Accessible WordPress Themes?

I’m really on a quest to find some web accessible, standards-compliant WordPress theme. It’s so disappointing that the platform is set up for web standards (and usability, accessibility) but nearly all custom themes break it. Ugh!

Last week, I did a search on Google, but wasn’t happy with the results. Then on Twitter, I asked the question:

Can anyone recommend a few fully accessible, fully standards-complaint #WordPress themes (besides Sea Beast)

I received a few replies, but didn’t get much further in my quest. Then I ran a few searches in the WordPress themes site, but didn’t come up with much. This is what I’ve got so far:

  • Sea Beast by Mike Cherim: the first theme to come to mind. Solid, but outdated.
  • Puritan by Peter Krantz: didn’t try it because it didn’t install with the new version of WordPress, 2.8.
  • Hybrid: Already had it installed , but still needs styling since it’s a framework. And it requires joining a “club”.
  • Stardust: good, but still needs some tweaking.

Does anyone know of any other accessible WordPress themes available? Valid code and semantic markup sure wouldn’t hurt either. Template options and widget-ready are good too! Not sure why this is so difficult. Guess I’ll have to make time to build my own (hopefully late this summer!).

21 comments

  1. JLeuze

    I think that this is an area in which WordPress is still lacking. The only accessible theme that I have run across is aptly named, WP508.

    However it is not available yet, I am not sure if it is being actively developed, but might be something to watch for.

    If Hybrid is actually accessible enough for your needs, I wouldn’t be so quick to write it off. You are not required to join the club, the theme is freely available, as are some child themes to add to it. The club has a free membership that gives access to additional resources, and a paid option that offers more resources and support.

    I myself am planning to start contributing themes back to the WordPress community in the near future. They would of course have valid code and the other features that you mentioned, but I would also like for them to be more accessible.

    What would you say are the major short comings of most WordPress themes as far as accessibility is concerned?

  2. Dennis at Web Axe

    Thanks for your input, JLeuze. And great question; some of the accessibility issues I see when analyzing WordPress themes are:
    -lack/misuse of headings
    -no submit button on search
    -poor syntax/invalid code
    -low color contrast
    -and my pet peeve, removal of all underlines on hyperlinks!

  3. Trixi

    There are 2 frameworks, which are highly customizable and perfect for building your own theme: Thematic and the plaintxt.org, on plainttx.org you find Sandbox, which is often used by designers to build their own themes, but there are also others on the side.
    Hope its usefull, Greetz Trixx

  4. Glenda Watson Hyatt

    Dennis, I hear your frustration. I have also been searching for accessible themes, although the first step may be to fully define and/or outline what an “accessible theme” is.

    Recently I came across Beast-Blog theme. I haven’t had a chance to poke and prod it yet. I welcome feedback if others have tried it.

  5. Dennis at Web Axe

    Beast Blog is good but a bit out-dated. It appears, for now at least, using a WordPress theme framework (wpframework.com, themehybrid.com, plaintxt.org) to create an accessible theme is the best way to go.

  6. JLeuze

    Thank you for the information Dennis. I hadn’t thought about all the forms that are a part of many WordPress sites, I can understand how it would be easy to make those inaccessible.

    Lack of underlining can be a big problem all across the web. Most designers just don’t understand that simple color-blindness or a low contrast screen can make their subtly colored links essentially invisible!

    I myself draw the line based on context. If a link is buried in the content of the site, I leave it underlined. If the link has other strong visual cues, such as being in a navigation menu, then I feel comfortable ditching the underlining.

    I have tried most of the theme frameworks and I like Thematic the best, though I cannot attest to its accessibility myself.

  7. Dennis at Web Axe

    JLeuze: Looking forward to trying your WP508 theme. Your standards are pretty high, which is great. But since Section 508 is so very outdated, you may want to consider renaming.

    Glenda: the Beast-Blog theme is a version of Seabeast by Mike Cherim; they are solid, but getting pretty outdated.

    Trixi: thank you for the great links on theme frameworks.

    Tommaso: great job on the Stardust theme. A few suggestions:

    -grey text on white needs more contrast
    -move the date to after the entry heading
    -add a:focus to all a:hover CSS (for keyboard users)

  8. JLeuze

    I wouldn’t want to take away credit for WP508 from it’s developer, the talented John James Jacoby!

    When I am finished with a theme of my own though, I’ll be sure to give you a heads up.

    I did check out the 508 standards, and you’re right, they seem pretty out of date.

    Do you have any better suggestions for a specific standard to follow, like the UK Accessibilty Standards, are those a bit more current?

  9. JLeuze

    Dennis at Web Axe: LOL, I suppose that means that even Accessibility isn’t quite accessibly to your average designer yet!

    Thank you for the link Dennis, I’ll check out WCAG errata and see what I can learn.

  10. Nostariel

    Hi, I was doing my annual Google search for new accessible WP themes and found this post, and thought I’d point you to the Access theme by Dean at Bushido Designs. It’s the best one I’ve found so far, it’s even got a high-contrast theme switcher for users with low vision or color blindness.

    I wish there were more than just a handful of accessible WP themes, though. Sigh.

  11. Francesco Carzedda

    Good morning,
    I developed ‘Ingegno’
    (http://4elementi.info/ingegno/wp-content/themes/en_ingegno/en_ingegno.zip)
    that seems to work well. It respects Wcag 2.0 criteria included 3.3.6 to support cognitive disable people in reviewing and correcting data before sending.
    Semantic code, elastic layout, additional templates for sitemap and monthly archive.
    I updated it with threaded comments, not yet with post formats.
    See it at work on my Italian blog http://www.opere.4elementi.info.
    Francesco Carzedda

  12. Gooitzen van der Ent

    I’m working on a comprehensive listing at with WordPress accessibility when I read your post.

    Article can be found here:
    http://ecodelphinus.com/2012/01/07/accessibility-and-wordpress/

    It contains some themes as well.

    Great to see such a rally of people with themes. I’ll be sure to link to your post. Maybe we can work together on this as group?

    See also for example The Make WordPress Accessibility work group:
    http://make.wordpress.org/accessibility/

    Kind Regards

  13. Liz

    Hi Dennis,

    I have been trawling through the suggestions here and elsewhere and trying some of the themes advertised as “accessible”.

    I like the look of RedLine but links are not underlined as default (one of my pet hates too): http://post-scriptum.info/redline-theme/

    Then I did a Theme Search by tag “accessible” and there were two I hadn’t seen mentioned before (apologies if they are here but I missed the references).

    1. “New Golden Grey”: I don’t know quite what is supposed to be especially accessible about “New Golden Grey” http://www.trassare.com/new-golden-gray-18/

    2. “DODO” by Inspired Buddy: is definitely worth a look! http://www.inspiredbuddy.com/wordpress-themes/a-simple-and-clean-wordpress-theme-for-everyone/

    I am about to give DODO a run but will also contact the RedLine chap as he seems to be responsive to suggestions.

    Would be interested to know what you make of Dodo.

    Best wishes,
    Liz

    Blog still getting sorted out here: http://www.salt-mine.net/blog/

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