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The new version of WP Accessibility has just been released. Updates include the inclusion of Chris Rodriguez’s a11y toolbar, as previously announced and support for a custom WordPress administrative stylesheet.

The first item, the accessibility toolbar, falls into a category of accessibility I rarely pursue: the front-end accessibility widget. I’ve written (negatively) about the concept before, in my article When More is Less. Having previously opposed accessibility widgets, I wanted to talk a little about why I think including this one is a good idea.

The Problem of Accessibility Widgets

The problem with accessibility widgets is that they are not an optimal solution. If the problem is that the text on your site is too small, then the optimal solution is to make the text larger. Providing a widget so that your users can make the text larger is clearly not the best possible solution.

But my WP Accessibility plug-in is in no way an “optimal” solution. While some of the elements of the plug-in involve creating an easier way of incorporating standard accessibility methods into a WordPress site, others are really about inserting improved accessibility into a site which is otherwise sadly lacking.

Don’t get me wrong: because WP Accessibility fixes some issues in the WordPress core code, it’s valuable in any WordPress site. However, a lot of the additional use cases for the plug-in are about patching accessibility into a site because the skill, time, or budget required to do it natively in the theme is lacking.

This is where the accessibility toolbar comes in. It may not be the best option for a site — but it may be the only realistic option.

If I may hypothesize a scenario:

You’ve just been hired by a company to manage their web site, after a previous developer left. They recently spent many thousands of dollars developing a new web site — but they didn’t really consider accessibility in the process. A complete revamp of the site isn’t something they have the budget or desire to engage on, but convincing them to install a plug-in that will have very little visual impact but improve accessibility is an easy target.

This accessibility toolbar is well designed – Chris did a great job. It’s subtle, simple, straightforward. I’m glad to be able to incorporate it.

WordPress Admin styles

Including a custom admin stylesheet allows me to fix a few minor issues in the accessibility of the WordPress back-end. Among these are some contrast changes; moving the post actions (Edit, Trash, etc.) into a context that’s visible to screen reader and keyboard users, underlining navigation links on hover, etc. What I’ve implemented is very basic, however — if anybody wants to extend them, they can do this by adding their own custom wp-admin stylesheet into their theme directory.