WCAG 2.0 Principles: Understandable

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Understandability – Can Users Comprehend the Content?

The third pillar of the WCAG 2.0 Accessibility Guidelines is “understandability.” The idea that all users should be able to comprehend the content of a website and be able to navigate its interface is the simplest of the four guidelines to grasp, but it’s not the easiest to execute. At its heart, “understandability” is a non-technical issue, which means that the skills required to implement successfully understandability do not rely on knowledge of programming or coding, but it is still crucial to achieving accessibility.

A good web developer always designs with a specific audience in mind, focusing on their background, culture, familiarity with the subject and so forth. It is always better to err on the side of caution and use simple language whenever possible; explain any terms or concepts that may not be clear to the user. Alternate forms of representing information such as videos, illustrations, and audio clips are particularly helpful to individuals with some form of cognitive or reading disability.

Users should also be able to navigate their way around a web page. To start, a website should provide consistent navigation on each page; links should be in the same position and have the same color. The site also should have clear instructions and offer guidance if requested by the user. Many web pages are static, the most basic type of website and the easiest to create without requiring web programming or database design. On the other hand, dynamic web pages offer many more features for both developers and users. Developers can easily update and add new content, and in many instances users input information, confirm that information, and make decisions on dynamic web pages.

The best example of this is booking plane tickets online; users are required to input their starting location and destination, they must select the dates they wish to travel, and decide on a flight that meets their needs. Since dynamic changes can distract persons with cognitive disabilities or cause keyboard focus to be lost for keyboard and screen reader users, a mechanism must be able to stop these changes.

The bottom line is that understandability is just as crucial to accessibility as the scripting of the web page.

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