3 Things Agencies Should Know About WordPress ADA Compliance
With how serious the web accessibility issue has become, web design agencies can no longer ignore the matter — and neither can business owners. The number of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-related lawsuits has increased to such alarming rates, that in 2019, about 40 lawsuits were filed per week. From a bird’s eye view, the ADA is primarily about giving people with disabilities equal rights and access to places, services, and businesses of “public accommodation”.
Here’s a brief description of what the ADA is from Adata.org.
“The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.”
With this regulation in place, the clients of web design agencies could very well be slapped with ADA-related lawsuits if their WordPress websites do not comply with ADA standards. To help web design agencies gain a better understanding of what they are up against when creating WordPress websites, let’s check out these three crucial points.
1.WordPress Accessibility Plugins
WordPress has accessibility plugins that web design companies can install when creating their clients’ websites. The downside to these plugins is they only meet 5% – 20% of the ADA requirements; therefore, even having them integrated into a WordPress website can still pose major problems for the website owners. It can also take a lot of work to maintain web accessibility for websites and if the bulk of your accessible features depend on plugins, you’ll also need to deal with updates and face the possibilities of losing the functionalities in case support for the plugin stops. To give you a better idea of what some of these plugins can do, here are two accessibility plugins that we can look into.
WP Accessibility Helper
This open-source software provides basic accessibility tools through a disabled user-friendly toolbar that you can integrate into your client website. The plugin lets users choose from a selection of color schemes and contrasts and adjust the text font size accordingly.
The WP Accessibility Helper also offers other accessible features, including grayscale images, highlighting or underlining links, and changing font styles.
WP Accessibility Plugin
The WP Accessibility plugin offers multi-function features as a solution to some of the common accessibility issues in WordPress themes. This easy-to-setup plugin’s color contrast and font size toolbar can help users read your client website’s content and view the theme easily. Some of the accessibility features that the plugin can add to the website include adding text and language direction attributes to HTML attributes, keyboard focus state outline for focusable elements, skip links with customizable user-defined targets, and more.
The plugin also lets you add long image descriptions and alt attributes to allow more accuracy for users with screen readers to “read” the site’s images. By integrating WordPress plugins like these into your clients’ WP website, you can improve their websites’ level of accessibility. The challenging part is, despite how great these plugins are, they don’t offer an airtight solution when it comes to helping website owners and agencies create a WordPress website that’s fully compliant with the ADA standards.
2. WordPress’ Accessibility Handbook
One of the challenges that your design agency might face when creating ADA compliant client websites on WordPress is how you can streamline the entire process. Because web accessibility guidelines can be expansive and complex, you’ll need to look into many factors such as the site’s UI, UX, and design elements to ensure web accessibility at all times. Although you can access the requirements of the WCAG 2.1, there are specific steps you need to take when working with WordPress websites. This is where the WordPress accessibility handbook comes in handy.
The handbook provides useful information for web developers and designers to improve the accessibility of websites created on WordPress. With the handbook, you can get accessibility tips and best practices for your content, web development, tools and plugins, design, and more. For example, the handbook recommends best practices for your font sizes and resize text to improve accessibility by designing your text to be enlarged without it becoming hidden or unreadable and without breaking your design.
Aside from recommending what you should do or include in your design to ensure accessibility, the WordPress handbook also gives tips on what you SHOULDN’T do. For instance, using an infinite scroll feature isn’t recommended in the handbook as it can cause significant accessibility issues. These issues include not being able to go back to the previous page using the browser’s Back button and more. With these set of guidelines, the agencies will have a more concrete direction when creating their clients’ websites that are accessible and complies with the ADA and WCAG 2.1.
Compared to using web accessibility plugins, using the manual approach where the web designers would look into the WP accessibility handbook and work alongside web accessibility experts will often yield better results. However, when the WordPress site undergoes an update or when the website owners install new plugins (among other things), compliance gaps often appear. Even though web accessibility was strongly considered during the initial creation of the website, the updates made on the website can very well destroy, ruin, or be in conflict with whatever code or web accessibility measures were previously in place.
After six months or so, there’s a good chance that the website would only be 50% compliant with the ADA standards due to the updates made to it. Plus, fixing non-accessible web elements can eat up a lot of your time since this can lead to the bulk of your work becoming focused on making adjustments every single time you add new elements and content to your client’s WordPress website.
3. Automated solutions
Designing a fully accessible website for your clients can take A LOT of work — not to mention the costs, time, and energy you need to spend to ensure that the site maintains ADA compliance at all times. Automated web accessibility platforms like accessiBe, however, can help address these issues. Unlike accessibility plugins, accessiBe is a more comprehensive AI-powered solution, that can make websites fully accessible and compliant to the ADA and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG) within 48 hours of its initial installation.
This means that with accessiBe, you won’t need to deal with regular plugin updates and prepare for inevitable issues like developers discontinuing support for the app — helping you ensure that your client websites remain compliant without needing to do the grunt work.
A lot of WordPress websites do not comply with ADA standards which can present a lot of legal and ethical implications for design agencies and site owners working with the platform.
Web design agencies, for their part, have a huge role to play when it comes to protecting their clients by ensuring that the websites they produce fully comply with the ADA.
By building accessible and compliant websites, design agencies can help their clients show everyone that they do not discriminate against anyone and will provide equal access to all users — helping them improve the user experience on the site.
That is why the more agencies learn about the ADA and how it impacts the WordPress platform, the more proactive and efficient their approach becomes to helping their clients with their web accessibility issues.