Some people find reading copy on websites more challenging than others. Impairments such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, colour-blindness, autism and Asperger’s Syndrome can render some sites almost completely inaccessible for a variety of reasons, whether that’s because the design is disjointed or the copy isn’t easy enough to read.
Ways in which content can be difficult to decipher include:
- Font size being too large or too small
- Contrast between the text and background colours on a webpage being too sharp or subtle
- A lack of ALT tags, which provide captions for images
- The text not being spaced out sufficiently
- The copy not being readable enough due to use of unorthodox fonts
To remedy most, if not all, of these common problems, a handful of developers have created accessibility plugins for WordPress, Joomla and other content management systems (CMSs), all designed to make ordinary websites more accessible to people with various disabilities. Here are my top five:
Created by a team of developers from the University of Southampton’s Electronics and Computer Science department in 2009, ATBar seems to have everything a website owner could possibly need in terms of accessibility.
It has colour overlays, a text-sizing tool, text-to-speech, contrast and grayscale toggles and even a dictionary if there’s a word on-site that doesn’t seem to make sense.
ATBar is by no means perfect, but it can be downloaded for any site hosted on WordPress or any other CMS, not to mention web browsers to work on any site you visit. One small proviso is that it’s currently not fully functional on Internet Explorer, but works absolutely fine on Chrome.
A little more basic than ATBar, this WordPress-only plugin was created by developer Joe Dolson, intended to allow developers and admins to make their sites easier to read for a wide number of people who might otherwise turn away. Among WP Accessibility’s key features are toggles for grayscale, high contrast and font size.
What makes WP Accessibility interesting is the use of ‘skiplinks’, which help to take visitors to the part of a website they actually want to visit without having to go through the navigation bar. For any small business trying to reach out to autistic, dyslexic and dyspraxic people, this plugin will help make a big difference in engaging them.
Created by a group of Dutch developers, Genesis Accessible has been created with visually-impaired people in mind. It meets Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 and helps to make laying out text a breeze on sites hosted by WordPress. However, it cannot be downloaded on any other CMS and only truly works with the Leiden theme, created by the same developers.
Nevertheless, Genesis Accessible has quite a few features to help mark it out. It makes greater use of ALT tags, can work in tandem with the WP Accessibility plugin and can be used for French, German and Dutch-language sites.
This extension for Joomla sites has three key features: a font size toggle, high contrast toggle and, as the name suggests, a screen reader. It doesn’t impact too much on your site’s design and performs the functions that many other accessibility plugins do without anything like as much fuss. Even if you’re a Joomla novice, installation of Screen Reader seems quick and easy.
Despite its ease of use, Screen Reader could do with one or two more features such as the ability to change background colours, but from a limited bunch of extensions, it’s the most comprehensive and popular option to make your site more accessible using that particular CMS.
Article PXFont Size
One of the more basic accessibility options, this plugin for Joomla sites does one thing: installs a widget for visitors to increase or decrease font size of the copy text. Article PXFont Size performs a vital role, but isn’t quite as comprehensive as some of the other plugins available.
It doesn’t come with a contrast or grayscale toggle, while there’s nothing else to change the colour scheme of a website with which to work. Despite that, it’s easy to both install and implement, making it a worthy provision for anyone with vision impairments to read what’s on-screen.
Plugins alone don’t solve all your site’s accessibility issues in one go. However, they can fix a few problems and are handy for making sure that, if nothing else, your site is compatible with WCAG 2.0.
This can help you reach as wide an audience as possible, without risking alienating thousands or even millions of potential visitors.