WordPress Accessibility

Posted on Jan 16, 2009

Many people write blogs these days, and the number of active blogs seems to grow every day. It makes sense to consider that many blogs might be written by people with disabilities, and there is no shortage of good examples out there. But what about the blogging software itself — how accessible is something like WordPress? Glenda Watson Hyatt took it upon herself to investigate.

With some research cultivated while working with the latest version of WordPress, Hyatt discovered some small opportunities for remedy that would improve the blogging experience for users with disabilities. For example, she found the subtle color palette to be a detriment to readability. (Remember that text readability is not just a matter of font size and typeface; such factors as contrast and line spacing also come into play.) Keyboard shortcuts also presented a challenge, not only in use (a mouse hover is required to activate) but also when deciphering the instructions:

The keyboard shortcut for Bold is given as Ctrl / Alt + Shift + B. I have never seen a “/” in a keyboard shortcut before. What does it mean? Do I actually hit “/”? Does it mean either the Ctrl or the Alt? I could not figure it out for the life of me. Out of sheer frustration, I tried the Bold shortcut that most other PC programs use: Ctrl + B. It worked! The standard Ctrl + I worked for Italic. … A list of functioning keyboard shortcuts available in WordPress 2.7 would be helpful. Even sweeter would be if that list was visible while writing a post.

Adding an image to a post also presents some problems, particularly for assigning the proper ALT text to an image. A little research turned up inconsistencies from version to version of the dashboard, and the inclusion of “Title” and “Description” attributes creates some confusion. I’ve seen this in robust content management systems that purport to offer accessibility features; rather than a simple “alternative text” field, they provide an array of input options that obfuscates the intended benefit.

WordPress is a terrific software package, easily the best blogging software I’ve used, and their commitment to providing great user experience cannot be understated. It is hoped that accessibility remains a key consideration in the design and development of online publishing applications.

On a related note: there is much value to be gleaned from Hyatt’s Do It Myself blog, which I enthusiastically endorse.