Today, Global Accessibility Awareness Day, raises awareness around digital access and inclusion and improving the web experience for everyone. This year, WebAIM analyzed one million homepages for accessibility issues and found that 98% of websites had at least one WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) failure on their homepage, such as low-contrast text, missing image alt text, and empty links. These types of accessibility barriers make it difficult or impossible for some visitors — people who are blind, deaf and hard of hearing, and disabled, for example — to use your site.
We encourage you to audit your site to ensure it’s accessible for all readers; the WAVE (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool) can identify various errors on your site in seconds. Here are some web accessibility tips to get you started, and be sure to explore the guidelines and resources on the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) website for deeper learning.
Use an accessibility-ready theme
You can choose from among a variety of designs for your site, but some themes have features that add complexity, making it harder for disabled people or visitors using screen readers to access your content.
When choosing a theme, consider an accessibility-ready design, like Balasana, a free minimal theme for your business website; or Mayland, a free visual theme that’s great for photographers and storytellers. These themes have been checked by the Theme Review Team and pass basic accessibility requirements.
Display your site title and tagline
Many themes allow you to upload a custom header image, which is a visual way to brand your site, display the title of your blog, or promote the name of your business. But some themes may not support alternative text, or the written copy that appears in place of an image on a page if the image fails to load on your visitor’s screen.
Instead of conveying your site title and tagline within a header image, display your site title and tagline text. Go to Manage → Settings, and at the top under Site profile, fill out your Site title and Site tagline. Then, head to Design → Customize, go to Site Identity, and check the box next to Display Site Title and Tagline.
Structure your pages and posts with appropriate headings
Add headings with the Heading Block to organize pages and posts and make it easier for readers to follow your content, which is especially important for longer pages and posts. Click on the “i” icon in the top toolbar of the block editor to view any errors and incorrect heading sizes.
Select fonts and colors for legibility
Fonts and colors are essential components on your site, adding personality and style and strengthening your visual identity online. Avoid font styles and sizes and color palettes that make your site difficult to read, and pay attention to contrast, or the difference between the darkness of your text and the lightness of your background.
The block editor will display an error message in Color settings when it detects poor color contrast in the specific block you’re working on.
Clearly describe your links
When linking to another page or post on the web, make your linked text descriptive. For example, “click here” is not as effective as “learn how to apply to my writing workshop.”
Include captions with your images
When adding an image with the Image Block, add a description of the image in the caption underneath it. While captions are optional, they improve the experience for all readers by providing more context.
Add alt text to your images
Alt text is essential for people who are blind or use screen readers (they can hear alt text read aloud), or people who have disabled images for speed or bandwidth reasons. Alt text is also important for your site’s SEO — it helps search engines understand what your site content is about.
When adding an image with the Image Block, go to the block’s settings on the right and add the alt text in the box under Image settings.
Learn more about W3C’s image accessibility guidelines.
Create easily clickable CTA areas
With the Buttons Block, you can add call-to-action buttons to your pages and posts quickly. For those of you who design and embed your own buttons with Image Widgets, make buttons, icons, and other CTA elements with wide-enough areas that are easy to click or tap from different devices.
You can apply this tip to text links as well. Tapping a linked hashtag or asterisk within a sentence, for example — especially on a small screen — may be difficult for some people.
Include captions or transcripts for multimedia content
If your site includes video content, consider adding captions or including transcripts (documenting speech, sounds, as well as actions seen on-screen). Podcast transcripts are also incredibly helpful; here’s a transcript of a recent Distributed episode with neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley.
It’s best if video and audio content does not auto-play, but if that’s not possible, options to pause or adjust the volume should be obvious on the page.
Never stop learning and improving
This list is just an introduction to a few best practices and guidelines! If you’re interested in learning more, explore the resources on the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) website. You can also explore ways to get involved in improving the accessibility of WordPress.
Recommended Reads for International Day of Disabled Persons
Explore personal essays and posts from disabled bloggers and disability rights activists.
WordPress.com, as my colleague Anne recently wrote, continues to be a space for people to tell their personal stories and amplify their voices. Today, International Day of Disabled Persons, we’d like to highlight a few perspectives and thoughtful reads to raise awareness of the myriad experiences of disabled people.
This reading list is merely a starting point — be sure to explore more posts tagged with “disability” in the WordPress.com Reader, for example. We hope it introduces you to writers and disability rights advocates whose work you may not be familiar with.
“How to Properly Celebrate a Civil Rights Law During a Pandemic in Which Its Subjects Were Left to Die” at Crutches and Spice
Imani Barbarin at Crutches and Spice writes about life, current events, entertainment, and politics from the perspective of a Black woman with cerebral palsy. Read her reflections on the death of actor Chadwick Boseman, or the anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (which turned 30 this year), excerpted below.
