Are you avoiding using sensory language as the only way to describe controls or provide directions on how to operate your site or application? “Sensory language” is using shapes, sound, spatial location, and orientation to describe something.
Why is this important?
People who have visual, auditory, or cognitive disabilities often cannot perceive shapes, size, color, sound, spatial location, or orientation. When these sensory characteristics are used alone to describe controls or operational instructions, users may not be able to locate the controls or understand the instructions for operating functional parts of a website or application.
Whom does it benefit?
As a person who is blind,
I want my screen reader to announce the purpose of the square button on the assignment page
So that I know what the directions “Click the square button to submit your assignment.” means, and I can identify and use that button.
As a person who has a severe hearing impairment,
I want to be aware of warning beeps when I have selected a wrong answer in practice quizzes
so that I can try again to select the correct answer before continuing to the next question.
What should you do?
- Use more than one sense when describing controls or giving instructions
- If sound is used for instructions or notifications, include an additional cue that does not rely on sound
Note: This guideline is not intended to discourage the use of sensory characteristics. These descriptors can be very helpful to many users, but should not be the sole method for describing controls or operational instructions.
How do you do it?
- Avoid describing controls or giving instructions solely by references to visual or audible cues; i.e. instructions indicating “click on the green button to submit your response,” or “click on the red box to delete the selected item.”
- Use labels for all controls and links and refer to these labels in all control descriptions and operational instructions.
- Include textual information that provides additional clues on location of controls other than spatial orientation. For example, in addition to left/right designation, describe location based on heading and/or surrounding text.
- Add alternative text to images and operational icons
- Supplement sound alerts, with visual alerts such as text, color, and icons.
Note: Refer to Success Criterion 1.4.1 for detailed guidance specific to use of color.
Need technical guidance?
Technical guidance is available for implementing this Success Criterion at the Understanding Success Criterion 1.3.3: Sensory Characteristics page.
Additional resources to help you