Sensory Characteristics

10. Avoid Using Sensory Characteristics

The most common violation of this accessibility requirement comes in the form of instructions. If your instructions rely solely on spatial relationships, size, position, color, or sound then you are likely causing barriers to access for the non-sighted, low-sighted, and cognitively impaired user. These visual cues rely on a user being able to perceive them which can cause barriers for screen reader and screen magnifier users, as well as add confusion for cognitively impaired users. 

Best Practices

  • Avoid the use of spatial relationships, size, position, color, or sound to describe how to consume or interact with your content
  • Provide multiple means of understanding if your content is drawing attention to one of those attributes, preferably with the addition of a text equivalent

Don't do This

Example of Using Sensory Characteristics

The text between the two horizontal lines is the required reading for this week's home work assignment. 


In the expression thus obtained, the arbitrary constant that has to be added to the quantity E does not affect the result, and the third term, denoted "const.," is independent of V and T. The expression for the entropy e is strange, because it depends solely on E and T, but no longer reveals the special form of E as the sum of potential and kinetic energy. This fact suggests that our results are more general than the mechanical model used, the more so as the expression for h found in §3 shows the same property.


Why Is This Wrong?

Referring to a section of content by its relationship to other pieces of content creates a barrier for the non-sighted and low sighted. In this example, the horizontal lines will not be read aloud to a screen reader, and if the a person with low sight has turned off the CSS or has enlarged their screen, they will not be able to perceive the which piece of content. Either eliminate the reference to the spatial location or orientation, or provide a redundancy in the form of a text equivalent. 

Do This

Example of Using Sensory Characteristics

The text from Einstein’s Theory of Thermal Equilibrium is the required reading for this week's home work assignment. 


Einstein’s Theory of Thermal Equilibrium

In the expression thus obtained, the arbitrary constant that has to be added to the quantity E does not affect the result, and the third term, denoted "const.," is independent of V and T. The expression for the entropy e is strange, because it depends solely on E and T, but no longer reveals the special form of E as the sum of potential and kinetic energy. This fact suggests that our results are more general than the mechanical model used, the more so as the expression for h found in §3 shows the same property.


Why Is This Right?

If it is important to the content author to note the horizontal lines, they may keep that reference if they also provide a redundancy in text equivalence. This sample provides reference to a heading for the content, an anchor link to the content, and the visual reference thus providing multiple means of understanding.