Failure of Success Criterion 1.3.1 and 1.3.2 due to using white space characters to create multiple columns in plain text content

Important Information about Techniques

See Understanding Techniques for WCAG Success Criteria for important information about the usage of these informative techniques and how they relate to the normative WCAG 2.1 success criteria. The Applicability section explains the scope of the technique, and the presence of techniques for a specific technology does not imply that the technology can be used in all situations to create content that meets WCAG 2.1.

Applicability

All technologies.

This technique relates to:

Description

The objective of this technique is to describe how using white space characters, such as space, tab, line break, or carriage return, to format columns of data in text content is a failure to use structure properly. Assistive technologies will interpret content in the reading order of the current language. Using white space characters to create multiple columns does not provide the information in a natural reading order. Thus, the assistive technology user will not be presented with the information in an understandable manner.

Plain text is not suitable for displaying multiple columns of text. Modify the content to present the data in a different layout. Alternatively, use a technology that provides structural elements to represent columnar data.

Examples

Example 1

The following example incorrectly uses white space characters to format a paragraph into a two column format.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines      including blindness and low vision, 
2.0 (WCAG 2.0) covers a wide range of     deafness and hearing loss, learning 
issues and recommendations for making     difficulties, cognitive limitations, limited 
Web content more accessible. This         movement, speech difficulties, and 
document contains principles,             others. Following these guidelines will 
guidelines, Success Criteria, benefits,   also make your Web content more 
and examples that define and explain      accessible to the vast majority of users, 
the requirements for making Web-based     including older users. It will also enable
information and applications accessible.  people to access Web content using 
"Accessible" means usable to a wide       many different devices - including a 
range of people with disabilities,        wide variety of assistive technologies.

If this table was to be interpreted and spoken by a screen reader it would speak the following lines:

  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines including blindness and low vision,
  • 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) covers a wide range of deafness and hearing loss, learning
  • issues and recommendations for making difficulties, cognitive limitations, limited
  • Web content more accessible. This movement, speech difficulties, and
  • (additional lines eliminated for brevity)

If the text were reflowed, or changed from a fixed to a variable font, or increased in size until lines no longer fit on the page, similar interpretation issues would arise in the visual presentation.

Tests

Procedure

  1. Examine the document for data or information presented in columnar format.
  2. Check whether the columns are created using white space characters to lay out the information.

Expected Results

  • If step #2 is true, then this failure condition applies and the content fails these Success Criteria.