4.1.3: Status Messages – WCAG 2.1 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

The content is displayed once the page is loaded on the browser. In the modern web the content is added even after the page is completely loaded. The addition of new content happens in two ways.

  1. User initiated: User want to input data into an autocomplete text field. The new content depends on user input.
  2. Message that supports the user input: The message that say “Searching for results” (in process) or “7 results available, press up and down arrow to find them” (task completion message).

The intention of success criterion 4.1.3 Status messages is to address the potential accessibility concerns that are associated with the second situation above.

What is a status message according to WCAG?

A status message is a change in content that is not a change of context, and that 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.

It is also important to note that a status  message is not delivered via a change in context.

Status messages are typically the messages that are displayed and supposed to be informed to the user without moving the focus away from the current position on the screen. The message can include

  1. beginning of a process when the user hits a button such as refresh.
  2. Error validation messages displayed such as user entering alphabet in date field and error message shows as invalid format.
  3. User on hitting the add to cart button on a shopping website the link cart (0) will be updated to link cart (1). Screen reader user can be informed as item added to the cart for the confirmation.
  4. Progress indication say while downloading a file, user do not want to wait until the download completes but will continue what they are doing. However they may choose to know the progress without interrupting what they are doing. Download started, 10%, 20%, 30% … download complete.
  5. Feedback post form submission where the users focus is still on submit button even after submission. The “successfully submitted” or “Form submission failed” will be displayed. The same need to be informed to the screen reader user.

Few more considerations

The success criterion 4.1.3 Status Messages in general applies to the status messages displayed as text on the screen, however, in certain situations content authors provide

  1. Content that only screen readers can identify :- In situations where the change in status depends on the surrounding content, an offscreen text provides the screen reader user the context of the change.
  2. Modification of status messages:- The availability of the participant in live chat such as available, busy, away, offline that changes during the chat.
  3. Removal of status message:- The status message might be removed such as a busy state while the content is loading will be removed after the page loads.
  4. Non-textual status messages : – Displaying an icon or playing a sound to indicate the availability or change in status.

All the above scenarios also fall under this success criterion and need to be addressed for compliance.

Who benefits with 4.1.3 Status Messages

  • People who depend on screen readers benefit as the status message will be read out without moving the focus away.
  • Possibly helps future technologies such as personalization specific to benefit the users who have cognitive challenges.

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