WCAG 2.1 – What is Status Messages?

Over the last few blog posts we’ve been looking more into the success criteria that were included in the updated Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1.

In the final part of this series, today we are looking at Status Messages.

An example of an online shopping basket.

When online shopping, websites such as Tesco.com that have Status Messages convey information to screen reader users, such as “2 ice creams added to basket”

Online shopping has revolutionised the way we shop. In the comfort of our own home, or wherever we happen to be, we can order products or add them to a wish list for later purchasing. With online shopping being a growing market, it’s important that all users, including those with a disability, can access, interpret and operate such a website.

4.1.3 – Status Messages (Level AA)

The Status Messages criterion states in full:

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.

Websites often contain visual information that is automatically interpreted by users without a disability. For example, when adding another item to a basket, the basket icon may change, showing the number of items that are in the basket. Likewise, when making a selection of delivery options, the subtotal may change within a person’s visual range and they make a decision regarding whether the delivery option is financially viable.

Often this change of information isn’t next to the option that has just been selected. Sometimes a change has happened elsewhere on the screen, such as in the top right hand corner, or may happen below the visual area but a user may quickly scroll down, view the change and then scroll back up to make further changes.

No change of context

However, for screen reader users a change may happen on the page but this is not read to them. This could result in a screen reader user inadvertently adding numerous items to a basket or choosing a delivery option that they would not normally choose, and this could have financial implications for them.

Status Messages aren’t just useful for financial matters or for shopping sites. They can also be useful in other ways, for example with search results. This is especially true when the results are dynamic and typing in the search field filters results in real time. It’s important for screen reader users to know how many results are available.

There are two ‘rules’ regarding a Status Message. The first is that it must provide information regarding success, waiting state, progress or failure of an event. The second is that It must not require a change of context. The status message must be read to the user without them having to do anything and without moving their current focus to the status update text.

Conclusions

Sighted users may interact with a website and observe a visible change or status update  immediately. But if a user has a vision impairment they may not be aware of any visual changes. To be accessible, status messages must also be rendered non-visually, so that they are available to everyone. But the key is to read the message without moving the user’s focus, as this would be disorientating.

Are your Status Messages conveyed?

It is highly likely that you have a search bar on your website. It may also be that you provide a product or service and provide an online environment for ordering. It is important to make sure that all key information is conveyed to all users, including screen reader users.

Feel free to contact Dig Inclusion to discuss Status Messages and how we can help you and your website meet the WCAG 2.1 requirements.