Accessibility on the Commons

Leaf by Sam Cox (Flickr, CC)

The CUNY Academic Commons is built using the WordPress web framework, which adheres to WCAG 2.0 standards. WordPress uses modern HTML-5 tags and automatically adds the various “role” and “aria-” tags that help screen readers parse content. There are hundreds of “aria-” tags that are used to set up “landmarks”, form and button “states”, “properties”, “regions” and “drag and drop” functionality that modern WordPress themes automatically add. 

The themes available on the Commons, which can be activated on individual sites, are also built to be accessible and responsive. The Commons Development Team integrates accessibility checks into its design and development processes, and routinely decommissions outdated themes to make sure that available themes adhere to the most recent accessibility guidelines.  

This does not mean all content hosted on the Commons is fully accessible. Commons members may unintentionally upload inaccessible content to their sites and groups. Each member bears the responsibility for ensuring that the content they post on the Commons is accessible. This includes images, PDFs, audio and video files, Word Documents, and other forms of media.

Tools for Verifying Accessibility

While building out a site on the Commons, site administrators should use WAVE, the Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool, to check that their site meets accessibility standards. Instructions for how to use it can be found on the Commons Help page “Evaluating Site Accessibility.” Additionally, users can refer to the Commons Help page “Making Your Course Accessible.”  

All site administrators can also utilize the Editoria11y plugin from Princeton’s web team, which is active on every newly-created site. Editoria11y, or editorial ally, is a user-friendly tool that provides instant feedback on the accessibility and readability of web pages and posts (think of it as a “spellchecker for accessibility”).

For course sites, the Commons automatically activates an accessibility plugin (WP Accessibility) that provides accessibility options such as increasing contrast and text size. In addition, there is an optional plugin (Alt Checker) that searches sites for missing “alt” tags. (The “alt” tag should be used to describe images used on a page.)

Users might also install the Chrome an extension called ChromeVox, which simulates what a person with limited vision will hear when accessing one of your pages.

Please email us at with any concerns or questions about accessibility on the CUNY Academic Commons.

Further Documentation

Head over to the CUNY Academic Commons help site for more information about accessibility practices and how to utilize them on our platform: