ADA Accessibility Principle #2: Operable

Eric Kazda  |   January 17, 2018   |  Posted in Accessibility

Each week we’re breaking down one of the four main principles found in the new ADA accessibility guidelines. This is your ADA compliance guide to understanding the new standards. Up this week – the second principle, operable.

ADA Compliance Recap

Starting tomorrow – January 18th, 2018, all new websites and updates to existing websites will need to comply with specific legal guidelines on ADA accessibility. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 were created by the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative and are available to view in their entirety here.

If you’re just starting to learn about ADA compliance, get caught up by reading a couple of our previous articles.

Your Overview to ADA Compliance for Websites in 2018

The Importance of ADA Website Compliance [VisionCorps Case Study]

ADA Accessibility Principle #1: Perceivable

The guidelines are broken down by four main principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Under each principle, there are guidelines that provide specific goals a website should work toward. Under each guideline, there are testable success criteria. Those criteria are graded A, AA, or AAA. This grade shows the level of conformity to accessibility, AAA being the highest. The law only requires A and AA criteria to be met, so we won’t be covering any AAA criteria in this ADA compliance guide.

Today we’re breaking down the second principle within the guidelines – operable.

Principle #2: Operable

Defined by WCAG 2.0, this principle states that the “user interface components and navigation must be operable.” This principle ensures that a user could easily navigate a website without running into limited functionality or time limits. It comes down to making sure your website doesn’t require interactions that someone with a disability couldn’t perform. Read more about each of the four guidelines that fall under the operable principle below.

Guideline 2.1: Keyboard Accessible

“Make all functionality available from a keyboard.”

If all functionality is available via keyboard, then your website can be successfully utilized by not only keyboard users, but also speech input technology, on-screen keyboard technology by mouse users, and almost all assistive technologies. It’s a flexible and universally-supported way to make the website operable for all users.

Examples of keyboard accessibility:

  • Any drag and drop feature also supports cutting and pasting to move the objects.
  • An application or pop-up that shows up on a user screen has the ability to be closed via a button on the keyboard, not just clicking on the X symbol with a mouse.

Guideline 2.2: Enough Time

“Provide users enough time to read and use content.”

Users who have a disability may need a longer period of time to complete certain tasks on your website. This guideline seeks to ensure that users can eliminate time constraints and complete tasks successfully in the time they need. Users should be able to turn off, adjust, or extend the time requirements. They should also be allowed to pause, stop or hide content that moves, blinks, scrolls or auto-updates.

Examples of websites that provide enough time:

  • If your website goes inactive after a specified period of time, it asks if the user needs more time before timing out.
  • Scrolling headlines on a site come with a pause button so the user has time to read the whole headline.
  • Any side digital advertisements that blink to get a user’s attention stop after 5 seconds.
  • Any animation on the website comes with a pause and restart button.

Guideline 2.3: Seizures

“Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures.”

This guideline doesn’t just seek to add warnings to content that might cause seizures – it seeks to eliminate that type of content entirely. Some individuals, especially children, may not even know they have a photosensitive seizure disorder, so a general warning wouldn’t be effective.

Example of content that eliminates the possibility of a seizure:

  • Your content utilizes the three flashes or below threshold. Nothing flashes more than three times within a one second period of time.

Learn more about general flash and red flash thresholds here.

Guideline 2.4: Navigable

“Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.”

Every user, no matter the disability, should be able to easily orient themselves on your website. They should be able to find the content they are searching for while keeping track of where they are currently located.

Examples for how to improve the navigable aspect of your website:

  • Users can bypass a block of content that’s repeated on many pages, like header graphics or advertising frames. There’s a link that jumps straight to the main content of the page.
  • Each webpage has a title that makes it obvious what the topic or purpose of that page is.
  • The purpose of a link on your website can be determined from the link text on its own.
  • There’s more than one way to access a webpage on your site, like providing a search bar at the top of every page.
  • You use descriptive headers and labels within each page of content.
  • When navigating a site via keyboard, it’s made obvious which section has the keyboard’s focus at that time, with an element like a vertical bar, highlighted text, or visible border.

To Recap

Users with disabilities should not just be able to easily view your website, they have to be able to operate all of its functions successfully. This includes making it keyboard accessible, giving the option to operate without stressful time limitations, removing the threat of seizures, and making the navigation user-friendly.

With these guidelines becoming the law on January 18th, make sure you consult ADA compliance professionals before making any future changes to your website!


Writing in journal with pen and glasses on desk
Is Your Website Accessible to the Blind?

Creating a website accessible to all users is not just important because of a possible lawsuit or government action, but also because you want your business to be available to all potential customers. It’s simply a good business practice and an example of positive customer relations.

Find out if your website meets ADA guidelines.

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Eric Kazda

Eric Kazda is a leading expert in the interactive development industry with over fifteen years of experience. With a mastery of critical development technologies, Eric has crafted innovative award-winning work for clients both large and small. Coupling this knowledge with a real world understanding of usability and technological feasibility, his work is developed to be accessible by every user.