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WordPress Accessibility Plugins and ADA Compliance

Mar 15, 2024

When you build a website with WordPress, you can find a plugin for virtually anything you want to do. The platform supports more than 59,000 plugins that can handle everything from form creation to search engine optimization (SEO). 

That certainly includes web accessibility: With a quick search, you can find dozens of plugins designed to help webmasters follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the international standards for digital accessibility. 

However, WordPress plugins aren’t always the best solution for compliance, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the basics of digital accessibility. If you’re trying to provide a better experience for users with disabilities, here’s what you need to know.

Can a WordPress plugin make your website ADA compliant?

Many business owners start thinking about digital accessibility because they’re reasonably concerned about compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA requires “places of public accommodation" to be reasonably accessible for people with disabilities, and websites are places of public accommodation.

But WordPress plugins are not intended as a complete solution for compliance for several reasons. For starters, many digital accessibility issues are somewhat subjective; they require human judgment. 

As a quick example, a WordPress plugin could determine whether images have alternative text (also called alt text), but not whether that text is accurate. If you have an image of an apple with the alt text, “a yellow banana,” your plugin probably won’t flag it as an issue — but it would violate WCAG, and it could create an accessibility issue for a user with vision disabilities. 

Additionally, plugins often address only certain aspects of accessibility, leaving many potential issues unaddressed. They might focus on keyboard navigation or screen reader compatibility but overlook other critical factors like semantic HTML structure or proper form labeling

Related: WordPress Sites Aren't Automatically Accessible

For ADA compliance, build your website with an accessible mindset

Relying solely on plugins might create a false sense of security regarding ADA compliance. However, plugins can still be helpful, particularly for finding barriers that can be identified with simple pass-or-fail rulesets. 

For example: 

  • Text must maintain a certain contrast ratio with its background. Automated tools can instantly check contrast ratios against WCAG guidelines.
  • Pointer targets (such as buttons) must meet minimum size requirements to ensure that users can activate them. Automated tools can find small pointer targets, and in some cases, fix them.
  • HTML structure issues can impact people who use assistive technologies. Automated tools can quickly find and fix some of the most common HTML structure issues.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which publishes WCAG, recommends a hybrid approach to web accessibility testing. That means pairing automated tests (such as WordPress accessibility plugins) with manual audits.

Related: What’s the Difference Between Manual and Automated Accessibility Testing?

Look for WordPress plugins that can help build your compliance strategy

Remember, accessibility isn’t just about ADA compliance. You want your website to work for as many people as possible, regardless of their abilities or the technologies they use to access the web. 

Following WCAG can improve experiences for all users, and WordPress plugins can certainly help you find issues that impact your audience. Some quick tips to keep in mind:

  • Look for accessibility plugins that specifically mention WCAG. WCAG is an international standard for a reason, and it’s the basis of many international non-discrimination laws
  • Before using a plugin to fix a specific accessibility issue, make sure you understand how it works. Does it meet WCAG’s guidelines for removing the barrier? How will it affect the experiences of real-life users?
  • Don’t assume that a plugin will make your website 100% accessible for every user. Learn why accessibility is about progress, not perfection.
  • Start thinking about accessibility as early as possible. Prioritizing users with disabilities while building your website can improve compliance and reduce the cost of web development.

AudioEye’s solution tests content for over 400 accessibility and compliance issues, fixing many barriers as the page loads. Available for WordPress and other platforms, it’s not intended as a fully automated solution — but by pairing AI-powered tests with access to certified experts, it’s an effective way to build towards compliance.

Read more about AudioEye’s digital accessibility platform. For help with a specific accessibility issue, send a message to the Bureau of Internet Accessibility to connect with an expert. 

Use our free Website Accessibility Checker to scan your site for ADA and WCAG compliance.

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