Web Accessibility for Information Architects – Part I

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This post is the first in a two-part series about Accessibility and Information Architecture by Deque Director of Consulting Methodology & Quality, Glenda Sims. Part II will be published on February 27th.

Information architecture (IA) is the blueprint for web design. The purpose of information architecture is to analyze, organize, and label information on websites so that real people (not involved with the design and development of the site) can actually find what they need. So what does IA have to do with accessibility? Let's listen to what users say about sites built on purposeful information architecture versus weak information architecture:

Solid information architecture:

  • Well organized
  • Good navigation
  • Intuitive
  • Logical
  • Easy to find what I'm looking for and complete my task

Weak information architecture:

  • Confusing
  • Frustrating
  • Cryptic
  • Inconsistent
  • Hard to use

In other words, solid information architecture is the foundation for usability because a site organized based on the way users think and labeled (link text, titles, headings) in the vocabulary of the user will, be default, make sense to the key audience.

Now I want you to consider that accessibility is actually just an extreme use case for usability. For example, when a person with a sight disability is missing visual clues and consuming the site with a screen reader, usability problems that exists for all users are magnified and become more apparent.

Everything you do to make your site consistently organized and labeled in an intuitive and logical way helps both the usability and the accessibility of the site.

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.




Glenda Sims is the Team A11Y Lead at Deque, where she shares her expertise and passion for the open web with government organizations, educational institutions, and companies ranging in size from small business enterprise. Glenda is an adviser and co-founder of AIR-University (Accessibility Internet Rally) and AccessU. She serves as an accessibility consultant, judge, and trainer for Knowbility, an organization whose mission is to support the independence of people with disabilities by promoting the availability of barrier free IT. In 2010 Glenda co-authored the book InterACT with Web Standards: A holistic approach to Web Design.


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