand with SEO optimization as both require your website to be user-friendly for all users, even those with various disabilities.
In this post, I’ll explain what accessibility is, why it matters, and share tips on how to make your WordPress website more accessible.
What Is WordPress Accessibility
WordPress accessibility is a practice of making your WordPress website more accessible to all users, especially users who rely on assistive technologies to navigate the Internet. This includes people with visual or hearing impairments, users with motor skills problems, the elderly, and users with temporary disabilities such as a broken arm.
However, it also includes people who live in areas that have a slow internet connection and those who use devices with smaller screens.
Why Accessibility Matters
As research shows, 54% of all disabled adults in the USA use Internet on a daily basis. Furthermore, having an inaccessible website can lead to legal trouble. However, those are not the only reasons why accessibility matters.
Web Accessibility Is a Basic Human Right
An important reason why you should make sure your WordPress website is accessible is that it is one of our basic human rights according to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities.
An Accessible Website Leads to More Visitors
Another benefit of making your WordPress website more accessible is the fact that more people can navigate and use your website without any issues, regardless of their condition and situation. Once your visitors see that they can easily use your site, they will be more likely to return to it as well as share it with their friends and followers.
An Accessible Website Improves Your SEO
Lastly, an accessible website uses proper semantic markup. It also has links, images, and forms that are correctly labeled. In essence, an accessible website is more discoverable by search engines which can then index your site faster and rank it higher.
With that out of the way, let’s go over tips that will help you make your website more accessible.
How to Make Your WordPress Website Accessible
WordPress already does a lot in regards to accessibility. Straight out of the box, it supports navigation links that allow visitors to jump to main menu bar and search bar as well as skip to main content.
- Introduction or various keyboard shortcuts that facilitate content editing and formatting
- Accessibility-ready themes that come with every WordPress installation.
- Improvements to theme customizer and media library
The best way to make your WordPress website accessible is to use accessibility-ready theme. However, if your theme doesn’t follow accessibility guidelines, there are steps you can take to ensure your website can be used by anyone.
Install an Accessibility Plugin
Let’s start off easy and install WP Accessibility Plugin. This plugin has a 5-star rating and more than 20 000 active installs. This plugin will add a number of helpful accessibility features which include:
- The ability to enable skip links
- Adds an outline to the keyboard focus state
- Adds a toolbar that allows you to toggle between high contrast, large print and desatuared views of your theme
- Adds long description to images
- Removes tabindex from elements that can use the keyboard focus
- Removes redundant title attributes from page and category lists
- And more
If you want to make sure you don’t miss anything when it comes to making your site more accessible, this plugin is a must have and the easiest way to improve the accessibility without changing your theme.
Improve Color Contrast
Another easy way to make your WordPress website more accessible is to use high contrasting colors on your site. This helps people with visual impairments such as color blindness to easily recognize links, buttons, and menu items on your site and distinguish them from other areas of your site.
You should also avoid using light grey text on a white background or light text on light background as this makes your site less readable. Instead, use black text on white background paired with contrasting colors for buttons.
Add ALT Tags to All Images
You probably know that adding ALT text to images helps with SEO. But ALT text also helps visitors who rely on screen readers to understand what your image represents. That’s why the alt text should accurately describe the image in question.
You can easily add alt tags when you upload images to your Media Library but if you haven’t done it so far, you can use a plugin SEO-Optimized Images to dynamically insert SEO-Friendly “alt” and “title” attributes to existing images on your website.
Use Headings to Organize Your Content
Proper use of headings helps you organize your content and add structure to it. It also helps screen readers and search engines to better understand the context of each section on your page or blog post.
Make Your Links and Menu Keyboard-Friendly
Your links and menu items should be keyboard-friendly. There are people who cannot use a mouse due to their disabilities which means they rely on keyboard exclusively to navigate the websites. If your links and menus aren’t keyboard-friendly, those users won’t be able to use your website.
Properly Label Form Fields
Your form fields should have labels placed outside the actual field as some screen readers cannot access the text when it is inside the field.
Include Transcripts and Closed Captions
Lastly, if you rely on using video and audio content, make sure to include transcripts and closed captions. This helps screen readers interpret the video content as well as people that suffer from hearing impairments or can’t play audio and video files in public to enjoy the content of your site.
How to Test Your Website Accessibility
Once you have implemented these changes, you can test your WordPress website accessibility. There are numerous website accessibility tools listed on the Web Accessibility Initiative’s website that can help you determine if your content meets accessibility guidelines.
Alternatively, you can use a Chrome extension called WAVE Evaluation Tool. Once installed, this little extension will provide you with visual feedback about the accessibility of your website.
The extension will inject icons and indicators onto your page that will point out accessibility issues. You can then work on solving those issues by implementing the tips in this article, switching to an accessibility-ready theme or by installing the WP Accessibility plugin.
Making sure your website is accessible has many benefits. It can increase your site traffic and improve your search engine rank on top of making sure you’re complying with the law. Use the tips in this article to make your WordPress website more accessible.
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