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Web Accessibility Guidelines for Content that Appears and Disappears

Under the Information and Communications Standards of the AODA, organizations must make their websites and web-based apps accessible. Organizations must do so by making their websites compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA. This international standard gives web developers guidelines on how to make their webpages accessible to computer users with disabilities. However, updates to the Information and Communications Standards could require organizations to comply with more recent versions of WCAG. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) released an improved version of these guidelines, version 2.1, in 2018. Moreover, the W3C will release WCAG version 2.2 in September 2022. This article outlines WCAG 2.1’s web accessibility guidelines for content that appears and disappears.

Web Accessibility Guidelines for Content that Appears and Disappears

Designers should avoid disrupting a user’s reading experience by including content that appears and disappears. For example, types of appearing and disappearing content to avoid include:

  • Custom tooltips
  • Sub-menus
  • Pop-ups

This type of content only appears when the user hovers with their mouse pointer, or tabs through a certain area with their keyboard. However, when the user moves to a different part of the webpage, this content disappears. On one hand, some users may not be aware that new content is present. On the other hand, the new content may cover existing content and interrupt what users are doing.

Designers who create this type of content should develop ways for users to dismiss it without disrupting their experience of the page. In other words, a user should be able to dismiss the content without changing the focus of their mouse or keyboard. Users should be able to dismiss this content easily, unless it:

  • Is a message alerting them to input error
  • Does not cover other content

Additionally, the content should not disappear if the user moves their mouse or keyboard focus, until the:

  • User scrolls away from that content, onto another part of the webpage
  • User dismisses the content
  • Content is no longer valid

Advanced Requirements

The WCAG webpage provides the full list of requirements, as well as technical guidance on how to implement them. The AODA only requires websites to follow guidelines in version 2.0, level AA. However, the WCAG webpage provides guidelines at level AAA. While websites do not need to follow these guidelines, they can choose to follow them as a best practice. Websites that follow more guidelines have the chance to welcome more visitors and do more online business.