Advice on how to build ID accessible websites.

Making content accessible

To make the text content of your website as accessible as possible for people with intellectual disabilities, try to do the following:

  • Use clear, concise headings.

  • Use pictures to supplement textual content.

  • Group text into blocks underneath each heading.

  • Use lists where appropriate.

  • Left-align text; don't justify it.

  • Separate text visually from the borders of the surrounding design.

  • Ensure lines do not exceed 70 – 80 characters.

  • Use descriptive link text (not 'click here').

  • Use emphasis on important words that convey the meaning of the text.

  • Use clear, simple and concise language.

Writing style and reading level

Meeting the success criteria of WCAG 2.0 at AAA requires text to be written at a reading age equivalent to lower secondary school (or to provide such a version as a supplementary 'Easy Read' version).

For people with intellectual disabilities, this text level is often too high.

Tools such as Juicy Studio’s Readability Test can provide an indication of reading grade. Text level is ultimately a matter of judgement and awareness.

Here are some further tips on enhancing your text for more severely intellectually disabled audiences:

  • Aim for lower primary school chronological reading age (in the UK, 10-20% of the population will benefit from this).

  • You are not writing for children, but the task is similar. Assume adult concepts, expectations, and life-experiences.

  • Don’t assume that people will feel patronised; they know this is easy read content.

  • Use short sentences. Where you are using a comma, you sometimes need a full-stop.

  • Limit use of punctuation to full-stop, question and exclamation marks if possible.

  • Use short or single sentence paragraphs, and layout with exaggerated spacing.

  • Aim to build each sentence around a keyword.

  • If a concept or keyword is important, don’t be afraid of labouring it.

  • Word length and number of syllables are a good guide, but not definitive. Think of vocabulary in terms of 'high frequency words'.

  • If jargon is required, it should be explicitly explored as primary content (that is, not marked up).

  • Ensure the meaning of pronouns is absolutely clear, or use nouns repeatedly. Take particular care with personal pronouns. It’s better to use a name repeatedly, even though it may be bad style.

  • Plan your writing in advance. If re-writing longer text, list the key points of each paragraph before beginning.

  • On longer pieces, separate content using multiple pages. Keep the number of points per page low.