WordPress ADA Compliance: Simple 8-Step Guide (Including Plugins)

Did you know that failure to comply with ADA could result in a six-figure fine?

All websites, including WordPress sites, should meet the ADA accessibility guidelines. Even though WordPress aims to meet these guidelines, the fact that somebody can customize every site means they can’t fully guarantee compliance.

That means it’s down to every website owner to make their WordPress site ADA compliant or else face the consequences.

If you’re unsure whether your site is compliant, don’t worry.

This guide lays out exactly what ADA compliance involves and what practical steps and measures you can put in place to make your WordPress website accessible to everyone.

Let’s get started!

What is ADA Compliance, and Why is it Important for WordPress Websites?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a U.S. federal law passed in 1990 to protect citizens with disabilities. As with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it offers similar protection from discrimination.

Web accessibility falls under Title III of the ADA regulations, which states that all areas of public accommodation – including hotels, schools, restaurants, gyms, retailers, libraries, and doctors – must provide equal access to information and services for everyone.

All websites that fall under the category of ‘Public Accommodations’ – i.e. businesses that are open to the general public – will need to comply with Title III of the ADA.

Failure to comply with the ADA by denying equal access to your WordPress website makes you vulnerable to lawsuits. In 2020, digital accessibility lawsuits rose to over 3,500 cases, that's almost ten lawsuits filed every business day in the United States

Avoid costly lawsuits

Failure to comply with Title III of the ADA means businesses can receive civil penalties of up to $75,000 for the first offense and $150,000 for subsequent violations. Further costs can be incurred from court fees, attorney fees, and the following cost of remediating the website for accessibility.

Domino’s tried to fight a lawsuit that was filed from a blind man who could not order pizza as its website wouldn’t work with a standard screen reader. The Supreme Court denied Domino’s petition leaving a lower court decision in place. As a result, there was a ton of negative PR for the brand as well as a hefty fine.

Improve SEO

In February 2021, a study by WebAIM conducted on a sample of a million homepages found 97.4% of homepages had detectable WCAG failures, with an average of 51.4 errors per page.

The most significant factors causing the failures were low contrast text, missing alt text, and empty links.

Addressing the latter two of those failures, as well as many of the other steps taken to improve accessibility, such as removing unnecessary dynamic elements rendered in Javascript and improving the UX for all readers, can help improve SEO.
Check your websites text and background color contrast with our free Color Contrast Checker.

Reach a broader audience

Around 15% of the world’s population, or an estimated 1 billion people, live with disabilities.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 54 million people living with disabilities represent approximately $1 trillion in aggregate income that translates into more than $220 billion in discretionary consumer spending power.

Failing to accommodate this audience means you’re neglecting a large potential customer and revenue pool.

Gain a competitive advantage

Despite all the examples of lawsuits, many businesses are still slow to adopt an accessibility strategy.

It’s estimated that companies without accessible sites are losing $6.9 billion a year to competitors whose sites are accessible.

So there’s an opportunity for other WordPress businesses to gain an advantage and set themselves apart from the competition, especially among people living with disabilities.

Boost revenue

Furthermore, people with disabilities spend half a trillion dollars annually.

So, reaching more users and providing a better experience will ultimately lead to more conversions, leads, and revenue for WordPress site owners.
Takeaway:
By improving web accessibility on your WordPress site, you can:
  1. Create a competitive advantage.
  2. Make your business more accessible to a broader demographic.
  3. Improve rankings by aligning with many SEO best practices.
  4. Increase customer satisfaction.

8 Practical Steps to Improve WordPress ADA Compliance

While there are additional checks and steps to be taken to ensure full ADA compliance, here are some practical steps you can start with today.

Step #1: Add alt text to images

When you upload images to your WordPress site, always remember to add alt text to provide the context and purpose of the image. Alternative text can be made available in a form that best meets user requirements, such as read-aloud recordings of text, enlargement of text sizes, or braille.

Step #2: Improve content readability

Your text content should be readable and understandable. A good starting point is to aim for 7-10 words per line, which you can achieve by adjusting the font size and column width. If your column width is too wide, the text becomes unreadable.

You’ll also want to make sure that everyone, including those with learning disabilities and cognitive limitations, can understand the meaning of your content. The average reading level of American adults, according to the Flesch Kincaid reading grade scale, is at an eighth grade level.
Optimize your text content in real-time with our SEO Text Editor tool.

Step #3: Provide captions and transcripts

Although multimedia can provide a richer and broader experience for web users, it can be inaccessible for those with visual or auditory impairments. Make sure you provide text transcripts for audio content, like podcasts, and captions for video recordings. Also, sign language interpretation of audio content could help overcome these limitations.

Step #4: Use color contrast

Users should be able to change how content is presented, such as changing the color scheme or using the correct contrast. Also, make sure there is enough contrast between the colors you use for the background and your text.

