Making Your CMS Accessible: A Guide to Inclusive Content Management
A content management system (CMS) is a software application that allows you to create, manage and publish digital content on the web.
A CMS can make your website more efficient, flexible, and user-friendly. But did you know that a CMS can also affect the accessibility of your website?
Accessibility is the practice of designing and developing websites that are usable by everyone, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. Accessibility ensures that all people can access, understand and interact with your content, irrespective of how they access the web (e.g., using a keyboard, mouse, touch screen, screen reader, etc.).
In this article, we will explore the concept of CMS accessibility, why it matters, how it relates to web accessibility standards, what features to look for in an accessible CMS platform, and how to make your CMS more accessible.
Understanding CMS Accessibility
CMS accessibility is the degree to which a CMS supports the creation and management of accessible web content. A CMS can either facilitate or hinder accessibility, depending on how it is designed and configured.
A CMS can affect accessibility in several ways, such as:
- How it generates HTML code and markup for your web pages
- How it allows you to add and edit content elements, such as headings, images, links, tables, forms, etc.
- How it enables you to provide alternative text, captions, transcripts, and other accessibility information for your content
- How it allows you to structure and organize your content logically and hierarchically
- How it supports the use of accessible templates, themes, and plugins
A CMS that supports accessibility will help you create and maintain web content that meets the needs and preferences of your diverse audience. A CMS not supporting accessibility will make it harder or impossible for you to do so.
Importance of CMS Accessibility
CMS accessibility is not only a matter of good practice but also a matter of legal compliance and business success. Here are some of the benefits and reasons why you should care about CMS accessibility:
Benefits of an Accessible CMS to Users
An accessible CMS will help you create web content that is:
- Perceivable: Users can perceive your content through their preferred senses (e.g., sight, hearing, touch)
- Operable: Users can operate your content through their preferred input methods (e.g., keyboard, mouse, touch screen, voice commands)
- Understandable: Users can understand your content easily and intuitively (e.g., clear language, consistent navigation, helpful feedback)
- Robust: Users can access your content using a variety of devices and browsers (e.g., desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones)
By making your CMS accessible, you will ensure that your website is inclusive and respectful of your users’ diversity. You will also enhance their satisfaction and loyalty.
Legal Requirements and Potential Risks
Depending on where you operate and who you serve, you may be required by law to make your website accessible. For example:
- In the United States, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires federal agencies and contractors to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities.
- In the European Union, the Web Accessibility Directive requires public sector websites and mobile applications to comply with web accessibility standards.
- In Canada, the Accessible Canada Act requires federally regulated organizations to ensure that their digital platforms are accessible.
- In Australia, the Disability Discrimination Act requires organizations to eliminate discrimination against people with disabilities in the provision of goods and services.
Failing to comply with these laws and regulations can expose you to legal complaints, lawsuits, and penalties. It can also damage your reputation and credibility.
Business Benefits of an Accessible CMS
Making your CMS accessible can also bring you significant business advantages, such as:
- Broader audience: By making your website accessible, you will reach more potential customers who may otherwise be excluded or frustrated by inaccessible content.
- Better SEO: By making your website accessible, you will improve its ranking on search engines, as many accessibility features also improve SEO performance (e.g., semantic markup, alt text, headings).
- Lower maintenance costs: By making your website accessible from the start using an accessible CMS platform, you will reduce the time and resources needed to fix accessibility issues later on.
- Higher conversion rates: By making your website accessible, you will increase the likelihood that users will complete their desired actions on your website (e.g., subscribing, purchasing, contacting).
Web Accessibility Standards for CMS
To make your CMS accessible, you must follow the web accessibility standards that apply to your website. The most widely recognized and adopted web accessibility standards are:
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): These are guidelines developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that provide recommendations on how to make web content accessible to people with disabilities. The current version is WCAG 2.1, which defines three levels of conformance: A, AA, and AAA.
- Section 508: This is a US federal law that requires federal agencies and contractors to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities. Section 508 is based on WCAG 2.0 Level AA, with additional requirements.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): This is a US civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including websites. The ADA does not specify technical standards for web accessibility, but it has been interpreted by courts and regulators to require compliance with WCAG 2.0 Level AA or higher.
- Other national and regional laws and regulations: Depending on your location and target market, you may need to comply with other laws and regulations that mandate web accessibility, such as the Web Accessibility Directive in the EU, the Accessible Canada Act in Canada, the Disability Discrimination Act in Australia, etc.
These standards provide a common framework and criteria for evaluating and improving the accessibility of your website. However, they are not exhaustive or definitive. You should always consider the specific needs and preferences of your users and test your website with real users and assistive technologies.
Does your CMS comply with ADA standards? Run free test ➡️
Common Accessibility Features in CMS Platforms
To help you comply with web accessibility standards and create accessible web content, you should look for a CMS platform that offers the following features:
- Accessibility checker: This is a tool that allows you to check your web pages for accessibility errors and warnings, such as missing alt text, insufficient color contrast, improper heading structure, etc. It can also provide suggestions on how to fix these issues.
- Accessibility editor: This is a tool that allows you to add and edit accessibility information for your content elements, such as alt text, captions, transcripts, labels, etc. It can also help you format your content using semantic markup, such as headings, lists, tables, etc.
- Accessibility templates: These are pre-designed layouts and themes that follow accessibility best practices and standards. They can help you create consistent and accessible web pages without having to code them from scratch.
