Apply accessibility principles

User needs are at the heart of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). When you take user needs into account, applying accessibility principles becomes simpler, though not necessarily easier.

Use WCAG principles to meet user needs

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.2 guidelines can be expressed as user needs. These needs feature throughout the Style Manual. The following lists group user needs (guidelines) under WCAG principles.

Principle: content is perceivable

Any user can perceive the content.

User needs:

Principle: content is operable

Any user can operate the navigation and interface.

User needs:

Principle: content is understandable

Any user can understand the information and the interface.

User needs:

  • I can read and understand text, even if the content includes unusual words and shortened forms,or features languages other than English. (Guideline: readable)
  • I can predict the webpage’s appearance and how I will operate the content. (Guideline: predictable)
  • I can avoid making any mistakes with my inputs, and correct any that I might make. (Guideline: input assistance)

Principle: content is robust

Assistive technologies can interpret the content.

User need: I have confidence the markup language supports my use of software and assistive technology to access the content. (Guideline: compatible)

Follow Style Manual guidance on accessibility requirements

Look for accessibility requirements as you check guidance for different topics.

Callout boxes in the Style Manual relate user needs to fundamental actions you can take to ensure content is accessible by design.

Callouts also include references to WCAG criteria that link to technical details (level A, level AA and level AAA success criteria).

The Style Manual also includes links to other external resources about accessibility. 

Release notes

The digital edition recognises accessibility as an integral aspect of government content.

The sixth edition mentioned the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) but did not go into detail about how to implement accessibility in relation to writing and editing.

Content Guide had an overview on accessibility that referred to specific success criteria in WCAG.

About this page


ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) (2020) Accessibility statement, ABC website, accessed 4 December 2020. 

Australian Inclusive Publishing Initiative (2019) Inclusive publishing in Australia: an introductory guide, AIPI website, accessed 5 November 2020.

Australian Taxation Office (2020) Digital inclusion guide, ATO website, accessed 25 November 2020. 

Interaction Design Foundation (n.d.) Usability, IDF website, accessed 5 November 2020.

Microsoft (2016) Inclusive design, Microsoft website, accessed 12 November 2020.

Standards Australia, Accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services, AS EN 301 549:2016.

Stephanidis C (n.d.) ‘Design for all’, in The encyclopedia of human-computer interaction (2nd edn) [online], Interaction Design Foundation website, accessed 5 November 2020.

Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) (2020) Making content usable for people with cognitive and learning disabilities [working draft], W3C website, accessed 27 August 2020.

W3C (2018) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, W3C website, accessed 1 November 2020.

W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) (2020) Accessibility fundamentals, W3C website, accessed 5 November 2020.

W3C WAI (2017), ‘Diverse abilities and barriers’, Accessibility fundamentals, W3C website, accessed 23 November 2020.

W3C WAI (2019), W3C accessibility standards overview, W3C website, accessed 23 November 2020.

W3C WAI (2020), What’s new in WCAG 2.2 [working draft], W3C website, accessed 26 November 2020.

W3C WAI (2015) ‘Writing for web accessibility’, Tips for getting started, W3C website, accessed 5 November 2020.

This page was updated Friday 15 December 2023.