4.1.3: Status Messages-New SC in the WCAG 2.1

Success Criterion 4.1.3 Status Messages (Level AA): In content implemented using markup languages, status messages can be programmatically determined through role or properties such that they can be presented to the user by assistive technologies without receiving focus.

Description

As you may aware of, people with visually challenged use the screen reader software to browse the website or access the information on the web. While browsing the website, it is natural thing for anyone to perform some actions like submitting the form, adding items to the cart,  and so on..) in order to get the information that he/she is looking for.  when an action is performed then updates or changes(popping the error messages, success messages after adding the item to the cart, and so on..)  may take place then and there without page refresh on the few websites. Those updates are obvious for the visual users but the same updates may not be obvious to the screen reader users. When screen reader users are not aware of these updates/changes then they do not get the same experience like how the sighted person experiences while browsing the information. As a result, screen reader users may not understand what is going on the page and might end up with the confusion/frustration

In order to address these type of situations, WCAG2.1 introduced this new checkpoint. The intent of this Success Criterion is to make users aware of important changes in content that are not given focus, and to do so in a way that doesn’t unnecessarily interrupt their work. Having said that, do you think all the changes that takes place in the dynamic website deal this success criterion? Answer is no. The scope of this Success Criterion is specific to changes in content that involve status messages. You might be wondering what status message is about. Status message has specific definition in the WCAG. There are two main criteria that determine whether something meets the definition of a status message:

  1. the message “provides information to the user on the success or results of an action, on the waiting state of an application, on the progress of a process, or on the existence of errors;”
  2. the message is not delivered via a change in context.

 

The changes to the content need not to be always addition of new text to the screen and may be in the other formats too(like non-displayed text specific to assistive technology users and non-text content. As long as the changes to the content meet above conditions, it fits within this success criterion.

Benefits

  • new content is announced to the screen reader users When appropriate roles or properties are assigned to status messages, in such a way as to assist blind and low vision users.
  • Assigning proper roles or properties to status messages provides possible future uses and personalization opportunities to assistive technologies for users with cognitive disabilities. assistive technologies for users with cognitive disabilities may achieve an alternative means of indicating (or even delaying or supressing) status messages, as preferred by the user

Pass scenarios

The below are the few scenarios where this success criterion is met

  • after recipient email address is selected from the suggested list in the email application, recipient email address is added on the screen. The screen reader announces as suman damera added. It is important to understand that the text “added” may not be visible on the screen but screen reader announces as suman damera added. In order to give the context to the screen reader users, the extra piece of information is necessary in the form of non-displayed content
  • after recipient email address is removed from the list of selected recipients in the email application, recipient email address is removed from the screen. The screen reader announces as suman damera removed. It is important to understand that the text ‘removed” may not be visible on the screen but screen reader announces as suman damera removed. In order to give the context to the screen reader users, the extra piece of information is necessary in the form of non-displayed content
  • while entering the password at the password text area in the few signup forms, there is a visual indication how strong the password is. . screen reader announces weak/weaker/strong
  • after the incorrect form submission, there is a message on the screen like 5 errors are found. screen reader announces as “5 errors are found”
  • after the successful form submission, there is message on the screen like your form has been successfully submitted, will contact you soon. screen reader announces the same.
  • after adding the items to shopping cart by using add to cart button of the product in the eCommerce websites, cart count gets updated visually like 0 to 1, 1 to 2, and so on.. screen reader announces as “item has been added to the cart and currently cart has 2 items”

 

Not applicable/exceptional  scenarios

The following scenarios identify situations where no additional author action is necessary. All cases are excepted from this Success Criterion since they do not meet the definition of “status messages.”

  • When an error message is displayed in the dialog then authors need to place the focus on the dialog. By doing so, screen reader announces the error message. In addition, this is not a change of content and it is change of context. Thus, this scenario does not fit into current success criterion.
  • When there is an expand/collapse element(such as menu, select, accordion, tree, ) and screen reader announces the state of the element(expand/collapse) appropriately then user understands whether content is revealed or hidden with the help of state itself. Thus, this scenario does not fit into current success criterion
  • When there is tablist widget and screen reader announces the selected state of the tab item appropriately then user understands whether content is revealed or hidden with the help of state itself. Thus, this scenario does not fit into current success criterion

 

 

Techniques

Here are the few techniques that author can use to meet this success criterion

References