Define words where meaning is ambiguous without pronunciation. 


You can help your users by paying attention to words where the meaning isn’t clear unless the word is pronounced (or spoken). Words like these can make it hard for your users to understand your content, especially if they use a screen reader (which could pronounce words incorrectly) or have limited reading comprehension.

This covers words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently (for example, ‘bow’ v ‘bow’) – also known as heteronyms.

How to Pass ‘Pronunciation’

  • Avoid using words where the meaning, in context, is ambiguous.
  • If you need to use such a word, you can explain the meaning to your users by:
    • Providing a phonetic guide immediately after the word; or
    • Linking the word to a phonetic guide.

‘Pronunciation’ Exceptions

If the word is clear from the context of the sentence (for example “Robin Hood used a bow and arrow”).

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‘Reading Level’ requires that users with nine years of schooling can read your content.


All of your users need to be able to read your content. That means you need to write with a range of people in mind, from a College Professor to someone straight out of school.

The key is to write as simply as you can, in clear and plain language, as this will help users with reading and comprehension difficulties. 

The generally agreed level to aim for is someone with nine years of schooling, starting from primary education. 

How to Pass ‘Reading Level’

  • Write content that a person with 7-9 years of schooling can understand by:
    • Writing the content so someone with no more than nine years of school can understand you (that’s nine years from their first day at school, so no college or further education).
    • Adding summaries, images and diagrams to content to help explain meaning.
    • Breaking up content with well-organised sections and headings.
  • Provide a link to supplemental content that further explains complex content.


  • You can never write something that every human on the planet will understand.
  • Short sentences are easiest to understand.
  • Stick to one topic per paragraph and one thought per sentence.
  • Avoid slang, jargon and idioms.
  • Use common words.
  • Write how people speak.
  • Use bullet points.
  • Use active, not passive, language (for example, ‘The words were written by Luke’ is passive, but ‘Luke wrote the words’ is active).

‘Reading Level’ Exceptions

You don’t need to worry about using correct names, even if they are complicated or hard to read. Names of things like people, films, books and companies all might be hard to read, but they are beyond your control.

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Define any abbreviations.


Using abbreviations can cause confusion and prevent some of your users from understanding your website. Users with limited memory, cognitive impairments or a reliance on screen magnifier may struggle with shortened words and phrases. 

Avoid using abbreviations where you can and explain them when you need to use them.

Abbreviations (like Dr for Doctor) also include acronyms (NATO) and initialisms (FBI).

How to Pass ‘Abbreviations’

  • Avoid using abbreviations, acronyms and initialisms.
  • If you need to use an abbreviation, you can explain the meaning to your users by:
    • Showing the meaning in the text (for example, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)); or
    • Linking to a definition on a glossary page on your website; or
    • Linking to a definition footnote on the same page; or
    • Using the “abbr” HTML tag.


  • The tidiest solution when you need to abbreviate is the HTML option, which creates a hidden expansion that appears on hover and is understood by screen readers.
  • If your use of an abbreviation always means the same thing, you only have to define it the first time it appears on a page.
  • If your use changes you must define the word on every occasion (for example ‘Dr’ might mean ‘Doctor’ in one paragraph and ‘Drive’ as part of an address in another).
  • Think of creative ways to avoid abbreviations. For example, rather than “FBI” you could use “Federal Bureau of Investigation” once then “the Bureau” afterwards).

‘Abbreviations’ Exceptions

You don’t need to explain an abbreviation, acronym or initialism if it’s part of the language (for example, “laser” or “CD”).

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Define any unusual words or phrases.


Some of your users will find it hard to read unusual uses of words on your website. Things like figurative language, idioms and jargon can be difficult to process. Users who read your content zoomed in may struggle with unusual words if they can’t see the context around them.

Avoid using unusual words where you can and explain the use of words when you need to use them.

How to Pass ‘Unusual Words’

  • Avoid using technical, figurative or idiomatic words and phrases.
  • If you need to use an unusual word or phrase, you can explain the meaning to your users by:
    • Showing the meaning in the text (for example, ‘I like bass. A bass is a fish.’); or
    • Showing the meaning in brackets (for example, ‘I like bass (a type of fish)’; or
    • Linking the word to a definition on a glossary page on your website; or
    • Linking the word to a definition footnote on the same page.

‘Unusual Words’ Tips

  • If your use of an unusual word always means the same thing, you only have to define it the first time.
  • If your use of an unusual word changes, you must define the word on every occasion (for example, a bass might be a type of fish in one paragraph and a musical instrument in another).
  • Always define technical terms and jargon that any user might not understand depending on their familiarity with the subject.
  • Wherever possible, avoid using jargon and idioms. These are bad for novices in your industry and users who don’t natively speak your language.

See Also

‘Section Headings’ requires you to organise content with headings.


Adding section headings to all content will help your users understand your website. They are most helpful for users who have difficulty focusing or remembering where they are on a page, as well as users with a visual impairment who may navigate by skipping between headings.

You can help these users, and everyone else, by ensuring that all content on your website is broken up by clear and informative headings.

How to Pass ‘Section Headings’

Add a heading for every new thought or topic in your content (for example, a travel article may have headings to indicate the distinct sections on dining, transportation, and lodging).


A webpage can be single block of content with only one header if it is about one thought or topic.

‘Section Headings’ Tips

A section is a self-contained portion of written content that deals with one or more related topics or thoughts.

