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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 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 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 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 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.


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.

podcast wordpress

Podcast #78: Web Accessibility News

Hosts Dennis and Ross discuss a variety of topics.

Download Web Axe Episode 78 (Web Accessibility News)

[transcript of podcast 78] (Much thanks to Joseph Montanez for helping with transcription.)




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Podcast #76: Web Accessibility Disasters

Dennis and Ross review web sites which should be great in web accessibility, but fail badly. The hosts provide a lot of constructive criticism, including many fixes that can be done in a minimal amount of time. Issues are also good to discuss as a reminder for our own work.

Download Web Axe Episode 76 (Web Accessibility Disasters)

[transcript of podcast 76]

Transcription provided by Katherine Lynch, a Drupal, WordPress, and accessibility professional.



Web Site Disasters


Company targeting Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

The Good
  • Almost all of the text is marked up in HTML rather than image, flash or other media.
  • Simple, clean design.
The Bad
  • No ALT text on main banner.
  • Font size tool (triple whammy).
  • Underlines not links; links not underlined.
  • Headings not marked up appropriately.
  • Menu missing
    • List not a list (see Compliance page).
    • Inline / intrusive JavaScript.
    Job Accommodation Network (JAN)

    A service provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). JAN’s mission is to facilitate the employment and retention of workers with disabilities by providing employers, employment providers, people with disabilities, and family members with information on job accommodations, entrepreneurship, and related subjects.

    The Good
    • Textual navigation; no Javascript based navigation.
    • Has proper ALT text on pictures and JAN and ODEP logos.
    The Bad
    • No heading tags; some marked up with bold tag.
    • There is a summary on layout table (double whammy).
    • No skip nav or skip to link provided.
    • Inline javascript. Example:
    • Non-breaking spacing used for layout.
    The Rose Project

    Mission is to provide maternal and child healthcare to the economically poor people of Malawi, with particular reference to HIV treatment and care.

    One of nine listed for Most Accessible Website in the Irish Web Awards?

    The Good
    • XHTML; semantic, clean mark-up
    • Using headings
    • Language is defined (xml:lang=”en”)
    • SWFobject.js for unobtrusive flash embedding
    The Bad
    • When JavaScript is unavailable, Flash replacement image has broken links and placeholder text.
    • Skip links – Skip link doesn’t work?
    • ‘Find out about ways to give’ button.
    • logo missing alt text for tag line.
    • H1 headings should be H2 (such as Featured Project).
    • Some links that should be underlined, are not.
    • Use of tags not recommended.
    • Links lack the default focus effect and outline removed!
      DO NOT do this:
    :focus {
standards wordpress

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!).


Accessibility-ready WordPress Themes on

author expert interview law podcast wordpress

Podcast #44: Interview with Mike Cherim

Dennis and Ross speak with Mike Cherim, the author of the highly respectable blog Green Beast, and the founder of Conversation also includes Mike’s background, his interest in PHP and WordPress, and an audio conference on the NFB vs. Target lawsuit in which he was a guest speaker.

Download Web Axe Episode 44 (Interview with Mike Cherim)