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) 2.1 guidelines can be expressed as user needs. These needs feature throughout Style Manual. The following lists group user needs (guidelines) under WCAG principles.
Principle: content is perceivable
Any user can perceive the content.
- I can understand any information contained in an image. (Guideline: text alternatives)
- I can access equivalent information to anything contained in a video or audio file. (Guideline: time-based media)
- I can change the content’s presentation without losing information or structure. (Guideline: adaptable)
- I can easily control how I see and hear distinctions if colour or sound convey meaning. (Guideline: distinguishable)
Principle: content is operable
Any user can operate the navigation and interface.
- I can operate the content using only a keyboard. (Guideline: keyboard accessible)
- I can control any features that involve timing so I have enough time to read and use the content. (Guideline: enough time)
- I can use the content without experiencing a seizure or physical reaction. (Guideline: seizures and physical reactions)
- I can find and navigate the content and determine where I am on the webpage. (Guideline: navigable)
- I can operate the webpage with something other than a keyboard, like a pointer. (Guideline: input modalities)
Principle: content is understandable
Any user can understand the information and the interface.
- 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 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).
Style Manual also includes links to other external resources about accessibility.
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
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W3C WAI (2020), What’s new in WCAG 2.2 [working draft], W3C website, accessed 26 November 2020.
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This page was updated Monday 6 September 2021.