Success Criterion 3.1.4: Abbreviations

Understanding Success Criterion: 

A mechanism for identifying the expanded form or meaning of abbreviations is available.

Accessibility Level: 
Intent of Success Criterion: 

The intent of this Success Criterion is to ensure that users can access the expanded form of abbreviations.

Specific Benefits of Success Criterion: 

This Success Criterion may help people who:

  • have difficulty decoding words;
  • rely on screen magnifiers (magnification may reduce contextual cues);

have limited memory;

  • have difficulty using context to aid understanding.

Abbreviations may confuse some readers in different ways:

  • Some abbreviations do not look like normal words and cannot be pronounced according to the usual rules of the language. For example, the English word "room" is abbreviated as "rm," which does not correspond to any English word or phoneme. The user has to know that "rm" is an abbreviation for the word "room" in order to say it correctly.
  • Sometimes, the same abbreviation means different things in different contexts. For example, in the English sentence "Dr. Johnson lives on Boswell Dr.," the first "Dr." is an abbreviation for "Doctor" and the second instance is an abbreviation for the word "Drive" (a word that means "street"). Users must be able to understand the context in order to know what the abbreviations mean.
  • Some acronyms spell common words but are used in different ways. For example, "JAWS" is an acronym for a screen reader whose full name is "Job Access with Speech." It is also a common English word referring to the part of the mouth that holds the teeth. The acronym is used differently than the common word.
  • Some acronyms sound like common words but are spelled differently. For example, the acronym for Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language, S M I L, is pronounced like the English word "smile."

It would also help people with visual disabilities who:

  • Lose context when zoomed-in with a screen magnifier