A section may consist of one or more paragraphs and include graphics, tables, lists and sub-sections.

Beware of making your content harder to read by forcing in too many headings.

Certain content may not be able to meet this guideline, for example if your website publishes unabridged historical documents that don’t use headings.

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‘Link Purpose (Link Only)’ requires that every link’s destination is clear from its text.


It’s essential that you make your links clear and easy to understand.

That’s because users with assistive technology, like a screen reader, often hear all the links on a page to help them find where they want to go. Others may view your website highly magnified or tab through links, so the user will only see the link text and a few words around it at any one time.

To help your users, your link text (the words that are linked, often called ‘anchor text’) must make the link destination clear.

How to Pass ‘Link Purpose (Link Only)’

Make sure that for each link on your website:

  • The destination of the link is clear from the link text (for example, ‘My blog’); or
  • If the link is an image, the alt text of the image makes the link destination clear (for example, ‘Luke McGrath – Visit my blog’); and
  • Links with the same destination have the same description (but links don’t share a description if they point to different places).


You don’t need to make the link purpose clear if it’s ambiguous to all your users. 

For example, if I link the word ‘blog’ in the phrase ‘I have a personal blog’ the link might go to my blog, or it might go to a Wikipedia page explaining what a blog is. No user would reliably know where the link goes before they follow the link.

Of course, it’s best to avoid ambiguous links as users should always know where they are going. Although, there are times when you might want to spring a fun surprise on everyone.

‘Link Purpose (Link Only)’ Tips

You may have passed this if you didn’t really on link context for Link Purpose (In Context).

Where you link to another page on your website, it’s good practice to use the page title you set in Page Titled as the link text.

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‘Location’ requires you to let users know where they are on your website.

Some of your users will have problems understanding the structure of your website. They can get lost, especially during interactions like checkouts that take place over a few pages.

You can help your users by making it clear where they are on your website.

How to Pass ‘Location’

  • Use breadcrumbs to help with navigation. Show the sequence a user is following and where they are in that sequence. For examplem, You are here: Home > Fish > Bass; and
  • Add a sitemap page to your website (see Multiple Ways) so your users have another way of finding what they want. Add a link to the sitemap somewhere prominent like the header.

‘Location’ Tips

Use full page titles for breadcrumbs when they are 1-3 words long.

Abbreviate longer titles to make them easier to read (for example, ‘A Guide to Exotic Fish’ could just as well be ‘Exotic Fish’ for the purpose of a breadcrumb).

For a process that takes a few pages (like a shopping cart), show all the steps in the process and highlight where the user is.

If a page has a too many breadcrumbs, perhaps your website could be better organised.

Use your page titles in your sitemap, organised under subheadings.

See Also

No content flashes more than three times per second.


Flashing content on a website can cause difficulties for users with photosensitive seizure disorders such as epilepsy. Flashing content can cause these users to suffer a seizure.

How to Pass ‘Three Flashes’

Don’t add anything to your website that flashes more than three times per second.

‘Three Flashes’ Tips

Remember, flashing is different to blinking. Blinking can distract users but doesn’t cause seizures. 

If blinking content occurs three times per second, it is considered flashing content.

This removes the exception from Level A.

See Also

Save user data when re-authenticating.


It may be essential for users to re-authenticate their identity for certain functions. For example, you might set a login to expire after a certain amount of time in case a user leaves their computer unattended.

Some users need longer than others to complete tasks on a website. You can help these users by saving the information they enter and when they re-authenticate (such as logging back in), displaying the same data.

How to Pass ‘Re-authenticating’

When you ask a user to re-authenticate their identity, ensure the user can continue exactly as before with saved data (for example, their shopping basket contents, input into forms or accessibility options).

‘Re-authenticating’ Tips

Ensure surveys and questionnaires can be saved part-completed and finished later.

If you ask your users to re-authenticate after a certain amount of time, consider whether your use of a time limit is justified under Timing Adjustable and No Timing. If the limit is for security reasons, such as protecting user data, this will pass both guidelines.

See Also

‘Interuptions’ requires that users can postpone or suppress non-emergency interruptions.


Users with cognitive impairments may have difficulty maintaining their focus and attention. Interrupting their experience can impact their understanding of your content. Those with visual impairments who use a screen reader may struggle if content changes while they are consuming it.

Ideally, avoid these issues by eliminating all non-emergency interruptions.

How to Pass ‘Interruptions’

  • Don’t interrupt users, other than for emergencies
  • If you really want to interrupt users:
    • provide an option for turning off all but emergency interruptions (for example, by a ‘preferences’ or ‘accessibility’ page where choices persist for the user’s session);
    • allow users to postpone all updates and interruptions; or
    • allow users to request updates rather than receive them automatically.
  • Don’t use an automatic redirect or refresh function based on a time delay (for example, if a webpage has moved, do not redirect users to the new page after a certain amount of time).


Emergencies include civil emergency alert messages and messages that warn of danger to health, safety, or property – including data loss or loss of connection.

‘Interruptions’ Tips

The best thing you can do is eliminate all interruptions. 

If you must use a pop-up, make sure keyboard focus is on the window-closing ‘X’ icon in the corner that closes the pop-up. When a user closes a pop-up, return keyboard focus to the place on the page they were at before the pop-up appeared.

There is an overlap with 2.2.1 – Timing Adjustable, which allows for a warning to interrupt a user to tell them that a time limit is approaching as that would count as a loss of connection.

See Also