Prior to the pandemic, disabled people were told that the accessibility we needed was cost-prohibitive and unlikely to be implemented only to watch as the institutions that barred our inclusion make those tools available now that nondisabled people needed them. We called for polling places and voting procedures to be made accessible only to watch as politicians shut down polling places in predominantly black neighborhoods. We begged for businesses to be inclusive and accessible to disabled customers only for accessibility to be pitted against small businesses and workers’ rights.
And now, unironically, they celebrate.
They celebrate not weighed down by their own words calculating the amount of acceptable death it would take to reopen the economy. They post our pictures celebrating their own “diversity and inclusion” without confronting the fact they only became accessible because of a pandemic and as they loudly push to reopen, they amplify our voices for now with no plan to continue to include the disability community as businesses start to reopen.
But I am also filled with love and gratitude for my community.
#ADA30InColor at Disability Visibility Project
Founded by Alice Wong, The Disability Visibility Project is a community focused on creating and sharing disability media and culture. You’ll find a range of content, including oral histories, guest blog posts, and a podcast hosted by Wong and featuring conversations with disabled people.
If you’re not sure where to start, dive into the 13 posts in the #ADA30InColor series — it includes essays on the past, present, and future of disability rights and justice by disabled BIPOC writers. Here are excerpts from two pieces.
More than anything, however, it was my blindness that allowed me to experience perhaps the biggest impact of this transition. Being able to attend a “regular” school as opposed to the school for the blind and take classes with sighted peers every day, becoming friends with classmates who have different types of disabilities, having Braille placards by every classroom door at a school not intended solely for only blind students, meeting blind adults with various jobs — ranging from chemist to statistician to lawyer — was my new reality. Even as a teenager, I knew it was a great privilege to be in this new reality — America, where there were laws in place to protect the rights of disabled people to live, study, play, and work alongside the nondisabled. At the same time, this reality began to feel like a multi-layered burden as I began to form and understand different elements of who I am: a disabled, 1.5 generation Korean-American immigrant.
“Building Bridges as a Disabled Korean Immigrant” by Miso Kwak
Even with medical documentation on file, disabled BIPOC face added suspicion, resistance, and stigma from instructors, particularly for invisible disabilities. We are also stereotyped in racially coded ways as unreasonable, aggressive, and “angry” when we self-advocate. We are especially heavily policed in graduate and professional programs, and this is apparent in our representation — while 26 percent of adults in the US have a disability, only 12 percent of post-baccalaureate students are students with disabilities. This is even lower among some ethnicities — only 6 percent of post-baccalaureate Asian American students have a disability.
“My Favorite Wheelchair Dances” at Alizabeth Worley
Alizabeth Worley is a writer and artist with moderate chronic fatigue syndrome. She writes about topics like health and interabled marriage (her husband has cerebral palsy). In a recent post, Alizabeth compiles YouTube clips of beautiful and inspiring wheelchair dances, some of which are from Infinite Flow, an inclusive dance company. Here’s one of the dances she includes in her list, featuring Julius Jun Obero and Rhea Marquez.
“The Intersection of Queerness and Disability” at Autistic Science Person
I often put down Female for medical appointments even if there’s a Nonbinary option, as I don’t want to “confuse” them. It’s just easier for everyone, I think. I worry about backlash I would receive, or the confused looks I would get if I put down Nonbinary. I think about people tiptoeing around my gender. I can’t deal with even more self-advocacy in a medical visit as an autistic person, so it’s just not worth it, I think. I’m reminded of the time I carried folding crutches to my unrelated medical appointment. Both the staff and doctor asked me why I brought crutches when I was “walking normally.” I had to explain that I needed them on my walk back for my foot pain. Both explaining my disability and explaining my gender — explaining the assumptions around my body is exhausting.
No matter what, people will make assumptions. Both ableism and cisnormativity are baked into our brains and our society. The things people have to do to accommodate us and acknowledge us involves unlearning their preconceptions. Society really doesn’t want us to do that. This is why there is so much defensiveness for both providing accommodations and acknowledging someone’s gender, pronouns, and name. People don’t want to do that work. They don’t want to be confronted with structural changes, the issue of gender norms, and the problems that disabled people face every day. They just want to go on with their lives because it’s easier to them. It’s easier for them to ignore our identities.
“The Last Halloween, The First Halloween” at Help Codi Heal
“The first Halloween my daughter could walk was the last Halloween that I could,” writes Codi Darnell, the blogger at Help Codi Heal. In a post reflecting on her fifth Halloween in a wheelchair, Codi reflects on change, pain, and the firsts and lasts in her life.
It was all automatic — all done without realizing the ways these simple acts of motherhood were deeply engrained in my identity. All done with zero understanding that something so simple could be snatched away — and how painful it would be when it was.
Because a year later I would not hold her hand up the stairs or scoop her up and onto my hip. I wouldn’t stand beside her at the door or see her face light up when — in her big two-year-old voice — she managed all three words “trick-or-treat”. A year later, I would understand the fragility of our being and know intimately the pain of things taken away. But I would still be there.
