Our series on the new WCAG 2.1 Success Criteria continues with the last of the new low vision related success criteria, 4.1.3 Status Messages. It falls under guideline 4.1, Compatible.
Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.
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.
People using assistive technologies may not be aware of information added into to a page. While moving the keyboard focus on the added content is a way to show the content to the user, it can be distracting and should only occur for critical or expected changes.
Status messages are examples of new content that is important to the user but they are not significant enough to cause a change in focus. This success criterion requires developers to add code to identify when status messages are displayed. The assistive technology can use that code to identify and present the message to the user.
This success criterion extends 4.1.2 Name, Role, Value to status messages. Now, interface controls and status messages must be available to assistive technology.
While error messages and warnings can be status messages, they are not if they change the context by setting the focus to the error.
The Understanding Success Criterion 4.1.3: Status Messages document provides many examples.
The video below shows how the NVDA screen reader announces a properly implemented status message. This example simulates a product comment form. If the user is idle too long, a message displays warning that the system will log them off. NVDA announces the new message. In the video, the user navigates to the comment field and then leaves the cursor idle. This simulation displays the warning message immediately.
This success criterion benefits people who use assistive technology. Screen reader users will hear the status message. People using magnification technologies may get notification of messages appearing out of view. Users with cognitive disabilities may use technologies to help draw their attention to status messages. This could be by flashing or speaking the message.
Use status messages for information that is necessary but that does not change the current focus. Developers must code status messages to be recognizable by assistive technology.