Our series on the new WCAG 2.1 Success Criteria continues with the next level AAA success criteria focused on cognitive accessibility. Success criterion 2.2.6 Timeouts helps to prevent data loss when entering data. It falls under guideline 2.2, Enough Time.
2.2 Enough Time
Provide users enough time to read and use content.
2.2.6 Timeouts (Level AAA)
Users are warned of the duration of any user inactivity that could cause data loss, unless the data is preserved for more than 20 hours when the user does not take any actions.
Privacy regulations may require explicit user consent before user identification has been authenticated and before user data is preserved. In cases where the user is a minor, explicit consent may not be solicited in most jurisdictions, countries or regions. Consultation with privacy professionals and legal counsel is advised when considering data preservation as an approach to satisfy this success criterion.
This success criterion helps users avoid losing data they have entered but not yet submitted. Sites must warn users of time limits at the beginning of a task. The site can skip the warning if they save the the data for a lengthy period. Knowing limits up front allows people to prepare and to gather required information before starting.
Some users with cognitive disabilities can not focus for long periods of time. They need to take breaks, sometimes for an extended period. The option to save data for more than 20 hours allows users significantly more time to complete an activity. They can take a break during the input of information without fear of losing data due to inactivity.
Saving the information for 20 hours or more does come with some privacy implications. Website owners must understand the privacy regulations in the locales where they operate. Note that leaving the site or closing the browser invalidates the timer.
Buying event tickets often requires completion within a set amount of time. It isn’t practical for a company to hold selected tickets for 20 hours or more to meet this success criteria. The ticket site could provide a method for users to input required data before starting the ticket search. The user can create an account to store their name, contact details, and credit card information. Of course, the account creation process must also meet this success criterion. The site also must warn the user of the time limits before the search for tickets begins. Below is an example warning message:
Note: Once you select tickets, you must complete the purchase within 6 minutes. You will need to enter your name, billing address, email address, and credit card information. You can create an account to store this information for faster checkout.
This success criterion benefits the aging community and people with cognitive disabilities. Some people need extra time to read and understand instructions. They may not be able to input required personal data from memory and need to look it up. Detailed instructions allow users to collect the necessary data before starting the activity. It also tells users how long they have to complete an activity. Saving the in-progress data for a long time allows the user to take breaks.
Warn users of any activities that have a time limit before the user task begins. Include the idle time limit before the user will lose entered data due to inactivity. By providing this warning, sites can avoid saving in-progress data for 20 hours or more. Providing clear instructions and identifying the required data up front will help people complete the task within the time limit.