3. Understandable

Activity 5: Writing for the Web

For any website intended for use by a general audience, the level of language used should not exceed that which could be understood by a “lower-level high school” reader. That is, language you might expect a grade 8 or 9 student, 12- to 15-years-old, to comprehend effectively on first reading. Some content developers may consider reading level an optional requirement, given WCAG 2.1, SC 3.1.5 Reading Level is a Level AAA success criterion. When writing for a general audience, however, it is always a good idea to write using the simplest language possible as a way to reach the broadest audience. Simpler, more readable language is appreciated by even the most educated of readers. And for those with cognitive- or reading-related disabilities, as well as those reading in a second language, simple language is often required to ensure they understand what is being said.

Key Point: Big words and complex language is not a sign of an intelligent writer. Writing with the simplest language possible, while getting the same message across, is a sign of a skilled writer.


In this activity, you will be evaluating the reading level required to effectively understand a paragraph of text. You’ll then revise the text to make it comply with the WCAG Reading Level requirement.

This may involve:

  • Replacing less common words with more frequently used equivalents
  • Replacing longer, multi-syllabic words with shorter words or phrases
  • Reducing the length of sentences
  • Rewriting passive to active voice

There are many tools available on the Web for analyzing readability. Often these tools will combine a variety of tests to come up with a general grade-level score. Look for the general grade-level statistic when using these tools to complete this assignment. You may use the tools listed below.

Readability Tools


Rewrite the sample text so it can be understood by a lower-level high school student (grade 9 or less, or 15 years of age or younger) using the tools above.

The sample paragraph below that you will rewrite was awarded a Golden Bull Award in 2003, recognizing the worst examples of written type. This was a response to a customer who had asked “Do you still carry blank CDs?” The obvious answer might simply be “No.” For the purposes of this exercise, however, your task is to deliver the same message, explaining why blank CDs are no longer carried in a more readable, understandable way that meets the reading-level requirement of WCAG SC 3.1.5.

“We are currently in the process of consolidating our product range to ensure that the products that we stock are indicative of our brand aspirations. As part of our range consolidation we have also decided to revisit our supplier list and employ a more intelligent system for stock acquisition. As a result of the above certain product lines are now unavailable through jungle.com, whilst potentially remaining available from more mainstream suppliers.”

Source: Plain English Campaign

Note: If you are reading here as part of a course, we suggest using the WebFX Readability Test Tool to test the reading level of your rewritten text.


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Introduction to Web Accessibility Copyright © 2019 by The Chang School, Toronto Metropolitan University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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