- Accessibility plugins: These are extensions or add-ons that enhance the functionality and accessibility of your CMS platform. They can provide additional features or integrations that support accessibility, such as keyboard navigation, skip links, zoom controls, text-to-speech, etc.
These features can make it easier and faster for you to create and manage accessible web content. However, they are not a substitute for human judgment and testing. You should always review your content for accessibility before publishing it and monitor it for any changes or updates.
Making Your CMS Accessible
To make your CMS more accessible, you need to adopt a proactive and holistic approach that involves the following strategies:
Strategies for Improving CMS Accessibility
- Choose an accessible CMS platform: When selecting a CMS platform for your website, you should evaluate its accessibility features and support. You should also consider its compatibility with other web technologies and tools that you use or plan to use.
- Configure your CMS settings: Once you have chosen an accessible CMS platform, you should configure its settings to optimize its accessibility performance. For example, you should enable the accessibility checker and editor tools, select an accessible template or theme, install any necessary plugins or extensions, etc.
- Create accessible content: When creating or editing content using your CMS platform, you should follow the web accessibility standards and guidelines that apply to your website. You should also use the accessibility features provided by your CMS platform to add and edit accessibility information for your content elements.
- Test your content for accessibility: Before publishing or updating your content using your CMS platform, you should test it for accessibility using various methods and tools. For example, you should use the accessibility checker tool provided by Accessi or your CMS platform, use manual testing techniques such as keyboard-only navigation or color blindness simulation, use automated testing tools such as WAVE or Lighthouse, use assistive technologies such as screen readers or magnifiers, etc.
- Maintain your content’s accessibility: After publishing or updating your content using your CMS platform, you should monitor it for any changes or updates that may affect its accessibility. You should also review it periodically for any new or emerging accessibility issues or requirements.
🔍 Explore the best free WordPress themes specifically designed for accessibility
Accessible CMS Platforms
There are many CMS platforms available on the market today that claim to offer accessibility features and support. However, not all of them are equally accessible or suitable for your website’s needs and goals.
To help you choose an accessible CMS platform for your website, here are some examples of CMS platforms that are known for their accessibility features:
- Drupal: This is an open-source CMS platform that is widely used by government agencies, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations. It offers a robust set of accessibility features and modules that comply with WCAG 2.1 Level AA standards. It also has a dedicated Accessibility Team that works on improving and maintaining its accessibility performance.
- WordPress: This is another open-source CMS platform that is popular among bloggers, small businesses, and media outlets. It offers a variety of accessibility features and plugins that support WCAG 2.1 Level AA standards. It also has an Accessibility Team that provides guidance and resources on making WordPress websites accessible.
- Joomla: This is yet another open-source CMS platform that is used by many organizations and individuals. It offers some accessibility features and extensions that follow WCAG 2.1 Level AA standards. It also has an Accessibility Working Group that works on enhancing its accessibility capabilities.
- Squarespace: This is a proprietary CMS platform that provides a user-friendly and elegant way to create and manage websites. It offers some accessibility features and templates that adhere to WCAG 2.1 Level A standards. It also has an Accessibility Statement that outlines its commitment and efforts to improve its accessibility performance.
- Wix: This is another proprietary CMS platform that allows users to create and manage websites easily and creatively. It offers some accessibility features and tools that comply with WCAG 2.1 Level A standards. It also has an Accessibility Help Center that provides tips and tutorials on making Wix websites accessible.
These are just some examples of accessible CMS platforms that you can consider for your website. However, you should always do your own research and testing before choosing a CMS platform that meets your website’s needs and goals.
CMS accessibility is an essential aspect of web accessibility that can benefit your users, your business, and your legal compliance. By choosing an accessible CMS platform and following the web accessibility standards and best practices, you can create and manage web content that is inclusive, usable, and enjoyable for everyone.
If you want to learn more about CMS accessibility or need help with making your CMS more accessible, please contact us today. We are a team of web accessibility experts who can help you audit, improve and maintain your CMS’s accessibility performance.
Don’t let your CMS be a barrier to your website’s accessibility. Make your CMS accessible today and enjoy the benefits of an inclusive content management system.
FAQ on CMS Accessibility
- What is CMS accessibility?
CMS accessibility is the degree to which a content management system (CMS) supports the creation and management of accessible web content.
- Why is accessibility important in a CMS?
Accessibility is important in a CMS because it affects the usability and inclusiveness of your website for all users, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. It also affects your legal compliance and business success.
- How can I make my CMS more accessible?
You can make your CMS more accessible by choosing an accessible CMS platform, configuring its settings, creating accessible content, testing your content for accessibility, and maintaining your content’s accessibility.
- What are the common accessibility features in CMS platforms?
Some common accessibility features in CMS platforms are accessibility checkers, accessibility editors, accessibility templates, and accessibility plugins.
- What web accessibility standards should a CMS adhere to?
The web accessibility standards that a CMS should adhere to depend on your location and target market. The most widely recognized and adopted web accessibility standards are Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), Section 508, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and other national and regional laws and regulations.
- How does an accessible CMS benefit users with disabilities?
An accessible CMS benefits users with disabilities by enabling them to access, understand and interact with your web content, regardless of how they access the web (e.g., using a keyboard, mouse, touch screen, screen reader, etc.).
- Which CMS platforms are known for their accessibility features?
Some CMS platforms that are known for their accessibility features are Drupal, WordPress, Joomla, Squarespace, and Wix. However, you should always do your own research and testing before choosing a CMS platform that meets your website’s needs and goals.
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