The purpose of all components must be clear and machine-readable.

Introduction

Users often set personal preferences in their browser or assistive technology to help them understand websites. By ensuring components are understandable by these technologies, users can experience websites in the way that best suits their needs.

Users with cognitive impairments (such as problems with memory, focus, language and decision-making) benefit from this approach. For example, they may set their browser to display a familiar icon for a navigation link or replace your chosen icon for one component with an icon they understand.

How to Pass

  • Use ARIA landmarks to define regions of each page
  • Use HTML markup to identify links, icons and user interface components

See Also

Understanding Success Criterion 1.3.6 (W3C)

The purpose of input fields must be clear and machine-readable.

Introduction

All users, but particularly those with cognitive impairments, benefit from clearly-labelled input fields. These help users understand what to enter, in what format and how the data will be used.

Users may rely on a programmatic way of detecting an input field’s purpose and entering responses. Those with motor impairments benefit from autocomplete on forms reducing the need for fine motor movement.

How to Pass

Use autocomplete values to:

  • Allow the user’s browser to prefill fields where it already has the data
  • Help assistive technology understand the purpose of the field

See Also

Understanding Success Criterion 1.3.5 (W3C)

Your website adapts to portrait and landscape views without losing meaning or function.

Introduction

Some users have a fixed orientation and need content to adapt to their device. Others have visual impairments and may find one orientation easier to use.

Most websites pass this guideline without reference to accessibility as they are responsive and adapt to the user’s viewport.

How to Pass

  • All content retains meaning when switching orientation
  • All content retains function when switching orientation 

Exceptions

When a single orientation is essential, for example:

  • A landscape image that would be too small to see in portrait mode
  • Content primarily designed for use by a different medium such as slides
  • Where the width or height of one orientation is necessary for its function 

See Also

Understanding Succession Criterion 1.3.3 (W3C)

Use more than one sense for instructions.

Introduction

“Sensory characteristics” is an important but complicated-sounding phrase in web accessibility. It’s actually far less complicated than it sounds. The sensory characteristics of your website are things like shapes, sounds, positioning and size.

You’ll often come across sensory characteristics in instructions to users. Saying things like ‘Use the search bar on the right’ isn’t helpful to a user who doesn’t understand what ‘right’ is. The solution is to use more than one indicator for instructions.

How to Pass

Getting sensory characteristics right is mainly a case of using your common sense. There are no technical requirements, just good and sensible copywriting:

  • Use more than one sense for instructions
  • Avoid instructions that rely on sound

Tips

Creating accessible instructions is great for everyone. The clearer your instructions are, the more likely users will follow them.

Good instruction will use several sensory characteristics. Consider the accessibility of these examples:

  1. ‘Use the search box’
  2. ‘Use the search box on the right’
  3. ‘Search by using the green rectangular box labelled ‘Search’ at the top right of the page’

The first two won’t pass, they don’t give users enough sensory information. The third uses colour, shape, labelling and positioning to help the user.

We often have an aversion to adding words, feeling that they can confuse users. In this case, the opposite is true. When you need instructions, make them count.

Avoid sound for instructions. It’s always hard to tell what the sound means and what a user did to make it happen. A prime example is if you use sounds to alert users to errors on a form. The user can’t tell exactly what made the error, they can’t even be sure the sound indicated an error. Use visual cues instead such as colour and symbols.

By making sure you don’t rely solely on colour in your instructions, you can work towards Guideline 1.4.1.

See Also

Present content in a meaningful order.

Introduction

The meaning of content on your website relies on the order you present it. For example, in English we read from left to right and read a left-hand column before a right-hand column.

Users who rely on assistive technology (such as a screen reader) to interpret content, require content to be presented in a meaningful order. If this is presented out of sequence, users may become disorientated and will not understand the content.

How to Pass

Ensuring you present your content in a meaningful sequence is a wide-ranging part of web accessibility. It applies to all elements of all pages, so is as big or as small a task as your website.

Make sure you:

  • Present all content in a meaningful order
  • Separate navigation menus from the content
  • Use paragraphs in order
  • Nest headings from H1 downwards to show their relative importance
  • Choose whether a list needs numbering or not
  • Use valid HTML

Tips

Invest in some assistive technology and use it to browse your website.

Turn off the site’s Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) and check that your web page displays in the correct order.

Using headings to show importance isn’t always straightforward. Headings on a web page are a great way to break up content and show your users the relative importance of each section. Headings in HTML range from 1 (the most important) to 6 (the least important). It’s best to have just one Heading1 (H1) on a web page, to show the title of that page.

However, headings don’t need to descend from 1 to 6 each time you use one. As well as headings that share levels, you can skip levels altogether if that fits your content.

See Also

Provide users with content that has clear structure and relationships.

All users benefit when your website structure is logical and each section of content has a clear relationship with the content around it. Visual cues like headings, bullet points, line breaks, tables, bolding, underlining links and other formatting choices help users understand the content.

Assistive technology often relies on correct formatting and logical structures to work. When a user experiences the site through a screen reader, other assistive technology or without CSS they should still understand the content.

How to Pass

Complying with the need for good structure and formatting is a wide-ranging target. Half-measures don’t work, so you can’t use subheadings properly and then throw random bullet points all over the place.

Amongst other things, you must:

  • Break up content with subheadings for new sections
  • Mark headings with HTML header tags
  • Use lists, tables and other formats where needed
  • Use the correct HTML for all structural elements
  • Use valid HTML everywhere
  • Use clear labels and alternative text on forms

Tips

Ensuring that your web pages have an accessible structure is at once a simple and complex task. The level of difficulty depends on the complexity of your website; a page with several levels of headings will take more work than a single-topic blog post.

An efficient way to check your markup is to use an HTML validator. This will tell you if the web page structure has any HTML errors – these errors won’t always equate to accessibility flaws but the cleaner your code the better. Errors like improperly closed paragraph tags are easily remedied.

After using the validator, check pages manually for correctly nested headings and other more visible page elements. Manually check that any forms you use are labelled clearly too, simple things like required field asterisks that lack explanation can cause big problems.

See Also