Form Input Generates New Information without Notification

Short Description

User inputs information into a form field and there is a change in surrounding content, but without audible cue

Long Description

  • Form fields can generate new content in a variety of ways:
    • New content appears after a user selects the submit button-- This is problematic to a screen reader user if there is no audible indication of the change, because the user does not know if a change has occurred. There might be a problem with the server on the form submission side, a problem with the internet connection on the user side, a problem with the submission button, or the form might have been submitted just fine. The screen reader user has to go through several steps to trouble shoot through all the possibilities. If the new information does not appear in a logical order, such as just below the submit button according to keyboard navigation, not just visually, then the screen reader user has to search the whole page for the new information they are not certain exists.
    • A new combo box or info appears after a user selects an option in a combo box-- When this occurs, a screen reader user is not certain what they need to do next, which means they have to spend time testing possible next steps based on past experience in similar situations. Sometimes when a new combo box does appear, when the screen reader user tabs to the next field, it will skip over the new field and will only appear to the screen reader if the user then tabs back. A less experienced screen reader user is less likely to know about this behavior and thus is more likely to completely miss the new information.
    • Auto correct or a suggestion appears as a user types information-- In many cases, the suggestions or auto correct can be helpful, but in some cases, when the entry is particularly sensative and has to be exact, the form field is essentially unusable without access to the information as it appears.
    • Number of characters left or an error message updates as a user types-- If a screen reader user was unaware of a character limit to start, they might continue to write after the form field is still accepting information. Some form fields continue to behave the same as they did before character limit, so a screen reader only knows about the mistake later. Information about errors might be difficult to find, and if there is no audible indication that there is a problem, it can take a screen reader user a long time to figure out why the form is not working.
  • A screen magnifier user will have varying issues with form fields, because the user might or might not notice changes based on the user's available vision and where the screen magnifier is focused. A screen magnifier focuses on a limited section of the screen, meaning a user cannot see what is happening in different parts of the screen.

Example of Issue

An inaccessible pop up box is one form this issue might take.

Accessibility/Usability

Accessibility
Usability

Impacted Assistive Technology

Screen Reader
Screen Magnifier

Impacted Type of Device

Computer
Mobile

Recommendations

  • ARIA live can help provide information about dynamic information. Just make sure it is done properly, because it can make a web application less accessible when it is not used properly.
  • Subtle audio cues generated by the screen reader can be enough for a user to know changes occured. The screen reader needs access to information about the change in order to generate those cues.
  • Updates and error messages should appear in context to where the user was when the change occured, so the user does not have to search for the information.
  • To learn more about the appearance of new information, read the article Dynamic Content on the Accessibility and Usability site.