Content management systems and accessibility

A common reason for sites being inaccessible is the general ignorance among CMS developers. Very few seem to actually understand what accessibility (or web standards, for that matter) is. Because of that ignorance, which seems to be particularly widespread among enterprise-level CMS vendors, most CMSs have an inaccessible admin interface that is used to publish inaccessible websites.

In my dayjob as a front-end developer I always make sure that whatever CMS we use will at least allow the published content to be accessible and standards compliant. But the admin interface used to publish content is a different matter. We rarely even touch that, for several reasons:

  • Understanding the mish-mash of nested tables, 20th century HTML, and JavaScript dependencies that most CMS admin interfaces consist of is near impossible.
  • Messing around with the admin interface is asking for trouble when it's time to upgrade the CMS.
  • It isn't really our job, unless a CMS vendor pays us to do what they should have done from the beginning (ever heard of Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines?).

So, are there any options if you want a CMS that has an accessible admin interface? Perhaps. A good start might be to read Choosing an Accessible CMS at Juicy Studio. In the article, several free open source CMSs are evaluated in order to determine which is the most accessible. Several seem to be usable, including Plone, Drupal, and Quick and Easy.

When it comes to commercial alternatives, I am not aware of any CMS whose admin interface even comes close to being accessible. But obviously I haven't used them all (which I doubt any single person has).

If you happen to know of any accessible commercial options, please speak up. Same thing if you know of open source alternatives that are even better than the ones evaluated in Choosing an Accessible CMS.

Posted on June 5, 2007 in Content Management, Accessibility