Step #5: Write descriptive Call-to-Action (CTA) Text

It’s a good idea to write descriptive call-to-action (CTA) text for each link or button. For example, instead of saying “Learn More” change it to “Learn More About This Service”. When you have a page full of CTAs titled “Learn More”, your site will probably be flagged as inaccessible because it confuses screen readers.

Step #6: Use labels on form fields

Every form on your site with editable fields needs a clear label outside of the field itself.

Step #7: Add an accessibility statement

You can demonstrate your commitment to web accessibility by adding an Accessibility Statement on your site.

The statement should include the accessibility guidelines and standards that your website follows, including the intended level of accessibility, contact information in case visitors encounter issues with the accessibility of the site, and an acknowledgment of any exceptions to the standards due to limitations of the website.

You can use an accessibility statement generator to quickly create a complete and compliant statement.

Step #8: Install an ADA compliance plugin

WordPress aims to ensure website accessibility, but it cannot guarantee it since every site owner customizes the appearance, content, and structure of their website differently.

However, you can install an ADA compliance plugin on your WordPress site to help highlight any potential issues.

Things to consider when choosing an ADA compliance plugin:

Updates
First, you want to make sure any plugin you install will work with your current version of WordPress. An out-of-date plugin can cause its own problems, so always check the plugin has recent updates in the right-hand column:
A wordpress ADA plugin page with the specification section highlighted.
You should see the following plugin information:
  • Version
  • Last updated
  • Active installations
  • WordPress Version
  • Tested up to
  • PHP Version
In the example above, you can see the plugin was last updated 2 weeks ago, works with WordPress version 4.6 or higher, and is compatible with the latest version of WordPress (5.7.1).
Reviews
Second, check for user reviews and ratings to see if the WordPress community widely accepts the plugin. If it has received significant negative feedback, then it’s best to look for an alternative.
A wordpress ADA plugin page with the review tab highlighted.
In the example above, you can see the plugin has received six 5-star ratings.
Features
Next, check the features of the plugin to make sure it does everything you want. These are usually listed in the main description tab, like the example below from WP Accessibility:

These are features that address issues caused by inaccessible themes.

  • Add skip links with user-defined targets. (Customisable targets and appearance.)
  • Add language and text direction attributes to your HTML attribute if missing.
  • Add an outline to the keyboard focus state for focusable elements.
  • Add a long description to images. Use the image’s “Description” field to add long descriptions.
  • Enforcement for alt attributes on images in the Classic editor.
  • Identify images without alt attributes in the Media Library
  • Add labels to standard WordPress form fields (search, comments)
  • Add post titles to “read more” links.
  • Remove tabindex from elements that are focusable. (Also fixes plugin-caused problems.)
Developer resources
Finally, check the support and development tabs to see if the developers are maintaining and fixing any known bugs:
A screenshot of the support and development tabs.

Best WordPress ADA Compliance Plugins

In this section, we'll be looking at some of the best WordPress plugins for checking and addressing ADA compliance issues on your site.

WAVE

A screenshot of the header of the WAVE homepage
WAVE is not actually a WordPress ADA compliance plugin – it’s an online evaluation tool (recommended by WordPress) for testing website accessibility.

WAVE can identify many web accessibility errors and also helps you make your web content more accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Instead of installing a plugin, you can use the online WAVE tool by entering a web page address (URL) in the field above and clicking the arrow. You’ll see the results appear on your screen with a help menu on the left to explain the errors.
A screenshot of the WAVE tool on a website.
Note: You can’t download the results report from WAVE, so you’ll have to work through any issues it highlights and then rerun the report again to check you’ve corrected everything.

You can also use the WAVE Firefox and Chrome extensions for testing accessibility directly within your web browser. Plus, there are also APIs available, if required. Instead of installing a plugin, you can use the online WAVE tool by entering a web page address (URL) in the field above and clicking the arrow. You’ll see the results appear on your screen with a help menu on the left to explain the errors.

WP ADA Compliance Check

A screenshot of the header of the WP ADA Compliance Check plugin page,
  • Average star rating: 5 stars
WP ADA Compliance Check Basic is trusted to protect thousands of small businesses, government, and educational websites. The plugin checks that your content complies with Section 508 and WCAG 2.1 level A/AA Web Accessibility Standards and flags up any issues in a detailed report.

Key features:
  • Enforces WCAG 2.1 Level A and AA Web Accessibility Standards.
  • Enforces Section 508 Web Accessibility Standards.
  • Includes detailed error reports that can be emailed or printed.
  • Limited to 25 posts or pages during full scans.
  • Only checks content inside the body of a post or page.
  • Limited to page and post content types.
  • Links provided to evaluate website content with WAVE and WC3.

