Sometime last year, I got to read about Alexandra Elbakyan, the “science’s pirate queen” and the central figure behind Sci-Hub, a website that provides free access to scientific papers, journals and books that are normally hidden by sometimes excessive paywall. Politically speaking, I’m what you call a left-leaning moderate so it goes without saying that I’m in favor of her efforts. I can’t see how anyone won’t be given that companies like Elsevier, as stated by The Verge, charges an average of US$31.50 PER PAPER for access. I apologize for the capital letters but the sheer insanity of the situation definitely requires it.
Access is important and I feel like it’s in our best interest to ensure that what we create can be enjoyed by the highest number of people possible. The accessibility I’m going to talk about here is different from the kind described above but the core principle remains the same; to ensure that your content can be enjoyed by the highest number of people possible by reducing the barrier of entry. In the world of web development, accessibility comes in various guises and if you’re looking to properly expand your reach, you’re going to want to get in touch with web developers Melbourne that know what they’re doing.
The cost of access
I was lucky to be enrolled in an academic institution that was generous enough to provide students free access to scientific literature in my field of study, which in my case was sourced from IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers). I didn’t think much of it then but now that I’m writing more and more, I’ve come to understand just how valuable information can be and how limiting access to that information can hurt. Of course, access isn’t necessarily always about money although a paywall is certainly one of the most common form of access limitations.
In the contemporary world, the word accessibility often revolved around making things easier to people with disabilities but in this discussion, I’m going to use the more general definition of the term. Making a website more accessible is simply about making it easier to use which is definitely much harder than it sounds. It’s not just about being user-friendly but also about providing customization options and/or tools that could make the experience more palatable.
One of the more popular options when it comes to web development is the use of WordPress as a platform. First made available in 2003, WordPress is considered ancient in the fast-moving technological world. Thanks to its age and nature as an open-source platform, the customization options available in WordPress are practically boundless and if you’re looking for something to help your website’s accessibility, you’re not going to have to look hard. As a starting point, here are 4 tips you could use to make your WordPress website more accessible.
Start with an accessibility-ready theme
The theme (or the theme framework) is the foundation of every WordPress website so if you’re serious about making your WordPress website more accessible, why not start with the foundation? If you’ve already properly established your website and you’re not using an accessibility-ready theme, switching over to an entirely new theme might not be possible as that could raise some serious compatibility issues with your plugins, customization and whatnots. For those who fit this description, you don’t have a lot of options other than to use plugins to cover up your shortcomings.
If you’re just starting out however, you’re in luck as the official WordPress website has a host of accessible themes you could use for your website. Simply tick the box that says “Accessibility Ready” in the feature filter and you’re good to go. Your options are going to be limited but there should still be something among the one hundred or so themes on display that fit your taste. If nothing fancies you, you could check out other theme directories such as ThemeForest and use accessibility as your search term.
Enhance your website with accessibility plugins
Typically, the more egregious accessibility issues can only be fixed by directly changing your theme; there are still various small tweaks you could apply that could enhance the accessibility of your website. You can do these various tweaks yourself or you could use various plugins available in WordPress that would enable you to do these tweaks simply by ticking a box. One of the most popular options available is the WP Accessibility plugin which adds various features while fixing several accessibility issues inherent to the platform. This plugins work typically not by directly altering your website but by providing users with customization options such as contrast, font size and saturation that could render your website easier on the eye.
Add a dark mode toggle to your website
For the majority of our existence, we’ve been more than content to stick with the typical dark-on-light color scheme as this was the way ink on paper is traditionally represented. However, as plenty of night owls would readily attest, bright background can be hurt to look at extensively in nighttime, hence the rising popularity of dark mode. There hasn’t been any official support for dark mode in WordPress yet but there are plugins, such as WP Night Mode that would enable you to do just that. Keep in mind however that these plugins might not work well with certain themes so test the plugin out first before installing it on your website.
Don’t use any auto-playing media
Accessibility isn’t just about adding features that make your website easier to live with but it’s also about doing away with things that are nothing more than a hindrance such as with autoplay media. Despite the sheer unpopularity of autoplay media, there are still dozens of website out there that insist on playing videos without users’ explicit consent. If the users’ well being is still a concern of yours, you would do well to stay as far away as possible from autoplay media and look for a better way to make money.