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The Main Principles of Accessible Web Content Part 2: Operable Accessibility

February 17, 2022

As we explore the principles of accessibility, we must keep in mind that accessibility isn’t a feel-good exercise in making sure the site can pass muster, but it functions well for people regardless of ability.

In this four-part series, we discuss the main principles of accessibility and share examples from past projects. We discussed perceived accessibility in our first post, and in this post we’ll discuss what operable accessibility means with an example to demonstrate it. 

What is Operable Accessibility?

When focusing on operable accessibility, it’s important to keep in mind the following: 

  • Input methods - When users come to your site, are they required to use a keyboard or mouse to navigate through it? If so, then you may be unknowingly causing limitations on users who rely on adaptive technologies like a mouth stick to operate their device and input information into the site, such as in a form. Regardless of how the user inputs information, keeping the site operable to all device types allows the largest number of users to engage regardless of how they do so. 
  • Interaction methods - Building site maps and search features with accessibility in mind allows users to navigate, search, and find what they are looking for. In order for a site to be operable, the way users interact with it must be considered and barriers removed.
  • Error recovery - We may have the best idea for how someone goes about using something like a form, but in the real world, people make mistakes all of the time, such as clicking the wrong link. Providing a low barrier of entry for those that have made an error is important if you want your site to be operable from an accessibility standpoint. For instance, people with cognitive disabilities may misunderstand something and need to either go back and fix it or click the correct link when they realize they made an error. Keep in mind the need to make recovering from an error easy as you strive to make your site meet operable accessibility needs.

Best Practices for Operable Accessibility

Some practical ways to make your site more operable for accessibility include avoiding time limits to complete an action. We’re all familiar with what these look like when making orders on site because, psychologically, that limited time creates a sense of urgency. However,  if someone moves slower throughout the site, needs to gather materials like a credit card, or makes mistakes, the time limit may become an impediment. 

In addition to leaving time limits off of your site for actions to be taken, avoid creating content that flickers or strobes. If it flashes three times or more per second, then it might be problematic for users who are light sensitive or who may have seizures triggered by fast motion. 

Building in Operable Accessibility on a Legal Website

For the Freeborn & Peters LLP law firm website, we added a Find People search functionality after reviewing the data and concluding that many users were looking for specific attorneys but were having trouble finding them. While not a traditional search you would expect on a website, the functionality has been tested for operable accessibility and deemed able to meet the standards for WCAG 2.0. Someone using assistive technology would be able to access the search and use it to its full potential. 

Learn more about the Freeborn Drupal 8 redesign and accessibility work from our law firm case study.

Learn How Mediacurrent Advocates for Accessibility

Keeping the principles of accessibility in mind allows for organizations to make a user-centric experience that operates no matter how the user accesses the technology. Learn about our accessibility team and how we can help your organization achieve accessibility in the digital world. 

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