For the most part, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) contains straightforward guidance for content creators . However, some success criteria can be confusing, especially if you have limited experience with web accessibility and web design.
WCAG 2.1 Success Criterion (SC) 2.4.5, “Multiple Ways,” is one example. Here’s the full text of this criterion:
More than one way is available to locate a Web page within a set of Web pages except where the Web Page is the result of, or a step in, a process.
This is a Level AA criterion, which means that your website needs to meet WCAG SC 2.4.5 to be considered reasonably accessible for most users with disabilities (read more about the differences between WCAG levels).
The intent of “Multiple Ways" is to provide users with options for site navigation. Users shouldn’t be forced to follow a certain path to get to a destination. For instance, users shouldn’t need to visit the contact page to find the accessibility statement page.
Here’s the good news: Many websites that use templates will meet this standard by default. However, the decisions you make when structuring your website might prevent your content from fulfilling the requirements.
Below, we’ll explain how WCAG SC 2.4.5 improves accessibility — and how to check whether your content conforms.
Why Multiple Navigation Options Are Important for Accessibility
People with disabilities use a variety of techniques and technologies to browse the internet. Certain types of navigation may be more difficult for some users.
For example, a person with low vision may use a screen magnifier to read content. Selecting a hyperlink from a crowded navigation menu may be difficult for this user.
Some people use screen readers, software that outputs text as audio. These individuals may not want to listen to every link in a navigation menu to find a certain page; they might prefer to use a search feature.
WCAG SC 2.4.5 simply requires your website to provide several ways to find certain content.
Exceptions to WCAG’s “Multiple Ways" Requirement
WCAG includes an exception for pages that are part of a process. For example, if you operate an eCommerce website, you don’t need to provide multiple ways to visit the order confirmation page — that’s part of the checkout process.
Related: Why Consistency is Important to Accessible Design
Meeting the Requirements of WCAG SC 2.4.5, “Multiple Ways"
As we mentioned earlier, most websites that use content management systems (CMSs) like WordPress should meet WCAG 2.4.5 — unless you add pages to the site structure in an unconventional way.
Most website templates will automatically add pages to a table of contents in the header menu or footer menu, and many templates have a built-in search feature. WCAG recommends using at least two of the following methods:
Provide links to navigate to related web pages.
Provide a table of contents.
Provide a site map.
Provide a search function.
Provide a list of links to all other web pages.
Link to all of the pages on the site from the home page.
Remember, providing two ways to find a page will meet WCAG’s “Multiple Ways" requirement, but for the best possible user experience, you may want to add more than two options.
A few more tips for ensuring conformance:
Avoid “orphan" pages — pages that are only accessible if the user enters the URL. Orphan pages are bad for search engine optimization (SEO), and they can be bad for accessibility.
Use caution when adding landing pages. Landing pages are often only accessible through a specific channel (such as social media), and while they might be considered part of a process in certain situations, they run the risk of violating the “Multiple Ways" requirement.
For a small website, consider providing a list of all pages on the home page. Users may expect to find a list of links on the home page, and wherever possible, you should make your site predictable.
For larger websites, consider providing a site map or table of contents.
Finally, since WCAG applies to all types of online content — not just HTML web pages — make sure that PDFs and other electronic documents fulfill this guideline. Providing bookmarks in long PDF documents can improve conformance (and improve readability for all users).
To learn more about WCAG and digital compliance, download our free eBook: Essential Guide to ADA Compliance for Websites.