a mechanic under vw bug - metaphor for Wordpress auditing & remediation for WCAG compliance

Wordpress Accessibility Compliance Guide

David Gibson

Are you facing a web-related Section 508 or ADA demand letter or lawsuit for a Wordpress website that requires WCAG remediation? Finding a web accessibility company with experts to perform both a comprehensive WCAG audit and subsequent Wordpress WCAG remediation is not easy. Here are some tips for selecting the right accessibility consultants to audit and remediate your Wordpress web site, and comply with the American Disability Act and Sect. 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

What are the standards for website accessibility?

Both Section 508 (for public/gov websites) and the ADA (commercial websites) refer to the Web Content Accessibility Guideline as the de facto standard for digital accessibility. The current version of the WCAG is 2.1 and comes in 3 levels: A, AA, AAA. To conform to Sect 508 and the ADA your website must meet WCAG 2.0 A, AA levels. 


How do I make my Wordpress website accessible and 508 / ADA compliant?

To avoid 508 or ADA lawsuits your Wordpress site must be WCAG compliant. While there is a growing number of providers claiming quick cheap fixes - such as accessibility overlay toolbar plug-ins, these should be avoided. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. The only way to avoid the growing wave of accessibility lawsuits, is to first conduct a comprehensive WCAG audit of the entire website, and then remediate the website based on the audit results.


Step One : 3-Factor WCAG Wordpress Audit

Regardless of who does the work, what will save you much time and expense of remediation is to have a thorough WCAG audit conducted by experts in both the code and digital accessibility first. The best practice is a 3-factor audit that combines the results of automated, manual, and assistive technology into one comprehensive audit. Do not even consider relying solely on an automated audit. Even the best can only detect ~30% of WCAG issues, because these issues are nuanced and interpretive. To do this right you need to also add manual and assistive technology testing (screen readers, etc) of unique pages/templates to capture the other 70% of issues. Further, you want to be sure that the consultant you use, provides remediation guidance for each and every item. This is what we do, and we even include relevant screen-shots. Quality reporting at this level will greatly reduce the number of false positives, and well written remediation guidance will greatly reduce the time/cost impact on the remediation team. Learn more about our website accessibility auditing services.


Step Two : 508 / ADA Wordpress Remediation

The first step is to segment the audit results based first on task category and then severity or priority. In our reporting, we indicate the severity of each item and then assign a priority level to guide project management. Issues then fall into three category buckets: design, content, development. 

Design issues will include items such as color, contrast, size, spacing, and page structure. 

Content issues will include items that can be addressed through Wordpress. These would include items such as image labels (alt tags), or the structure of headings (H1, H2, H3, etc). The content team would also handle captioning video content. Content remediation is not technical but tedious and makes good work for interns. 

Development issues will include the bulk of issues found in the front-side code : the CSS/HTML/Javascript layer. The good news is that Wordpress websites are built using templates, shared modules, global libraries, etc... so one issue found on every page in a header element for example can potentially be eliminated with one fix. If the audit reporting is thorough and provides strong remediation guidance, a team of experienced developers should be able to address most issues on their own. Otherwise you may want to consider bringing in a team of accessibility remediation specialists such as us.


PDF Remediation

If your website includes PDFs, these also must comply with the WCAG. There are companies that specialize specifically in PDF remediation. They are setup to do these in bulk with discounts for volume. If you have more than a handful, we’d recommend using such a company.


Finding Wordpress Accessibility Consultants

You can start by asking for references from an attorney specializing in web accessibility or an experienced WCAG website consultant. Or Google Wordpress Accessibility Consultants. What you’re ultimately looking for is an individual or team with experienced Wordpress developers who also understand the WCAG and how people with disabilities using assistive technologies navigate websites. That’s not your average Wordpress developer. That is us though.


What to Avoid

There is a growing breed of too-good-to-be-true “overlay” solution providers who claim that by adding a Wordpress plugin or javascript snippet they can automagically make any website WCAG compliant. Without naming names, these rely on automated tools that can only detect ~30% of issues in the first place. As the term “overlay” reflects, these methods fail to fix the underlying code. They also need to be manually turned on by the end-user. Attorney Richard Hunt of Hunt Huey PLLC was one of the first attorneys to specialize in digital ADA cases. He recently wrote in his post Is there a silver bullet for ADA website accessibility? Sorry, but the answer is no.  on March 31, 2020: "If your business wants to avoid getting sued under the ADA because of an inaccessible website an accessibility overlay or widget isn’t going to help you. I can say this with some certainty because in the last two weeks alone five lawsuits have been filed against businesses that use an accessibility widget or overlay on their websites."


Looking Ahead

I have been speaking with many attorneys that specialize in digital accessibility, and have been asking what they see looking ahead during the pandemic. Consensus is that legal actions will grow. With so many lawyers, paralegals and serial plaintiffs at home with much less to do, they are filling that time generating demand letters. Demand letters are very effective and cost less than filing suits. The court system is at a stand-still anyhow. And since these cases are basically unwinnable, defendants only want to settle as quickly as possible, so we can expect to see a new surge in demand letters as we look ahead.


Therefore, proactively remediating your Wordpress website to be WCAG compliant now is a very wise move.