Accessibility Building Blocks

The accessibility fundamentals are the same no matter what format you’re using for your materials, whether your OpenLab site, or any materials you develop or use in your course. However, the methods used to achieve accessibility will vary depending on the software and type of media or document type.

Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat, and other applications have different functionality for making documents or various types of media accessible. There are a number of helpful resources on making your syllabus accessible, including Tulane’s Accessible Syllabus project, CAST’s Universal Design for Learning Syllabus,  and Accessible Syllabus from University of Minnesota.  CUNY’s guide to Making Content Accessible covers PDFs, Microsoft Word docs, email, video, social media and websites. The rest of this section will focus on your OpenLab site.

The OpenLab is committed to accessibility, and WordPress and Buddypress, the software the OpenLab is built on, continue to improve accessibility.  Thus, in creating a site on the OpenLab, much of the basic web accessibility fundamentals are done for you. This includes ensuring the entire OpenLab is accessible, and that the themes, plugins, and widgets you use as building blocks for your site are accessible, or include primarily accessible options.

Themes, Plugins, and Widgets


Since all themes on the OpenLab are accessible, you won’t need to worry about the more technical elements like ensuring users can press “tab” to skip to the main content on any page, that buttons are labeled to make sense when read aloud by a screen reader or the default colors adhere to accessible contrast ratios. These are already done for you in the theme – all you need to do is choose one.


While many plugins on the OpenLab are accessible, the level of accessibility varies depending on the plugin, so you will need to check the accessibility of a plugin before you decide to use it. All plugins recommended for use on OER sites are accessible. These include:

  • Easy Table of Contents
  • Breadcrumb NavXT
  • Mammoth .docx Converter
  • TinyMCE Advanced
    • Note: This plugin can help you create accessible tables by defining the row you’re using for your header.  However, the plugin isn’t accessible on the admin side, so while it can help improve accessibility for visitors to your site, it could pose difficulties to use as site admin with a screen reader.


For the most part, widgets will be accessible if the theme is accessible. You’ll need to double check widget accessibility if you’re using a plugin with an accompanying widget. Otherwise, all default widgets, such as Text, Recent Posts, and Recent Comments, are accessible.