Adaptable content. WCAG 2.0 for content authors

Guideline 1.3: Adaptable content
Content writer hat.

Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.

1.3.1 Info and Relationships: Information, structure, and relationships conveyed through presentation can be programmatically determined or are available in text. (Level A)

1.3.2 Meaningful Sequence: When the sequence in which content is presented affects its meaning, a correct reading sequence can be programmatically determined. (Level A)

1.3.3 Sensory Characteristics: Instructions provided for understanding and operating content do not rely solely on sensory characteristics of components such as shape, size, visual location, orientation, or sound. (Level A)

These accessibility guidelines have three straightforward implications that affect content authors.

1. The content you produce must be built correctly. For you, that includes labelling key items correctly.

If you use a content management system, put a headline in the headline field, put a summary in the summary field, and so on.

If you create content in Word before uploading it to a web site, use Styles to mark headlines as headlines, body text as body text, summary as a summary, and so on. Don't use big bold text to identify the parts of your document. Use Styles. And if you don't know how to use Styles in Word (or in a WYSIWIG or other word processor), please find out now. So much depends on this.

If you leave some fields empty or put something inappropriate there, your content is not adaptable. It'll only work for sure on a piece of paper.

Juggling pieces of content
2. Make sure every block of text makes sense in isolation if read from start to end.

Think of a web page as a series of blocks of text. The blocks may be short or quite long, and they are likely to move around. On your computer screen, they're in a certain order that makes sense to you. But elsewhere the order may be different—for example, in hidden code, or on a different computer screen, or when parts of the page are recycled on other web pages.

Here's what you must do, and it's quite simple.

Make sure every block of text makes sense on its own. This has many useful results, quite apart from complying with WCAG 2.0 accessibility guidelines.

  • Your content survives recycling and reordering.
  • Blocks of content are reusable.
  • Your content makes sense (we hope) when people listen to it.

Howling dog.
3. Give cues in words as well as colour, sound, shape etc.

You may imagine that you can tell people to do something on the computer (e.g. clicking a button) just with a musical chime or by colouring the button green.

Sorry, but you always need to tell them in words as well.

  • Some people are colour blind.
  • Some are blind.
  • Some are tone deaf.
  • Some are deaf.

Your non-verbal instructions will work for some people, but they need to work for everyone. Luckily the solution is simple: use words as well.


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