Logical Reading Order  

on June 22, 2023 at 12:47pm |Updated on June 22, 2023 at 12:51pm

What does a Logical Reading Order mean?

Logical reading order refers to the sequential arrangement of content in a document or text that allows readers to comprehend the information in a coherent and meaningful way. It ensures that the content flows logically, making it easier for readers to follow the intended structure and hierarchy of information.

In the context of digital documents, such as PDFs or web pages, logical reading order is particularly important for individuals using assistive technologies like screen readers. Screen readers rely on the logical reading order to present the content to users who are visually impaired. By following the logical reading order, screen readers can accurately convey the information, improving accessibility for people with disabilities.

The logical reading order takes into account various elements of the content, such as headings, paragraphs, lists, tables, images, and other visual elements. It organizes these elements based on their relationships and hierarchy, ensuring that readers can easily navigate through the content and understand the intended flow of information.

Creating a proper logical reading order involves structuring the document using appropriate heading levels, providing alternative text for images, using semantic markup for lists and tables, and considering the natural flow of information. Many document creation and web authoring tools provide features and guidelines to help authors establish a logical reading order.

Overall, the logical reading order is crucial for ensuring accessibility and enhancing the reading experience for all users, regardless of their abilities or the format of the content they interact with.

So what happens in the real world?

Take a look at this screenshot of a pdf I reviewed on a recent audit.

The numbers in boxes show the order in which this information would be read out to someone using a screen reader.

See if you can go find the numbers in the order, starting with 1 and going through to 38 (3 and 5 were off the page, so are not visible).

A leaflet containing text and graphics, each section of it has a number. The numbers are all over the document in a seemingly random order

Caption: A leaflet containing text and graphics, each section of it has a number. The numbers are all over the document in a seemingly random order

Hopefully, this exercise will help explain why it is important that pdfs follow a logical reading order!

Would you like to find out more?

If you would like to find out more about website accessibility, please follow these links:

Watch my TED Talk
Find out more about website accessibility audits 
Discuss having an accessibility audit of your website
Have a 1-hour consultation on any aspect of website accessibility 

Clive Loseby
Access by Design

Beautiful, WCAG Compliant, Accessible Website Design
Delivering an Outstanding Website Accessibility Audit
Award-winning Web Design, Chichester



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