1.3.3 Sensory Characteristics

Instructions provided for understanding and operating content do not rely solely on sensory characteristics of components such as shape, size, visual location, orientation, or sound. (Level A)

Explanation of SC 1.3.3 Sensory Characteristics

Any information that is received by humans is through sensory organs. This applies even for web content. Sensory organs such as eyes and ears play a vital role in receiving the information and execute the required action with the instructions of the brain.

Some users may face difficulty if the instructions or information is conveyed solely using sensory characteristics of components such as shape, size, visual location, orientation or sound. These sensory characteristics are not identified by assistive technologies and hence cause difficulty to the users. However shape and visual location might be beneficial for users with cognitive challenges. Do not discourage using instructions based on shape and visual location but ensure that an alternate is also available for assistive technology users.
Note that the words such as above and below must be used with caution. If such terms are used ensure that the content referred with this terms are visually placed in the same location. Content authors must also take care that the reading order by assistive technologies follows the order referred in the instruction. Eg: If the instruction says “All the below links navigate to external website”, the links must be after the instruction.

Examples for 1.3.3 Sensory Characteristics

Example 1:

  • To exit the form without saving click the button on the right. (wrong) .
  • To exit the form without saving click the cancel button (correct).

Example 2

In a shopping website,

  • The tick mark against the product represents stock available and cross mark represents stock not available. (Wrong)
  • Tick mark image with alternate text “available in stock” and cross mark image with alternate text “Stock unavailable” against the product Correct.

Using color for understanding or operating content is an another sensory characteristic. Use of color in detail.