WP Accessibility

A screenshot of the header of the WP Accessibility plugin page,
  • Average star rating: 5 stars
WP Accessibility helps with a variety of common accessibility problems in WordPress themes. While it doesn’t correct every problem, it does provide tools to fix some issues, supplement the accessibility of your site, or identify problems.

You can't address most accessibility issues without directly changing your WordPress theme. But WP Accessibility adds several helpful accessibility features that can be turned on or off through a settings page according to your theme’s requirements.

Key features:
  • Add skip links with user-defined targets. (Customizable targets and appearance.)
  • Add language and text direction attributes to your HTML attribute if missing.
  • Add an outline to the keyboard focus state for focusable elements.
  • Add a long description to images. Use the image’s “Description” field to add long descriptions.
  • Enforce alt attributes on images in the Classic editor.
  • Identify images without alt attributes in the Media Library.
  • Add labels to standard WordPress form fields (search, comments)
  • Add post titles to “read more” links.
  • Remove tab-index from elements that are focusable. (Also fixes plugin-caused problems.)

WP Accessibility Helper

A screenshot of the header of the WP Accessibility Helper plugin page,
  • Average star rating: 5 stars
WP Accessibility Helper adds a user-friendly toolbar to your site that allows visitors to customize accessibility settings to their needs. For instance, they can select different color contrasts from a selection of color schemes, adjust the font size, underline or highlight links, make images grayscale, change fonts and keyboard navigation.

Key features:
  • Font resize
  • Skip links menu
  • Highlight links
  • Custom logo position
  • Remove animations
  • Greyscale images
  • Dark and Light Themes
  • Remove CSS Animations
  • Underline all links
  • Sortable widgets (drag and drop)

WP Accessibility Helper Pro

There’s also a premium version of the plugin that adds more functionality, including:
  • Accessibility Helper buttons with icon font (on/off controls).
  • Accessible popup windows/dialogs (WCAG 2.0 Level AA) with Contact Form 7 (or any WordPress shortcode) support.
  • Create accessible widgets/shortcodes from WordPress editor, all widgets in one place.
  • Ability to create “accessible mini-bar” (3 buttons with font resize, contrast, and greyscale functionality).
  • User settings (underline links, highlight titles, and links, contrast colors, remove animations) save with cookies (page to page settings).
  • Accessible accordion with customizer to control accordion color settings and more.
  • Sidebar layout manager with 5 layouts: “Standard”, “Wide”, “Magic”, “Mini”, and “Bottom Full Width”.
  • WPML and PolyLang support for multilingual websites.
  • Accessibility logo customizer (background color + logo color).
  • Sepia and monochrome mode.
  • Additional hooks and filters for developers.

Accessibility Suite

A screenshot of the header of the Accessibility Suite plugin page,
Average star rating: 4 stars

Accessibility Suite lets you audit and update your WordPress website for ADA, Section 508, and WCAG compliance. The time-saving plugin audits your site and generates a detailed report, so you can take the necessary action to achieve compliance.

Key features:
  • Create an automatic scan schedule for site accessibility.
  • Check compliance summary with site grading.
  • Review detailed reports of the audit’s findings.
  • Receive actionable steps to fix accessibility issues.
  • Filter option for WCAG A, AA, and 508 errors.
  • View errors by page or object.
  • Store past accessibility scans to monitor progress and changes.
  • Downloadable CSV report for agencies to create work estimates,
  • Audits run in the cloud to save your server resources.

WordPress ADA Compliance Plugins Will Only Get You So Far

All the above WordPress ADA compliance tools and plugins go some way to helping you achieve accessibility compliance.

Some tools help you make changes, and others generate actions you need to take, while some require users to select enhancements. But none of them will make your WordPress site 100% ADA compliant.

Another downside is that plugins can become outdated and be incompatible with your theme or version of WordPress.

So what’s the alternative?

With Monsido, you can make your website accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities, and achieve global WCAG, Section 508, and ADA (accessibility) compliance.

While Monsido does integrate with WordPress via a plugin the integration allows you to open issues directly on the page in WordPress in order to edit and fix them. This will help speed up your ability to make remediations on the site. And unlike some plugins that only offer surface-level remediation, Monsido only automates the auditing of your website. The remediation needs to be done manually, but the platform provides detailed guidance on how to carry it out. This process, while less convenient, is the best approach to take if you want to ensure website compliance. 

With Monsido, you can also use our Browser Extension directly on your website to bypass the need for users to log into WordPress, and instead, find and address errors directly on the pages.

Achieve Global Accessibility Compliance

Building a WordPress ADA compliant website isn’t straightforward, but there are some practical steps everyone can run through and a selection of plugins you can install to help further.

However, to achieve global accessibility compliance, you can invest in the Monsido Web Accessibility platform.

You can’t expect to become an accessibility expert overnight. Still, with Monsido’s built-in Help Center, plus accessibility training for your team, webinars, and one-on-one support, you and your team will better understand the compliance issues faced and how to tackle them.