Accessibility for Web Developers

Guideline 14

Guideline 14: Ensure that documents are clear and simple

The use of clear and simple language promotes effective communication. Trying to come across as articulate can be as difficult to read as poorly written grammar, especially if the language used isn't the visitor's primary language. Using a consistent page layout, and recognisable graphics ensures that information can be located quickly.

This guideline has 3 checkpoints, ranging in importance from Level "A" (must be addressed for the site to be accessible), to Level "AAA" (beneficial to ensure the accessibility of your site).

Important - Priority 1 Checkpoint 14.1 Use the clearest and simplest language appropriate for a site's content

This checkpoint is a priority 1 checkpoint. It must be satisfied for your site to be considered accessible. You should use the clearest and simplest language appropriate for your site's content to ensure it's accessible to people with reading and/or cognitive disabilities. Headings and link descriptions should be informative, clear, and accurate. Link phrases should be terse, and make sense when read out of context.

The topic of a section should be clearly stated at the beginning, as this helps people skim read. If the main point is in the middle of a paragraph, or the final paragraph of a large section, visitors will need to read a lot of content before finding what they are after.

Each paragraph should contain one idea, clearly stated at the start of the paragraph. Avoid using complex sentence structures, slang, and jargon. Try and choose words that are commonly used. Avoid redundant words, and ensure that any instructions are clear and easy to follow.

Bad Example

One must endeavour to ensure simplicity is stringently upheld in order to facilitate comprehension.

Better Example

Keep it simple!

The Gunning-Fog index is one of many tests that can help determine how readable your content is. The following shows how to determine your Gunning-Fog index.

  • Pick a sample containing at least 100 words.
  • Calculate the average number of words you use per sentence.
  • Calculate the percentage of difficult words in the sample (words with three or more syllables, excluding proper names, and verbs).
  • Add the totals together, and multiply the sum by 0.4.

The result is your Gunning-Fog index, which is a rough measure of how many years of schooling it would take someone to understand the content. The lower the number, the more understandable the content will be to your visitors. If your index is higher than 12, the chances are you will start to lose some of your audience in the fog.

You can test your content online through the readability test at Juicy Studio.

14.2 Supplement text with graphic or auditory presentations where they will facilitate comprehension of the page

This is a priority 3 checkpoint, which will be beneficial for the accessibility of your site. Images, sounds, and text can compliment each other, and ensure you have as wide an audience as possible. A picture paints a thousand words, and sound saves having to read them.

Images, animations, and movies will be well received by visitors who prefer visual content. For example, sighted deaf visitors may benefit from a sign-language movie. Music, spoken words, and sound effects will be well received by visitors who prefer audio content. Keep in mind that assistive technologies are able to produce synthesised speech and Braille from text or text equivalents. If you do use graphic and auditory presentations, they should be in keeping with the site, and not obtrusive.

14.3 Create a style of presentation that is consistent across pages

This is a priority 3 checkpoint, which will be beneficial for the accessibility of your site. Unless you have a consistent style across your site, visitors can become disorientated going from page to page. The main navigation should be located at the same position on each page. If you use sub-navigation systems, they should also be located at the same place on each page. Colours and text styles can provide important visual clues. You should use colours and style consistently, particularly with headings. CSS is excellent for ensuring you have a consistent style across the whole site.

Further Reading

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About the author

Gez Lemon United Kingdom

I'm available for contract work. Please visit Juicify for details.

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