This is the 6th post in our series on the new WCAG 2.1 Success Criteria. We have finished the new level A success criteria. This post  continues with the next new mobile related one, 1.3.4 Orientation at level AA. It falls under the existing 1.3 guideline, Adaptable.

1.3 Adaptable

Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.

1.3.4 Orientation - Level AA

Content does not restrict its view and operation to a single display orientation, such as portrait or landscape, unless a specific display orientation is essential.

Examples where a particular display orientation may be essential are a bank check, a piano application, slides for a projector or television, or virtual reality content where binary display orientation is not applicable.


Don’t you hate it when you rotate the orientation of  your mobile device and the app you are using doesn’t adjust?  For some people this is just an inconvenience.  It can prevent others from using the application. Consider someone who has a device mounted on her wheelchair and uses a head mouse to interact with it. Applications should adjust to the orientation of the device if possible.

Mobile phone in 1) portrait, 2) landscape with no change in orientation; 3) landscape with correct change in orientation.

Most devices have the option to lock the orientation so it doesn’t change, even when the use rotates the device. Applications must honor this setting and display in the selected orientation. This is especially important for people who have the device permanently fixed in one orientation. If the device is not locked and the user changes the orientation, the application must adapt to the new orientation.

Responsive design and development of the application will meet this success criteria. Hint, it will also help to meet new success criteria 1.4.10 Reflow and 1.4.12 Text Spacing.

There are very few examples where an application’s orientation must remain fixed and cannot change.  An example is an application to simulate playing the piano. It requires a landscape orientation to fit the keys across the screen. Banking applications that allow check deposit need landscape orientation to take a clear picture of the check in its natural alignment. While a slideshow of vertical images will display larger in a portrait orientation, it is still usable in landscape mode. Thus, developers should find few reasons to force a particular orientation.

Who Benefits?

People who have their devices mounted in a specific orientation need applications to always work in that orientation. Users who can rotate their device may prefer one orientation and should have that choice.  For example, low vision and people with cognitive disabilities may prefer landscape orientation. It allows larger text size and longer lines which helps to improve readability. Everyone benefits when the application is easier to use in any orientation.


Build applications that respond to the orientation of the device. Responsive design will help to meet this success criteria. Only force a specific orientation when it is necessary for a particular feature.