Unusual Words
Success Criterion 3.1.3 (Level AAA)


Do you define or provide users access to definitions for any unusual words or topic specific jargon used on your site or application?

Why is this important

Making web content accessible doesn’t always mean focusing exclusively on technical work. For high incidence disabilities, like cognitive impairments, making the actual language easy to read and understand is just as vital as focusing on technology for viewers with visual or hearing impairments.

Content that contains technical language, jargon terminology, unexpanded acronyms, or appear text-heavy can make it difficult for those who may have vision, cognitive or motor control limitations to read through and comprehend the information.

Whom does it benefit?

Example 1:

As a person with cognitive disabilities,
I want to be provided with definitions for any unusual words
so that I can fully understand the content.

Example 2:

As a person with language disability,
I want to be provided with a definition or a link to a dictionary for unusual words
so that I can learn its meaning and proper pronunciation.

Example 3:

As a person with learning disability,
I want the texts I am reading to be free from jargon or technical vocabulary
so that I can read through the content without having to look up words to understand it.

What should you do?

  • Use clear and concise language that is clear and concise that does not require people to read complex words or sentences and allows them to understand the meaning behind the information being conveyed.
  • When possible limit the use of technical language, jargon terminology, nonliteral word usage, and unexpanded acronyms.
  • Define or provide users access to definitions for any unusual words or topic specific jargon.

How do you do it?

  • Provide definitions for terms or content specific words not commonly used. There are several ways to do this. Some examples include:
    • Provide a glossary of terms
    • Link to definitions
    • Use description lists
    • Use inline definition
    • Provide a function to search an online dictionary
  • Define the first instance of content specific acronyms not commonly used. i.e. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Need technical guidance?

Technical guidance is available for implementing this Success Criterion at the Understanding Success Criterion 3.1.3 - Unusual Words page.

Additional Resources to help you: