About CMS Accessibility

This article was written for Web Axe by our friend, John Siebert, a Tampa Web Designer who has an interest in creating accessible web sites.

Content management systems (CMS) are a good way to go for both personal and business use. An open source CMS can get a website up efficiently, but is it accessible? With about 25% of internet users needing accessibility, it is very encouraging to keep your site web accessible. This is for every “human user” disabled and non-disabled no matter what browsing technology they are using. CMS platforms can definitely help you with that. But which one is the most accessible friendly? We will look into WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and Posterous and compare the level of web accessibility.

All users have equal access to information and functionality. It is the developer’s responsibility to correctly design and develop a site that everyone can view and understand. What effects accessibility includes layout, markup, images and media, and JavaScript. A good CMS platform can make sure that these issues are compliant.

WordPress

WordPress states that it is web accessibility compliant. Unfortunately if developers tweak or create templates, it is up to the developer how well or little they configure accessibly into the site. There are plenty of accessibility plugins that a developer can implement into their WordPress site.

Here is a very helpful link full of WordPress accessibility plugins. WordPress also provides plenty of information and guidelines for creators that cover all basic HTML topics. Also check out the comments in the Web Axe blog on accessible WordPress themes.

Drupal

Drupal has plenty of helpful links for tips and topics to input accessibility into their platform. A helpful Drupal tutorial goes over:

  • What are the common accessibility barriers that my website needs to overcome, and how?
  • What tools help me manage the accessibility of contributed content that is beyond my control?
  • What Drupal modules and 3rd party accessibility tools will help?

You may want to check out the Web Axe podcast on the Drupal 7 and accessibility from last October. And here are a few more links for Drupal accessibility:

Posterous

Posterous does not cover as much accessibility information as other CMS platforms. Which leads me to believe that Posertous would not have much support for developers using their platform. We think it’s time Posterous stepped up to the plate on this issue and have sent them an e-mail with our concerns.

Joomla

Joomla has their own accessibility statement that shares their promises of fulfilling a true web accessible environment. However, they state that it is up to the designers and template designers to follow rules and regulations. They also state that they understand that the Joomla site itself does not comply with many WCAG/508 requirements.

Conclusion

When choosing a CMS platform, find one that has the most web accessibility support. The best would be WordPress and Drupal out of the four compared. By using a CMS platform you will have more support to maintain a web accessible site. Most of the accessibility changes can be fixed once and to the entire site through these platforms, saving time and money.

The best way to understand accessibility is to get to know a user that benefits from the accessibility you put into code. Once you understand the reason why accessibility is important for your site, you can then comprehend the reason for a CMS platform like WordPress or Drupal as the base of your site.

If you have any feedback about CMS and accessibility, especially Posterous and Joomla, please leave a comment.

5 comments

  1. David Sloan

    This is an important topic, but I think the article should mention W3C Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG).

    ATAG can provide an excellent framework to evaluate CMSs. Obviously that includes the accessibility of the content they produce, but evaluation also needs to consider 1) how accessible is the CMS interface to disabled authors? and 2) how easy is it for non-expert authors to create accessible content?

    In my experience, CMSs too often fall down on that last point.

  2. Anonymous

    I’m inclined to agree with this comment. Often, enormous amounts of pages and suggestions are given on how the output can be made accessible but the environment for inputting content is left inaccessible. This is rampant in the e-learning industry, for instance as I have come to be painfully aware. Lots of work in creating accessible output but the authoring and administration environments in and out of the LMS are virtually unusuable. Intentionally or not, one is given the impression that the disabled community is not meant to create web content, only to read it. It is good to see Drupal and WordPress doing so much in both areas. I wish we used them instead of SharePoint which is a royal pain to use.

  3. Ian Sharpe

    Agree with the comments above which is why you might also like to take a look at Contao CMS:

    http://www.contao.org/

    I’d never heard of it until I raised the issue of the accessibility of CMSs on a mailing list a few months ago .

    I haven’t had time to look at it properly myself yet but I believe it is being used very successfully by blind administrators.

  4. Denis Boudreau

    I’ve had a few contacts with the folks at posterous when i first started doing my weekly accessibility watch at dboudreau.posterous.com (accessiwatch.com).

    I’ve had good feedback from them in the beginning, but quickly lacked the time to really push them into improving things. There are a lot of flaws with the platform as it actually is and I wish they would step it up a few notches.

    Also, it is true this post should mention ATAG. Most people fail to realize this, but CMS are the primary target of ATAg. It’s not just browsers!

  5. Nicolas Steenhout

    Coming late to this discussion, sorry, just found the post.

    This topic is one I have been talking about for a very long time. In fact, I’ve been talking about this since 2003 when I first became involved with Mambo CMS.

    Funny thing is, I wrote the accessibility statement linked to on the Joomla! site, when Joomla! was still Mambo and I was part of the core development team. I was invited to join to increase the CMS’ accessibility. I gave up after hitting my head against a brick wall too many times.

    I wrote a paper about CMS and accessibility which I presented at the Open Source Developpers Conference in Sydney, Australia in 2008.

    I couldn’t agree more with previous comments – the real challenge of CMS accessibility today is not outputting accessible content, but having an accessible back-end.

    I haven’t heard of CONTAO before. I’ll give it a whirl. Looks like it’s based on TYPO though – not a particularly good recommendation from a back-end access point of view.

    Thanks for talking about this – it’s a very important issue.

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