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How to make your written content more accessible

18 October 2019

We've pulled-together a few pointers to help you work towards accessibility Level AAA for the written content on your website.

A great deal of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines' recommendations for meeting Level AAA are to do with your content. (Specifically, the third principle of POUR – making content 'Understandable'.)

There’s only so much that we, as designers and developers, can do to help make your content understandable. It's mostly going to be down to you!

These practical rules of thumb should help you and your team to write accessible web copy:


Unusual Words

Level AAA Technical Standard 3.1.3

"A mechanism is available for identifying specific definitions of words or phrases used in an unusual or restricted way, including idioms and jargon."

Everyday rule

Add a glossary page or section explaining any words which people may not understand, if they're unfamiliar with the arts. What is an "on-sale”? What is the “box office”?

Example of good practice

Tate Modern's 'art terms' section.


Abbreviations

Level AAA Technical Standard 3.1.4

"A mechanism for identifying the expanded form or meaning of abbreviations is available."

Everyday rule

Define each abbreviation the first time you use it in a section or on a page. For example, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO).

Example of good practice

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).


Reading Level

Level AAA Technical Standard 3.1.5

"When text requires reading ability more advanced than the lower secondary education level after removal of proper names and titles, supplemental content, or a version that does not require reading ability more advanced than the lower secondary education level, is available."

(Funnily enough, WCAG's technical standards are not worded in an accessible way …)

Everyday rule

Write in a straightforward, clear way. Use simple words as much as you can. Instead of the performance commencing at 19:00, can the show start at 7pm?

Free online tools such as Hemingway App are great for testing out your written content's 'reading age'. Give it a try – you may be surprised by the results.

Having said this …

It's not essential for all content on a page to be written 'simply'. Just make sure there's somewhere that people can find your key points, or a summary of important information. (For example, things like 'General information' boxes which list show times, ticket prices, age guidance etc.)

Example of good practice

Royal Shakespeare Company's style guide.


Keen to do more?

You may also be interested in our Access Resources. It's a handy collection of written tips, and links to useful tools, for improving the accessibility of your website.

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