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Web Accessibility Guidelines for Layouts

A new AODA requirement for Ontario websites will come into force on January 1st, 2021. Under the Information and Communications Standards, organizations must make their websites and web-based apps accessible. Organizations  must do so by making their websites compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA. This international standard gives web developers guidelines on how to make their webpages accessible to computer users with disabilities. Some of these guidelines outline how to design web layouts that are accessible to a variety of users. Here we will describe a few web accessibility guidelines for layouts.

Web Accessibility Guidelines for Layouts

Web designers must develop content that users can experience in different ways. For instance, some users may need to simplify the layout of a webpage. However, designers must ensure that these different presentation formats provide users the same information and structure.

Reading Order

All websites must have titles that identify their topic or explain their purpose. Likewise, any headings or labels on a webpage must describe purpose or topic. Similarly, the text and context of links must clearly identify their purpose or where they will lead.

Moreover, some websites present information to users in a certain reading order. Designers must ensure that assistive technologies, such as screen readers or magnification programs, present the correct reading order.

Sites with Multiple Webpages

Many sites with multiple web pages include content that appears on every page. Designers must ensure that this content always appears in the same order, unless the user chooses to change this order. In addition, designers must clearly display elements that have the same functions in the same way. Moreover, designers must provide a way for users to bypass this content and focus directly on the main information on each page. In addition, designers must provide multiple ways for users to find different pages. However, if a page is one step in a multi-step process, users do not need multiple ways to find it.

Advanced Requirements

The WCAG webpage provides the full list of requirements, as well as technical guidance on how to implement them. The AODA only requires websites to follow guidelines in version 2.0, level AA. However, the WCAG webpage provides more guidelines at level AAA. In addition, the page also includes new guidelines added in Version 2.1. For example, some additional guidelines for making web layouts accessible are:

  • Allowing users to choose between portrait or landscape layouts
  • Identifying the purposes of elements, such as:
    • input fields
    • user interface components
    • icons
    • regions
  • Alerting users to their location within a site that has multiple pages
  • Identifying the purpose of links within their text
  • Section headings for all written content

While websites do not need to follow these guidelines, they can choose to follow them as a best practice. Websites that follow more guidelines have the chance to welcome more visitors and do more online business.