One of the most important issues in making text accessible is its structure and the ability to navigate it (navigability).
‘Text structure’ usually refers to whether the paragraphs are in the right order for the user to follow, making it easier to read. When it comes to text accessibility, structure has a slightly different meaning: it refers to what makes it easy to navigate around that text. Each chapter heading and any sub-headings are set out in the table of contents, just as they are in this document. In an exam paper it could refer to the individual questions. Each element that is important – for example, chapter heading, table, figure, exam question – may be given certain attributes and labelled.
Once structure is applied, a document’s accessibility is enhanced in two ways. First, it makes it easier for any user, including those using assistive technologies, to find their way around it. Second, it allows a different user to transfer the text to a different format more easily.
Structuring textual information (a text) is essential in order to make it accessible to all users. Textual information is structured by logically labelling different elements within it, such as sequential use of headers, captions and tables. A properly structured document can be easily converted to the format that is preferred by the user; for example, a well-structured text document can be read out loud and navigated by screen readers or other assistive technologies, maintaining the logical order embedded in the text.
The more complex the visual layout (tables, footnotes, boxes, icons, etc.), the more important it is to indicate the logical reading order within the structure.
With very complex texts, it is important to know who the target audience is and structure it accordingly. In many instances a more simplified version of the text may be more useful to a wider range of users.
It is particularly challenging to make interactive features within text-based learning material accessible.