Open Source CMS: the Centre for Inclusive Technology evaluated accessibility

The Centre for Inclusive Technology looked at some Open Source CMS in order to assess which would be most suitable from an accessibility point of view. Read the article edited by Josuha O’Connor, Senior Accessibility Consultant CFIT, screen test were executed by Paul Traynor, Expert Screen Reader Evaluation.



In order to give these tests a real world flavour and to ensure they were ecologically valid, we consciously did not use any particular testing method or script in order to access how intuitive these systems are out of the box.

For the tests we looked at:

  • Jadu
  • Mambo
  • Joomla
  • Quick and Easy
  • Expression Engine
  • Plone
  • Drupal
  • Textpattern
  • Xoops
  • Typo3


Our feedback derives from user testing and observation of a screen reader user performing the following basic tasks, as well as the same tasks being performed by a user with no Assistive Technology/Special User Agent requirements and with an average computer skill level.

The tasks included:

  • Uploading content and, where possible, editing and formatting content (using a WYSIWYG editor).
  • Creating new pages (Category/Section headings and sub categories/headings).
  • Basic administration of user groups and permissions.

Some excerpts from the results:


Visually, the graphic style of the Mambo interface was pleasant to work with and the style of the Windows operating systems graphics would no doubt be appealing to many users and would not be too much of a departure from what they are used to, so this could be an advantage.[..]

Some problems encountered were:

  1. Some links reading On Mouse Over could not be activated by pressing the Enter key.
  2. Various items had checkboxes, etc. that weren’t very intuitive. The labels didn’t convey their purpose effectively to the screen reader user.
  3. Radio buttons read well but their labelling could be improved. They often were not understandable as to what purpose they served.

If these problems could be addressed, we would recommend Joomla.


From a usability perspective our first impression of Plone was that it is not that intuitive. This is primarily down to the labels and page types but this could be improved, as Plone is highly customisable. It is very feature rich out of the box and this may be why it feels rather unwieldy and a little intimidating.[..]

The negative points are:

  1. Overall lack of consistency between what elements are visible when in forms mode/virtual PC mode.
  2. The naming conventions for items used in the interface are a little unintuitive. Use of terms like Smart Folder wasn’t great, and we had no idea what a Smart Folder does. However, reading the manual would no doubt shed some light on this, which as previously stated, we have not done for this test in order to assess the CMS‘s level of instant usability.

Overall, Plone was a good CMS and highly customisable and extendable. We would recommend it.


In terms of the interface out of the box, Drupal takes the opposite approach to Plone. The interface is simple uncluttered and clean.[..] It could however be improved. For example the labelling of checkboxes in the blog administration page is not very good. There are checkboxes that allow the administrator to set permissions for anonymous and authenticated users that are also not labelled very well. This makes it difficult for a screen reader user to administer the site well as they cannot associate each checkbox with its relevant command.

However, these are our first impressions and we feel that Drupal is one of the best that we have come across and would recommend it with some customisation.

Read the full article.

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