CMS and Accessibility

Accessibility means enabling people with disabilities to become familiar with the web; to understand, navigate and contribute to the web in the same way as anyone else. This also includes people with physical/psychological impairments due to the ageing process.

Ideally, the web should be open to anyone, irrespective of their current physical and mental state of being.

Disability types

This is a broad ranging term which includes the following conditions:

  • Visual impairment, e.g. blindness
  • Hearing impairment
  • Motor impairment, e.g. problems with co-ordination, arthritis
  • Cognitive impairment, e.g. poor memory

This also includes short term disabilities such as a broken arm due to an accident or injury.

A content management system (CMS) should enable websites to be built which adhere to current web standards and web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) as part of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).

(Source: www.w3.org)

There is legal requirement for any website to be made accessible to all members of the public irrespective of whether they have a disability or not. In fact it is illegal to build a website which cannot be used by people with a disability. This ruling is part of the Disability Discrimination Act.

(Source: www.legislation.gov.uk)

How does this relate to CMS?

Many CMSs state that they are fully compliant with web standards such as WCAG, and are designed to be used to build accessible websites. An example of this is the Joomla CMS which states on their website that they are committed to web accessibility and as such, they provide the tools for content authors or developers to ensure that this takes place.

There is the option to choose an accessible CMS which contains features that enable it to be used by people with disabilities. These include user friendly, accessible interface with a simple and clear layout which can be used by screen readers; ability to navigate around the interface by other input methods apart from the mouse; forum where accessibility issues can be discussed; and able to contribute accessibility solutions to the CMS community (applies to open source CMSs only).

It is usually a case of the developer having to implement certain features which will ensure that the CMS can be used by disabled users or to integrate these into the website. However, this can be easier said than done as there are so many different types of disability which means it can be difficult to cater to all of these.

It is a case of trying to make changes which will benefit large numbers of these users, for example ensuring that the templates are accessible to disabled users who rely upon assistive technologies, e.g. screen readers.

Examples of CMS accessibility fixes

A CMS contains a wide range of features which can enhance its functionality. These include the option to extend it via a range of plug-ins such as a calendar, map etc but it is important to consider whether these are necessary, especially for disabled users.

Ensure that alternatives are provided for disabled users, such as alternatives to Word and PDF documents which cannot always be accessed by screen readers. This may mean including PDF tags which will present a text only version of a PDF document to users with screen readers.

Also make sure that any accessibility features are available to disabled users and remove/ immobilise those which are not. Customise the user interface so that it will prompt designers/content authors to include accessibility features such as ALT tags for images.

Importance of ensuring that a website is accessible

It is important to do so to prevent your website from falling foul of the disability discrimination act. Plus disabled users are customers like anyone else and by not catering to their needs, you may be missing out on a large percentage of your target population.

To put it quite simply: it is the right thing to do.

Choosing an accessible CMS

When comparing CMSs check to see if they have an accessibility statement or visit forums applicable to that particular system to see if there are any discussions about accessibility.

Visit the CMS Matrix website for more information about a range of CMSs which also allows the visitor to compare several systems.

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