Accessible Theme for WordPress Makes ADA Website Compliance Affordable, Meets WCAG 2.0 AA

Listen to Podcast Episode 2 (MP3 File Download)

Welcome to the Accessible.org Podcast. My name is Kris Rivenburgh and I have some extremely exciting news.

It’s been almost exactly a year since I first had the idea to create a fully accessible WordPress theme, and today that idea is now a solution. So here is the official announcement: Accessible Theme is now available for purchase at AccessibleTheme.com.

The back story is I knew this would be a hit as soon as I came up with the idea, but I’m not a web developer. I have good knowledge of HTML and CSS and I’m getting to the intermediate level with JavaScript, but development is not my wheelhouse.

The great news is Zach Peyton, an expert developer reached out to me earlier this fall after reading one of my Medium articles, and we agreed to team up on this project. Right away, I could tell Zach new code inside and out, so I knew we had the potential to create the perfect theme and we did.

There were so many things I saw missing in the marketplace, and Accessible Theme was created as my response to everything. Let’s go over some of these missing pieces.

First safety assurance and relief against demand letters and lawsuits. That’s something that everybody’s after. Everybody wants that, but there’s not really – there’s not really that tangible solution, at least not for less than five figures in most cases.

So if you don’t know my background, I’m an attorney. I’m also the founder of Accessible.org. I’m also an ADA Website Compliance consultant. I wrote Kris’s WCAG Guide, a guide that breaks WCAG 2.0 AA into plain English. I’m also the author of The ADA Book, which breaks down the legal landscape and provides information on how to mitigate risk of a lawsuit. And if you look for information on ADA compliance, you’ve probably come across my Medium articles.

I’ve researched ADA Website Compliance and web accessibility extensively and that includes reading through demand letters and lawsuits filed by plaintiffs’ lawyers – in short I know what’s going on, and I know what the best steps to take are to make a website accessible. So not only, I mean, and not only make a website accessible, but to reduce the risk of a web accessibility lawsuit because there’s the accessible side of this and there’s the practical side of this.

So whether you’re trying to reduce the risk of a lawsuit, whether it be Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Unruh Act of California or any other state or federal law, what I’ve done is I’ve rolled all of that risk reduction and the practical accessibility – it’s all rolled into Accessible Theme.

For example, plaintiffs’ lawyers commonly look to the WAVE tool checker for issues to put in their complaints. Accessible Theme has exactly zero errors and alerts out of the box. I’ve also included a default accessibility policy for Accessible Theme that website owners can customize.

And on that note, let’s talk about another missing piece in the marketplace: website accessibility education.

There are a lot of people who don’t know about correct heading structure or what to do when they upload a YouTube video or maybe even had how to add all text. Or maybe they just forget to add alt text when they’re uploading an image. Accessible Theme is going to guide you through all of these content upload problems as you’re in the post or page composer. So in fact, you will not be able to publish a post or page if you don’t include alt text with an image.

That right there is huge because alt text is what I refer to as the gateway to accessibility lawsuits and demand letters. Alt text is – almost every lawsuit or demand letter I’ve read has included alt text. And so what happened? What typically happens is these plaintiffs lawyers, they look for alt text and if it’s not there, that opens the door to everything else. So it’s a huge, huge deal, and right away, Accessible Theme is going to take care of that because you can’t publish a post if you don’t assign alt text to an image.

Additionally, if you need some, if you need some training or education, we’ve included a best practices cheatsheet inside the theme, and you can always download my WCAG Guide called Kris’s WCAG Guide and read in plain English how to meet WCAG 2.0 AA.

In short, Accessible Theme makes it difficult to have inaccessible content and there is plenty of concise educational material to supplement the content creation process. And that leads me to my next point: dedication to accessibility and lawsuit prevention.

Website accessibility is serious, serious stuff. Of course, making things accessible is of utmost importance. But right now there’s a vicious attack on all types of website owners, whether it’s your personal side business, small one, a small one person company, local nonprofit organizations, billion dollar corporations, etc.

And these attacks are costly in terms of dollars, time and mental energy. I don’t see this seriousness being reflected with other WordPress themes or, for that matter, other website platforms like Wix, Squarespace and GoDaddy. The platforms will talk about accessibility. There might be a blog post that talks about it. You can sometimes find a support forum answer where you’ll get an official answer on the platform’s stance on accessibility or WCAG.

