Are WordPress Websites ADA Compliant?

WordPress is the world’s most popular website building platform. It’s estimated that WordPress powers over 40% of all websites. And it’s not just mom-and-pop companies using it. International companies like Bloomberg Professional and Sony Music use it too.

If you have a WordPress website, you might be aware of ADA compliance. You may even think that simply by having a WordPress website you don’t have to worry about being sued for ADA non-compliance. But that isn’t true.

Plenty of WordPress websites have been sued for ADA non-compliance. Keep reading to find out why and how having a website accessibility audit performed can ensure your WordPress website is ADA compliant.

WordPress and Website ADA Compliance

In a nutshell, ADA compliance means your website is accessible to all users. Those who use assistive technology, screen readers, and other tools must be able to navigate your site just like non-disabled users do. If a disabled user can’t do that, they could sue you for non-compliance.

ADA compliance for websites is a natural progression from the Americans With Disabilities Act which was passed in 1990. At the time, the law cited brick and mortar buildings, offices and stores as places of public accommodation. In other words, they had to be accessible to every American, regardless of their disability.

The internet as we know it did not exist at that time. But in recent years, the courts have consistently sided with disabled plaintiffs in defining websites as also being places of public accommodation. Today, not only do physical buildings and stores have to be accessible, websites must do the same.

WCAG 2.0 guidelines Levels A and AA are the standards for website ADA compliance. When a website compliance consultant runs a website accessibility audit, these are the guidelines they use.

In 2016, WordPress was proactive and informed those who had WordPress websites that their core software and bundled themes were indeed WCAG 2.0 Level A and AA compliant.

And WordPress continues to update users on their efforts to maintain compliant code for their core software since then.

However, that didn’t stop WordPress websites from being sued for ADA non-compliance. Did WordPress miss something? Or were they plain wrong? Neither. The problem didn’t stem from the WordPress platform.

How WordPress Sites Become Noncompliant

The problem doesn’t lie in the WordPress platform. Non-compliance happens when website programmers design plug-ins, builders, and other non-compliant elements because they aren’t aware of ADA compliance guidelines.

For example, WordPress offers thousands of creative themes, which is one of the reasons why it’s so popular. They also allow users to easily create websites by using drag and drop tools. The problem is many of those tools contain elements that aren’t ADA compliant. By adding them, you either override the code that originally made the site compliant or introduce new code that is not compliant.

Someone designing their own website probably doesn’t even know all of that. Even many website designers aren’t able to distinguish which elements and themes are compliant or not.

And while WordPress continues to do its part to help website owners stay ADA compliant, compliance is not achieved by running a few automated audit tools. There’s a lot more to it than that.

What You Should Look Out For

ADA compliance must be absolute, meaning every element on your entire website must be ADA compliant. One inaccessible element makes your entire website non-compliant. And that opens you up to the possibility of a very expensive lawsuit.

Some of the most common non-compliant elements are:

  • Alt tags – Alt tags are descriptions of images on a website for vision-impaired users. If they aren’t there, are incomplete or wrong, your website is not compliant.
  • Color contrast – Your website must follow specific WCAG 2.0 color contrast guidelines. If not, colorblind users or those with low vision can’t navigate your WordPress website.
  • Assistive technology – Not every visitor to your website uses a mouse to navigate. Physically impaired users may use assistive technology such as a special keyboard instead. Your website must respond to this technology and allow them to navigate as non-disabled users can.
  • Heading tags – Users who have poor vision or are vision-impaired can’t make out the layout of a page. They rely on heading tags to give them all titles, menus, forms, and content in logical order. If those aren’t present or are disorganized, they won’t be able to make out your website.

These are a few examples of common non-compliant elements, but there are many more.

Making Sure Your WordPress Website is ADA Compliant

Law firms use programs to crawl websites and pinpoint non-compliance issues for their clients. To make sure you and your WordPress website are not on their radar, you must make your website ADA compliant.

The only way to make certain your WordPress website is ADA compliant is to hire a 3rd party company. They can conduct a comprehensive website accessibility audit to identify all non-compliant elements on your website.

After they perform this manual audit and fix all the issues, you can rest easier knowing your WordPress website is now truly ADA compliant.