Mobomo: How Drupal manages Accessibility

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Businesses and governments build websites for one reason: to provide value to their users. But what if your website was incapable of reaching millions of your users? 25% of Americans live with disabilities. For some of them, the simple act of navigating websites, digesting information, and understanding your content is difficult. Yet, despite brands increasing spending on web design and digital marketing, less than 10% of websites actually follow accessibility standards. Businesses are spending significant money to capture an audience, yet they’re not ensuring that their audience can engage with their website.

It’s a problem—a big one.

You don’t want to exclude customers. It’s bad for business, and it’s bad for your brand. Better yet, accessibility features help improve your SEO, reduce your website complexity, and increase your ability to connect with your loyal audience. But accessibility standards aren’t always baked into the architecture of websites.

Luckily, there are some content management systems (CMS) that let you create hyper-accessible websites without even trying. Drupal comes equipped with a variety of accessibility features — each of which helps make your website more accessible for your customers.

Understanding the Importance of Website Accessibility

Creating an accessible website may sound vague, but there’s already a worldwide standard you can follow. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) — which is maintained by The World Wide Web Consortium — is the global standard for web accessibility used by companies, governments, and merchants across the world.

Sure! Following the WCAG standard helps you reach a wider audience. But it also keeps you out of legal hot water. Not only has the ADA made it abundantly clear that compliance requires website accessibility. A United States District Court in Florida ruled that WCAG standards are the de facto standards of web accessibility. And there are already cases of businesses getting sued for failing to adhere to them.

  • The DOJ sues H&R Block over its website’s accessibility.
  • WinnDixie.com was sued for accessibility, and the judge required them to update their website.
  • The National Museum of Crime and Punishment was required to update its website accessibility.

The list goes on. Adhering to WCAG web accessibility standards helps protect your brand against litigation. But, more importantly, it opens doors to millions of customers who need accessibility to navigate and engage with your amazing content.

One-third of individuals over the age of 65 have hearing loss. Around 15% of Americans struggle with vision loss. And millions have issues with mobility. The CDC lists six forms of disability:

  • Mobility (difficulty walking or climbing)
  • Cognition (difficult remembering, making decisions, or concentrating)
  • Hearing (difficulty hearing)
  • Vision (difficulty seeing)
  • Independent living (difficulty doing basic errands)
  • Self-care (difficulty bathing, dressing, or taking care of yourself)

Web accessibility touches all of those types of disabilities. For those with trouble seeing, screen readers help them comprehend websites. But, screen readers strip away the CSS layer. Your core content has to be accessible for them to be able to comprehend it. Those with mobility issues may need to use keyboard shortcuts to help them navigate your website. Hearing-impaired individuals may require subtitles and captions. Those with cognitive issues may need your website to be built with focusable elements and good contrasting.

There are many disabilities. WCAG creates a unified guideline that helps government entities and businesses build websites that are hyper-accessible to people with a wide range of these disabilities.

Drupal is WCAG-compliant

WCAG is vast. A great starting point is the Accessibility Principles document. But, creating an accessible website doesn’t have to be a time-consuming and expensive process. Drupal has an entire team dedicated to ensuring that their platform is WCAG compliant. In fact, Drupal is both WCAG 2.0 compliant and Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG 2.0) compliant. The latter deals with the tools developers use to build websites. So, Drupal has accessibility compliance on both ends.

What Accessibility Features Does Drupal Have?

Drupal’s accessibility compliance comes in two forms:

  1. Drupal has built-in compliance features that are native to every install (7+).
  2. Drupal supports and enables the community to develop accessibility modules.

Drupal’s Built-in Compliance Features

Drupal 7+ comes native with semantic markup. To keep things simple, semantic markup helps clarify the context of content. At Mobomo, we employ some of the best designers and website developers on the planet. So, we could make bad HTML markup nearly invisible to the average user with rich CSS and superb visuals. But when people use screen readers or other assistive technology, that CSS goes out-of-the-window. They’re looking at the core HTML markup. And if it’s not semantic, they may have a difficult time navigating it. With Drupal, markup is automatically semantic — which breeds comprehension for translation engines, search engines, and screen readers.

Drupal’s accessibility page also notes some core changes made to increase accessibility. These include things such as color contrasting. WCAG requires that color contrasting be at least 4.5:1 for normal text and 7:1 for enhanced contrast. Drupal complies with those guidelines. Many other changes are on the developer side, such as drag and drop functions and automated navigation buttons.

Of course, Drupal also provides developer handbooks, theming guides, and instructional PDFs for developers. Some of the accessibility is done on the developer’s end, so it’s important to work with a developer who leverages accessibility during their design process.

Drupal’s Support for the Accessibility Community

In addition to following WCAG guidelines, Drupal supports community-driven modules that add additional accessibility support. Here are a few examples of Drupal modules that focus on accessibility:

There are hundreds. The main thing to remember is that Drupal supports both back-end, front-end, and community-driven accessibility. And they’ve committed to continuously improving their accessibility capabilities over time. Drupal’s most recent update — the heavily anticipated Drupal 9 — carries on this tradition. Drupal has even announced that Drupal 10 will continue to expand upon accessibility.

Do You Want to Build an Accessible Website

Drupal is on the cutting-edge of CMS accessibility. But they can’t make you accessible alone. You need to build your website from the ground up to comply with accessibility. A good chunk of the responsibility is in the hands of your developer. Are you looking to build a robust, functional, beautiful, and accessible website? 

Contact us. We’ll help you expand your reach.

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