But to date, I am thoroughly unimpressed with the attention to detail. And this includes other supposed accessibility-focused WordPress themes. There’s no precision. Instead, what you’ll see is they’ll lazily drop a few ways to improve accessibility, or that they improve accessibility or how they meet certain WCAG 2.0 AA success criteria. And then they move on to other features.

So just saying we do this or we do that – that’s fine, but where is the level of precision? Where is the level of exactness? It’s not there, but with Accessible Theme, it is. Accessible Theme isn’t a WordPress theme with a side of accessibility or that assists accessibility or that has more accessibility. It is accessibility. The whole theme is dedicated to accessibility and will continue to be so.

This initial Monday, December 2nd release isn’t where it stops, it’s where it starts. Zach and I already have plans on rolling out more features and upgrades for 2020. But Accessible Theme is definitely ready for showtime right now so we’re making it available. Make no mistake, it is the best solution on the market right now, there’s nothing, there’s nothing out there that’s going to rival it.

Dollar for dollar – it cannot – it’s not even close. And of course, this is a beta release. So we’re hyper aware that bugs are inevitable, but we’ll get those ironed out ASAP. We’ve got a support link on AccessibleTheme.com. If there’s anything that needs to be fixed, we’re going to get it fixed right away. And then, of course, we’re always looking for feedback and suggestions to improve that theme as ago goes along. This is not something where it’s a set it and forget it. We’re going to continue to improve Accessible Theme.

So another thing I noticed that was missing in the marketplace is affordability. Accessibility companies are charging a lot. For example, $10,000 to $15,000 to audit and remediate a small to medium website is not at all uncommon, and the result is a lot of people are left with no good options as they can’t afford the prices, they don’t know a developer who can actually do the work, and even then you’re still looking at a few thousand dollars. And moreover, even if they did find a developer or they did get someone to look at their website or examine the website, they wouldn’t be able to decipher if the website they got back was indeed accessible or it met all of WCAG.

And sadly, what ends up happening is many end up going with a toolbar overlay option, which is basically like pretend accessibility as it doesn’t address your website’s accessibility at the code level. Many people are going to regret going with the toolbar option. Toolbars are actually going to end up putting you at greater risk of a lawsuit once the landscape settles more and that’s a topic for another podcast.
But I never recommend toolbars, and the price for Accessible Theme is going to be a lot less than any of these other options. If you go to AccessibleTheme.com, you can see the price.

Another thing that I noticed missing is simplicity. Most accessible to companies out there offering solutions that are muddled, complex and/or confusing. Accessible theme is easy to use, and if you’ve worked with WordPress before, you’ll know exactly how to install and activate it. If you aren’t technically inclined, we’ve even added an option for for you to have us install it for you.

And if you need support, we’re going to be all over it. We’ll have a live chat on the site, and you can always email me kris@accessible.org and reach me.

So who is Accessible Theme for?

Every time I think of this question, I’m reminded of the local sheriff’s office in Florida who essentially had to delete their website because they couldn’t afford to make it accessible. I also think of Zac’s aunt’s friend, who has a simple two page website but paid hundreds of dollars for a subscription for an accessibility toolbar that doesn’t even make his website accessible. And then there’s the architect who contacted me, who just maintained a five-page website with their contact information and services and consultation she offered.

And obviously there are some entities who will want to remediate the current website because they want to maintain that same design or same functioning. But there are so many others who just want a functional website; a placeholder, if nothing else, that they can put up so that they don’t get sued. I know there are a lot of people and organizations who are going to love the ease of use, and the relief Accessible Theme provides. Schools, churches, local governments, bloggers, entrepreneurs, small businesses – any type of websites that are more information based are going to love Accessible Theme.

The design for Accessible Theme very clear gives you a blank slate to work from, so that you can present content and neighbor in a clean, straightforward manner. If you can’t tell, this is a huge deal. There is absolutely nothing like Accessible Theme and I know this better than anybody because this is all I do: website accessibility and ADA Website Compliance. That’s it, that is, that is my life. This is all I do.

I’ve seen the options I’ve looked. There is nothing better than this Accessible Theme is going to improve accessibility across the world, and we’re going to prevent a lot of demand letters and a lot of lawsuits from ever going out.

If you couldn’t tell I am so excited about this release, and that’s where I’m going to end this episode, you can check out Accessible Theme at AccessibleTheme.com. You can download Kris’s WCAG Guide from Accessible.org or Amazon. Again, this is the guide that explains WCAG 2.0 AA in plain English. And if you need any help, feel free to reach out to me at kris@accessible.org. Have a Merry Christmas or a great holiday and I will talk to you soon.

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