Accessibility Tips that Target Low-Literacy Users

A while ago I attended a workshop that presented ideas for making websites accessible for low-literacy users. I was struck by how helpful the tips were for all users, and have used my notes as a reference ever since.

Low literacy users:

  • Avoid using search – results are complex to wade through
  • Avoid pages with dense text
  • Are not good at scanning text; what they do read they generally read word for word
  • Have difficulty with forms

To make forms easy to use:

  • Keep short; do not include any input fields that are not absolutely necessary
  • Minimize words and instructions
  • Use one word labels for input fields; place labels to the left or above the input field
  • Use familiar words
  • Have input fields flow in a single column. Exceptions are fields that are logically grouped together, such as first name, middle initial, and last name.
  • Do not put links in forms.
  • If the form is more than one page, have page to page navigation at the bottom of each page (aligned with the flow of the form inputs)

To make text easier to read:

  • Have all text flow in one column
  • Place navigation elements to the left of the page. Make a clear distinction between navigation options within a section and navigation options for the entire site.
  • No flyout menus or DHTML
  • If the subject continues on more than one page, have page to page navigation at the bottom of each page (aligned with the flow of the text)
  • Label links with text that allows users to predict where they are going (don’t use “click here”)
  • No pop-ups
  • No browser warnings

To make applications and log ins easy to use:

  • Use the e-mail address as the user id whenever possible
  • Allow the same point of entry for new and returning users

I do wish all websites were built around these principals. I welcome any tips you would add to this list.

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