The Web Content Accessiblility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) outline four main principles:
- content is perceivable
- content is operable
- content is understandable
- content is robust.
While each principle is important, my main focus is creating understandable web content that is:
- easy to read, simple and clear
- free from jargon
- predictable (so each page has the same style, tone and general structure).
Understandable for all
Writing or presenting content in a simplified way, without losing meaning, is the goal.
This can be a challenge when:
- different content authors are writing for different sections of the website (inevitably, we all get close to our subject and sometimes forget who the reader is)
- each page stands alone rather than reflecting an overall template structure or style
- content needs to reflect one or more pieces of legislation
- you need to pitch content to a year 7 reading level to meet the needs of more readers, but authors aren’t willing or able to simplify to this level
- a standard style guide (or tone of voice guide) isn’t available for all writers/publishers
- content authors and publishers lack awareness of web accessibility.
You can overcome some of these challenges by:
- using simple templates to guide writers, contributors and approvers
- using H1, H2 headings and descriptive links
- using short, action-focused sentences
- leading with the most important details first
- cutting out the ‘nice to know’ in favour of the ‘need to know’
- making content scannable using dot points, callout boxes and clear calls to action
- testing your content with readers
- checking reading levels with tools like Hemingway Editor.
TIP: The Australian Government Style Manual now embeds guidance about web accessibility as yellow callout boxes on most of its pages. This way, you’re getting tips in the context of your enquiry, making web accessibility something you consider at every step of your web project.