This page is a work in progress and represents the best of our current understanding at the time it is being viewed. It is not an authoritative document and not prescriptive.
The themes were not designed for ADA compliance.
As an off-the-shelf theme designed in 2015 and updated throughout the years, this was never a concern. Much like pagespeed became a hot topic in 2019, accessibility has started receiving scrutiny in 2020.
While the theme updates are bringing us more in-line with ADA requirements, the specifics are too nuanced for a $75 theme. Among updates we've made are:
ADA compliance requires custom development from an experienced ADA developer, plus training and guidance. At this time, ADA compatible theme development/customization costs $10,000+.
Part of this has to do with liability. We are not willing to take on responsibility and risk from lawsuits for $100.
For reference, here's the accessiBe service for automated compliance.
There are things that we can do on the theme and plugin side to get you closer (eg. the keyboard-based "navigation links"), but there are things that are entirely your responsibility.
Additional reading from Carolina on theme accessibility compliance.
But the plugin does not offer an ADA compliance guarantee either.
At the moment, there's no easy-to-follow guide that we're aware of. For example, the WCAG 2.1 checklist is a technical document that reads like molasses and can only be implemented manually by throwing dozens of $100/hr developer man-hours at, after a $x000 dollar audit from an accessibility specialist.
This is not something that's reasonable to expect from a $75 off-the-shelf theme or $199/year plugin. We are working towards it as much as possible so that you have less work to do.
Common issues food bloggers encounter are:
- font size too small
- this is especially problematic when using a custom imported Google Font
- low contrast (eg. fancy colors that don't offer enough contrast)
- also: background colors that reduce the contrast with text
- missing alt text on images
- see this alt text decision tree on how to write alt text
- using incorrect anchor text on links
- do not use "read more" or "see all"
- using heading tags incorrectly
You can check your site's accessibility compliance using the Wave tool by Webaim.
This tool evaluates compliance on a page-by-page basis - you'll want to check your homepage, categories and posts all separately.
Prioritize your efforts on:
- the homepage
- your top 10 posts
- then work through your categories and the remainder of your posts
We previously recommend overlay tools, but have now been made aware that these may actually be worse. Tools that fall under this include:
- pojo / one-click accessibility
We recommend avoiding these.
There is no quick fix. Accessibility issues must be manually resolved at their root cause.
Buttons vs. links
The themes were originally built to display some links as buttons, however this may not be the best setup for accessibility.
This is something we'll look into, in greater details. See: buttons vs links.
External links need to be clearly marked as such, so that the user is aware when they're leaving your site.
We recommend the WP External Links plugin to manage the visual and aria notifications for external links.
Drop down menus
The themes were initially designed to allow for drop down menus as part of the navigation menu. For both pagespeed and accessibility, we're no longer recommending or supporting submenus in the navigation.
Navigate by headings
According to the WebAIM survey from 2019, almost 70% of screen reader users navigate a webpage primarily by headings:
This is why it's important to use proper headings in your content.
A further 15% simply use the "find" feature.
- How to make websites accessible (Ontario.ca)
- W3C web accessibility guidelines
- WAVE tool by WebAIM
- CampusPress WordPress Accessibility Guide
- Shopify documentation on accessibility theme customizations
- Making WordPress Accessible (WPMU)
- Andrew Wilder's MVCon Accessibility presentation (Youtube)
- How to meet increased demand for accessibility (Kim Krause Berg)
- Most popular screen readers (WebAim 2019)
- Browser + screen reader combinations (WebAim 2019)
- Website ADA Compliance checklist (PDF)
- Discussion group from Hadley.edu on recipes (April 22, 2020)
- Axe 3.5 Accessibility ruleset
"Accessibility Ready" themes
Some themes promote themselves as "Accessibility Ready", more information can be found at this post in accessible wordpress themes. You can find the official accessibility ready theme guidelines here.
This is absolutely a step in the right direction, but only covers a very small fraction of what ADA compliance requires.
The accessibility-ready requirements are based on WCAG2, but it is important to be aware of the disclaimer that a theme alone cannot guarantee that your website will be compatible with WCAG2 or other guidelines. Your theme is only one part of your website. Your content must also be accessible.WordPress accessible themes documentation
For example, this Axe 3.5 ruleset just for screen readers is huge, which is only a portion of what "Accessibility" means.
You can find a list of "accessibility ready" themes here, which demonstrates just how lacking this is - they're blank sites with no content or functionality:
Starting with an "accessibility ready" theme means having to pay a private developer $10,000 to then build out ADA-compliant functionality.
To the best of our understanding, "Accessibility Ready" gets you maybe 5% of the way towards ADA compliance, and as such, is not a standard worth worrying about.
What "accessible" means is an evolving standard, and as moving target, will change frequently over the foreseeable future.