While WordPress is a highly accessible platform right out of the box, it is up to the administrators and theme designers to tweak and configure their site to ensure that it is accessible to all users, including the blind, deaf, elderly, or anyone else who might for some reason have difficulty navigating the web.
This post outlines some resources that might prove useful in creating an accessible WordPress site, particularly with regard to sight impairments.
Visually impaired computer users generally use a Screen Reader, such as JAWS, which speaks the website’s content using a synthesized voice. Screen Readers speak the content (headings, links, menus, blocks of text) according to the code, so it is up to the theme editor to keep the HTML and PHP clean and ensure that a screen reader can logically process the website’s content.
Though a bit outdated, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 provide sound coding guidelines for how to maintain an accessible website. In terms of WordPress themes, it is important to minimize use of tables and to make sure graphics and videos have descriptive alternate text.
The WordPress Accessibility Codex also outlines useful accessibility guidelines unique to the WordPress platform.
Screen Reader resources
WebAnywhere is a free online screen reader that is useful for testing pages. It’s also worth trying out just to get a sense for the challenges of navigating the web by ear.
Fangs is a Firefox extension that simulates JAWS reader. Rather than speaking the content, it outputs a text similar to how JAWS would read the page.
More useful accessibility testing resources:
Useful WordPress Plugins
The WordPress Accessibility Widget is a very useful widget that allows users to easily change the site’s font size. The code can be easily tweaked to customize the available font sizes or add additional size options.
The WordPress Access Key Widget is another useful widget that allows the administrator to easily set up access keys for their site. With this plugin, access keys can be assigned for existing pages under “Posts” on the admin interface.
One issue with access keys is that the keyboard commands vary by web browser. For example, Mac Firefox is CTRL+access key, and Mac Safari is CTRL+ALT+access key.
You can see these plugins in action at this test site.
The Arjuna-X theme, which lacks tables, is a highly accessible theme and might be worth testing and tweaking when building an accessible WordPress site.
Accessites.org and brucelawson.co.uk provide additional useful information and solutions for WordPress accessibility.