“Even If You Can’t See It: Invisible Disability and Neurodiversity” at Kenyon Review
At Kenyon Review, author Sejal A. Shah writes a personal essay on neurodiversity, depression, academia, and the writing life.
Maybe things would have turned out differently had I requested accommodations, had I known about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990), had I understood my “situation,” as my aunt calls it, counted as a disability. The ADA law was amended in 2008 to include bipolar disorder. I began my job in 2005 and finished in 2011. It would have been helpful to know about the law and my rights under it.
I didn’t know the laws then; I didn’t know them until writing this essay. I looked normal; I passed. Would my career have turned out differently had I been willing to come out (for that’s what it felt like, an emergence into a world that might not accept me)? I was certain the stigma of having a major mood disorder would have hurt me professionally. Even had I disclosed my disorder, HR and my supervisors may not have agreed to modifications in my work responsibilities. I would still have needed to advocate for myself — would still have needed the energy to provide documentation and persist. For years, I had been ashamed, alarmed, and exhausted from trying to keep my head above water.
“The Outside Looking In” at Project Me
Project Me is the blog of Hannah Rose Higdon, a Deaf Lakota woman who grew up on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. In “The Outside Looking In,” Higdon offers a glimpse into her experience as a child who was born hard of hearing, and whose family had very little access to the support she needed. (Higdon is now profoundly Deaf.)
I look up as my uncle talks to me. I nod. I smile. And I pretend I know just exactly what is going on. The truth is I have no clue what he’s saying or why he’s laughing, but I laugh too and mimic his facial expressions. I would never want to draw any more attention to myself than necessary. You see, I might only be 5 years old, but I know just how important it is to pretend.
“How to Center Disability in the Tech Response to COVID-19” at Brookings TechStream
Organizer, attorney, and disability justice advocate Lydia X.Z. Brown calls on the tech industry to carefully consider how policy affects marginalized communities, looking at algorithmic modeling in hospitals, contract tracing and surveillance, and web inaccessibility.
For disabled people who are also queer, trans, or people of color, the deployment of algorithmic modeling increases the risk of compounded medical discrimination. All marginalized communities have long histories and ongoing legacies of surviving involuntary medical experimentation, coercive treatment, invasive and irreversible procedures, and lower quality of care — often justified by harmful beliefs about the ability to feel pain and quality of life. These health care disparities are exacerbated for people who experience multiple forms of marginalization.
The Spoonie Authors Network features work from authors and writers about how they manage their disabilities or chronic illnesses and conditions. Managed by Cait Gordon and Dianna Gunn, the community site also publishes resources and produces a podcast. Explore posts in the Featured Author or Internalized Ableism categories, like the piece below, to sample some of the writing.
When my neurologist suggested that I get a parking pass, I turned it down.
“I’d rather that go to someone more deserving,” I said. “There are people out there who are far more disabled than I am. Let the pass go to one of them.”
“You have difficulty walking. What would happen if it was icy or there were other difficult walking conditions?” she said kindly. “This is for your safety.”
I nodded and accepted the parking pass, even though I felt it made me look weak. I wasn’t disabled enough to warrant a parking pass. I can walk. I didn’t need it, I told myself.
“Not Disabled Enough” by Jamieson Wolf
More recommended sites:
- Deafinitely Wanderlust
- Unpacking Disability
- Have Wheelchair Will Travel
- Leaving Evidence
- Simply Emma
- Gin & Lemonade
- Autistic Collaboration
Note on header image: Six disabled people of color smile and pose in front of a concrete wall. Five people stand in the back, with the Black woman in the center holding up a chalkboard sign that reads, “disabled and HERE.” A South Asian person in a wheelchair sits in front. Photo by Chona Kasinger | Disabled and Here (CC BY 4.0)
Expert Advice: How to Build an Accessible Education Website on WordPress.com
Learn best practices to create an education website that’s accessible to diverse audiences.
Learn the basics and best practices of building an accessible and inclusive website for your classroom, school, or class assignment. This is a free, one-hour live webinar open to all, but is especially geared toward educators, teachers, school webmasters, and students.
Date: Thursday, August 27, 2020
Time: 10:00 am PT | 12:00 pm CT | 1:00 pm ET | 17:00 UTC
Registration link: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/2715977718561/WN_RFyhYfGNTOikZxw4aAsMXA
Who’s invited: All are welcome, but this webinar is designed for stakeholders within education, including teachers, educators, school webmasters, students, and parents.
Melissa Silberstang and Fernando Medina are WordPress.com Happiness Engineers and accessibility advocates who have helped thousands of people build websites on WordPress.com. They’ll help you understand what makes a great, accessible website, and what customizations to look out for as you build.
During the last 10-15 minutes of the webinar, attendees will be able to ask questions during the live Q&A portion.
We know you’re busy, so if you can’t make the live event, you’ll be able to watch a recording of the webinar on our YouTube channel.
Live attendance is limited, so be sure to register early. We look forward to seeing you on the webinar!
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