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Website Accessibility Principle #3: Understandable

According to Seyfarth Shaw, a Chicago-based law firm, the first half of 2019 saw a 12% increase in ADA Title III lawsuits filed in federal court. Many experts have warned that this number will continue to rise in the coming months.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve taken a closer look at prevailing accessibility standards in a series of articles exploring the four principles of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. In our last post of this four-part series, we shared an overview of the operable principle. Today, we’re turning our attention to the third principle of the WCAG 2.0: understandable.

*It’s important to note that when we discuss those with auditory or visual disabilities throughout this series, we are not only speaking of those with the most commonly known disabilities, such as deafness and blindness. Other auditory and visual disabilities include colorblindness, and partial hearing and vision loss. Other factors that may impact one’s ability to access content on your website may include reading disabilities, a language barrier, a slow internet connection and limited access to small screens on handheld devices.

The list below is not intended to be an all-inclusive guide for website developers. Instead, it simply explores how some common website elements can be modified for greater accessibility.

Principle 3: Understandable

The basis for the Understandable Principle of WCAG 2.0 is that all, “information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.” The content and layout of each webpage should be easy to comprehend so that a user can learn and remember how to interact with a website, which constitutes a better user experience. Below are guidelines that website developers and designers should keep in mind when creating an accessible website.

Guideline 3.1: Readable

Under this guideline, webmasters should “make text content readable and understandable.”

Website visitors consume content and understand it in different ways. Regardless of the method, the meaning and context behind a website’s content must be easily digested.

Website Considerations

  1. Various types of content should be available on your site in order for users to identify the meaning and context of the content. For example, users with visual disabilities should have the option of listening to audio clips if they cannot watch a video while users with auditory disabilities should be able to view captions on videos.
  2. Avoid large areas of text with bolded or italicized text.
  3. Websites with multiple languages should have a code in place to identify the default language of the visitor so that they are presented with content that is suited for them.
  4. Abbreviations and technical terms should be accompanied by definitions so that users can understand the content and meaning of each sentence.

Guideline 3.2: Predictable

Under this guideline, developers should “make webpages appear and operate in predictable ways.”

Intuitive interfaces and consistent patterns, such as page layout and link order, allow users to easily understand website content.

Website Considerations

  1. Website navigation should be consistent on every page.
  2. The user should receive a warning if pressing a button (such as a “Submit” button on a contact form) will change the page’s current view.
  3. Repeated elements on a site, such as a contact form, should have the same look and functionality on every page.

Guideline 3.3: Input Assistance

Under this guideline, website owners should “help users avoid and correct mistakes.”

Instructions should be provided in order to reduce the number of user errors made on a website. When errors do occur, the user should be notified and provided with clear instructions on how to fix them.

Website Considerations

  1. When a user submits information into a website’s contact form and makes an error, the form should alert the user of the error. The incorrect input fields should be highlighted in a noticeable color (a different color than the main text on the page) and an error message should also appear that states “There was an error with your submission. Please fix the highlighted fields.” The user should not be able to successfully submit the form until all errors are addressed and fixed.

You can check your website’s accessibility here. Next up, we’ll dive deeper into Principle 4: Robust.

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