How Accessible is the WordPress CMS for a blind content manager? (study)

Rian Rietveld and Jaap van de Putte have done a brief study/test on the admin side of a typical WordPress installation, the results of which are pretty interesting!

Leo Dijk, a blind legal advisor at the Dutch Ministry of Education offered to be a test subject for the WordPress tests. He uses the SuperNova screen reader (when Rian says there are two major screen readers, (Dolphin) SuperNova and JAWS, she means in the Netherlands. I guess Window-Eyes isn’t big here).

The mistakes are basic (using separate divs instead of a nested ul for a menu), while some are things that are becoming trendy (the label for an input being hidden by default, lightboxes). Very interesting.

In the Web Accessibility group on LinkedIn a user commented that he tends to do okay with WP but mostly because he does everything manually, by typing code instead of choosing things. Hm…

It is a nice experiment and may be it changes the design systems.

Although I’m not Wordpress’s biggest fan, so I don’t use it, would a well developed admin theme be able to improve its accessibility? It should not need to, I know, but there you go… Actually, that’s one of the things in Drupal’s favour: the overlay can be turned off; most (maybe all) of the JS is not strictly essential; and the back-end can be themed as much as the front-end if necessary (though it’s not).

Looking at the problems, it seems a whole lot of problems could be removed simply by changing the HTML of the admin panel, smarter CSS, and being more careful with lightbox-like overlays (those are still a problem, I’m still not sure the best way to make those accessible… you can use roles and manually set focus traps, but this still misses older browsers/AT and is a whole lot of work that, frankly, should be taken care of not by the developer but the browser).

I saw this link the other day, while it doesn’t do anything huge right now, it is a start. It will be interesting to see where it goes:

Hey @stommepoes, thanks for posting this! In the meantime we did some more testing of the admin of WordPress, with different screen readers on different browsers. Some problems are indeed easily solved by a smarter set up of the HTML/CSS.
Quite hilarious is the fact that the option for selecting the accessible display for the widgets is hidden by CSS.
Others are not so simple, like getting the Appearance -> Menus working without a mouse.
Work in progress…

Hi @rguy84, thanks for the link to the plugin, will look into it!

If you are interested in helping making WordPress more accessible: the LinkedIn Group WordPress Accessibility started this week.
Feel free to join if you want to add your views to the discussion.

Due to full support of HTML5 in latest WordPress releases, I think its somewhat difficult to do full fledged Accessibility implementation in WordPress without hacking the core codes.

That’s why it’s so important to let the developers of WordPress know what the accessibility problems are. They are most helpful. You can post tickets describing the issues you have on the WordPress Trac. One problem per ticket. On you can see all the tickets that have been made so far. A lot of these will be solved and implemented in to the next WordPress versions.

Kind Regard,

yes, i am aware of this initiative from LinkedIn WordPress Web Accessibility group

To anyone attending the next Fronteers conference in Amsterdam this year:
Rian Rietveld will be giving a lighting talk at the Jam Session about WP Accessibility.

If there ends up being any videos taken, I’ll post them here.

Hi. I’m Marx, and I’m totally blind. I use JAWS For Windows and the latest Wordpress CMS version (as of this writing). Here are a few suggested JAWS For Windows version and Web browser combinations that could help JAWS For Windows users when navigating through the Wordpress admin panel and using its features:

=>> Use IE 8 (or later), Firefox or Google Chrome and JAWS For Windows 13 for recent Wordpress CMS versions;

=>> Use Firefox and JAWS For Windows 11 for recent and older Wordpress CMS versions; and

=>> Use IE 8 or Firefox and JAWS For Windows 11 for older Wordpress CMS versions…

That’s about it. I don’t have any problems using any of the combinations above. I have JAWS For Windows 13 installed and use IE 8, Firefox and Google Chrome in my laptop. I have JAWS For Windows 11 installed and use IE 8 and Firefox in my desktop computer. Hope this helps…

Marx, have you given NVDA a try?
Also, I seriously want to know how you’re using Google Chrome with JAWS. Last time I tried, some things read out but others didn’t. I couldn’t navigate but I could read text. That was likely several Chrome versions ago since they seem to update every minute.

In general: Fronteers has started posting videos:

During the talk I found Rian to sound a bit too quiet (this took place in a bar, though we had that whole level to ourselves) and I noticed people talked more during her talk than during others.

Hi Stomme Poes,

Yes, I have used NVDA just to try it out, and I prefer JAWS. I even recently downloaded and installed NVDA again, because the NVDA team is arriving here in Manila on Monday, and they invited me in the conference, because they would want to hear about things that they can do to improve the overall performance and functionality of NVDA. Will try to update this thread about the things we’ll discuss in the conference…

I use JAWS 13 with Google Chrome, its most updated version. Aside from toolbar functionalities, which I need to use the JAWS cursor to access, everything works out just fine…

Good to know, and nice that Chrome is finally becoming usable. Now for Opera…

So Jamie and Mike are going to the Philipines?? Yes, updates would be very cool.

By the way I think you should get in contact with Graham Armfield and Rian Rietveld, who are both working on accessible amin-areas for Wordpress, because they’d probably want to hear your results or do some tests. They’re both on LinkedIn and Twitter but I’m not into WP myself so I don’t know all the WP groups floating around on the web. I could also contact them (I don’t think Rian visits SitePoint enough to see if this thread gets replies).