Improving University Websites by Integrating Functional Accessibility Testing into CMS Theme Development Processes


Scheduled at 9:15am in WB III on Wednesday, November 15 (2017).



  • Robert Fentress, Senior Accessibility Solutions Designer, Virginia Tech
  • Scott Bondurant Chandler, UX Web Developer for Enterprise Systems, Virginia Tech

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Expert
  • Type of session: General Conference


To be proactive in improving website accessibility in a distributed environment, Virginia Tech's Assistive Technologies group has designed an accessible WordPress theme and a process for integrating functional accessibility testing into the development of CMS themes generally using Gulp task runner, the Mocha test framework, and axe-webdriverjs.


Improving the accessibility of web sites and applications at a large university, where each unit often controls its own web presence, is a challenge. The few people, if any, devoted to promoting equal access to the web try to reach as many folks as possible with training, and to review websites and provide guidance on remediating them. However, it is a constant battle to keep sites that are fixed accessible as new people are brought on board, features are added, and sites are revamped.

There has been increasing emphasis in the web development community on catching problems--including accessibility problems--earlier in the workflow with frequent automated functional regression testing. Virginia Tech's Assistive Technologies group has applied these principles in developing an accessible WordPress theme based on the Sage starter theme for use by the campus community and is sharing how they did so, so that units at the university can modify the template without introducing errors.


  1. Automated functional accessibility testing prevents easy errors from being introduced into websites
  2. Accessible themes for content management systems are a lever for increasing impact
  3. Processes for functional accessibility testing of themes allow units to modify them without introducing errors

Disability Areas

Cognitive/Learning, Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Mobility, Vision

Topic Areas

Uncategorized, Web/Media Access

Speaker Bio(s)

Robert Fentress

Robert’s interest in web accessibility began in 2000, when, for a graduate school practicum at Virginia Tech, he collaborated with the university's Assistive Technologies group to develop an online tutorial on accessible web design. After graduating, he began work as an instructional designer and developer in the university's distance learning group, while continuing his involvement with accessible design by offering faculty development workshops on the topic and by serving on Virginia Tech’s Web Accessibility Committee. In 2014, he connected again with the Assistive Technologies group on campus by taking a position as their Senior Accessibility Solutions Designer. In this role, he provides individual and group training and consultations on web accessibility topics, performs accessibility reviews, and works to integrate functional accessibility and usability testing into the design and development of the university’s web sites and applications. Most recently, he co-presented at last year’s Accessing Higher Ground on a review of the Canvas learning management system that he conducted with several peers from the Access Technology Higher Education Network.

Scott Bondurant Chandler

Dr. S.B. Chandler is the UX Web Developer for Enterprise Systems in the Division of Information Technology at Virginia Tech. In addition to designing, developing, and testing user interfaces for web applications, he also teaches front-end web development, and supports the university's content management web systems. A recovering professor, Chandler taught user experience, graphic design, instructional design, and media to over 1000 Hokies. Chandler has consulted on the UX of over a hundred websites and applications. His client list includes Apple, Adobe, NASA, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Link to slides