1.3.4: Orientation

Phone rotating from landscape to portrait orientation

One of the Level AA success criterion in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) states that content shouldn’t be restricted to only portrait or only landscape display. For example, if someone is viewing a website on a tablet device, they should be able to interact with it regardless of whether their tablet is held upright or sideways.

Why is orientation important?

Everyone has preferences when using technology. Most people watch videos or read long articles or look at maps in landscape mode, where the content spans the full screen of their device. Others are happy to scroll through social media or do their online shopping in portrait mode. Making sure your website or application can be used with both portrait and landscape orientation is an important aspect of responsive web design.

For people with disabilities, orientation is crucial. Someone may mount their device in a fixed position, such as on the armrest of their wheelchair, or have limited mobility or tremors; this makes it more difficult for them to easily rotate their device. Websites and apps that are locked in a certain orientation are inaccessible to them and result in a frustrating user experience.

How do I make my website or app orientation-friendly?

Designers and developers should keep in mind that the best user experience is an accessible one. There are some cases where a certain orientation is essential, such as a bank cheque or an online piano application, but for the most part, avoid layouts that require a specific screen width to function properly and ensure design elements are flexible by using code that will detect screen orientation and adapt accordingly. Before implementing a design, it should be tested on portrait and landscape devices to check if everything is displayed correctly.

Regardless of a user’s setup or position – whether they are in bed, on a bus, or in a wheelchair – they should be able to access the information they need. A website or app that is orientation-friendly gives everyone the freedom of choice of how to interact with your content and results in a better user experience for all.

How can IA Labs help?

As part of our consultations, accessibility audits, and training sessions, we can explain all the contextual nuances that would apply to the WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion 1.3.4 Orientation. If you have any questions or need help with any digital accessibility issue, please don’t hesitate to contact IA Labs.