Web Accessibility for Information Architects – Part 2

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This post is the second in a two-part series about Accessibility and Information Architecture by Deque Director of Consulting Methodology & Quality, Glenda Sims.  In Part I, Glenda provided a breakdown of what constitutes solid and weak information architecture, from and accessibility standpoint. Part I of Web Accessibility for Information Architects can be read here.  

In Part II, Glenda details the specific aspects of information architecture that have the most significant impact on website accessibility.


Design with Accessibility in Mind

Common deliverables from an information architect that can have a major impact on accessibility include:

  • Primary Audience Goals - the audience goals are likely to be the same for both people with and without disabilities. For example, the primary audience goals for a restaurants web site might be:
    • Access menu and pricing
    • Get a sense of the restaurants vibe
    • Decide if the restaurant is worth going to
    • Get address and/or phone information
    • Make a reservation
  • Persona(s) - if your organization uses personas, it can be helpful to create personas for the major types of disabilities.
  • Task Based Scenarios - create a task based scenario for each of the key audience goals.   Then conduct the following tests:
    • This task can be completed using a screen reader (no vision)
    • This task can be completed using no speakers (no sound)
    • This task can be completed using the keyboard alone (no mouse)
  • Proposed Content Outline - Meaningful labels on a web site are the product of good information architecture.  As you provide the wording for the following key elements of the site, remember to consider the usability from a screen reader perspective.
    • Page Titles - When a new page loads and the screen reader announces the, are you confident that you are on the right page?
    • Heading text and structure - If you pulled up a list of headings for the page, is the organization logical and are the headings meaningful?  Are there headings for all the main sections of the page?
    • Navigation
      • Link Text
        • Link List - If you pulled up a list of all the links on the page and put them in alphabetical order, is the link text still meaningful?
        • Consistent Labeling - Do links that go to the same place have the same link text?
        • Avoid meaningless link text - Links like "click here" or "more" are ambiguous.  Links that go to different places should have unique and meaningful link text.
        • Multiple Ways  - Providing multiple ways for users to find information on a site increase the usability of the site for all people and is also a specific WCAG 2.0 AA criteria.  People with disabilities benefit from this as well because they are able to locate content in the way that best meets their needs.  Examples of multiple ways include:
          • Site-wide search
          • Links to navigate to related web pages
          • Table of Contents
          • Site Map
  • Content Considerations - As an information architect provides labels for the site architecture, they may provide the text used for labels on form fields.  IA is also responsible for identifying any changes in the default language.  For example, if a site is primarily in English but there are a few help pages in French.
    • Form Labels - If you pulled up a list of form fields on the page, are the labels for each form field meaningful? 

Language of Parts - If a site has content in more than one language, it is important to identify the change in language.  Screen readers present content account to pronunciation rules for the specified language.  Information architects should clearly identify any changes in language so that this content can be given an appropriate language code within the html.


Further Reading

If you are interested in exploring the details, there are five success criteria in WCAG 2.0 AA that relate to information architecture.


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Caitlin is an "Accessibility Decoder" at Deque Systems. She joined the team back in 2011 and has taken on a variety of roles over the years. These days she spends her time exploring the best ways to communicate accessibility ideas and solutions to the general public.

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