Accessibility

Solutions for creating more accessible SVGs

We’ve been working with SVGs a lot recently, which has led our developers down a rabbithole of discovery! Here are some things to consider when it comes to SVGs and accessibility.

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1. <img> tags and SVGs

When SVGs are implemented as <img> tags with an .svg as the source, we’ve encountered a few issues for VoiceOver and TalkBack users. These issues occur when those <img> tags don’t also have an ARIA role=”img” attribute.

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2. <title> tags and SVGs

We often see examples of making SVGs accessible by simply adding a <title> element within the inline <svg>. While this does help in some situations, like a lone SVG icon within a link, adding a <title> element doesn’t make SVGs accessible in all browsing environments.

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For example, when using Firefox and NVDA, a link containing an SVG would be recognized as a link, but the text within the <title> element would not be announced. NVDA announces the path within the href attribute only.

Adding an aria-labelledby attribute to the SVG can help expose the text within the <title> element to the browser’s accessibility API. However, even with this in place, NVDA does not announce the <title> text as we might expect.

Our most recommended approach when it comes to browser support and consistency across screen readers is to add a visually-hidden element as a sibling element to the <svg>. With this implementation, we’ve found that all browser and screen reader combinations tested were able to announce the link with the expected text announcement.

We also recommend adding aria-hidden=”true” to the <svg> element itself. This is to help prevent having any other text that may be embedded within the SVG be announced by screen readers. Then, the only text that should be announced would be the content within that visually-hidden element.

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7. Colour contrast

While not a bug per se, we also see a lot of cases where designers and developers don’t plan for colour contrast issues for SVGs. Since SVGs function just like transparent GIFs in how they are displayed, different page background colors and effects can cause unanticipated issues for low vision users.

For example, a black SVG icon that’s perfectly visible with a white page background is going to be invisible in a Windows High Contrast theme that uses a black background. This is a common use case for users who use High Contrast settings due to light sensitivity or related issues. When you provide a solid background or contrasting border for SVGs, you can help avoid those kinds of problems.

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Responsive Design for Motion, a.k.a. "prefers-reduced-motion" Media Query

WebKit now supports the prefers-reduced-motion media feature, part of CSS Media Queries Level 5, User Preferences. The feature can be used in a CSS @media block or through the window.matchMedia() interface in JavaScript. Web designers and developers can use this feature to serve alternate animations that avoid motion sickness triggers experienced by some site visitors.

To explain who this media feature is for, and how it’s intended to work, we’ll cover some background. Skip directly to the code samples or prefers-reduced-motion demo if you wish.

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Inclusive Toggle Buttons

How you design and implement your toggle buttons is quite up to you, but I hope you’ll remember this post when it comes to adding this particular component to your pattern library. There’s no reason why toggle buttons — or any interface component for that matter — should marginalize the number of people they often do.

You can take the basics explored here and add all sorts of design nuances, including animation. It’s just important to lay a solid foundation first.

Checklist

  • Use form elements such as checkboxes for on/off toggles if you are certain the user won’t believe they are for submitting data.
  • Use <button> elements, not links, with aria-pressed or role="switch" plus aria-checked.
  • Don’t change label and state together.
  • When using visual “on” and “off” text labels (or similar) you can override these with a unique label via aria-labelledby.
  • Be careful to make sure the contrast level between the button’s text and background color meets WCAG 2.0 requirements.

See the source link for very detailed descriptions of all of these points.

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Introducing A11y Dialog

Almost all projects involve some form of dialog window at one point or another. However, accessibility is all too often set aside in favor of quick implementation. Truth is, accessible dialog windows are hard. Very hard.

Fortunately, there is a super clever guy named Greg Kraus who implemented an accessible modal dialog a few years ago and open-sourced it on GitHub. Now that’s nice!

However, his version—no matter how good it is—requires jQuery. We try to avoid using jQuery as much as we can here. We realised we did not really need it most of the time. On top of that, his script is not very flexible: only one dialog window per page, hard-coded IDs inside the functions. Not very practical and certainly not a drop-in script for any project.

So I rolled up my sleeves and improved it.

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The Reduced Motion Media Query

Sites all too often inundate their audiences with automatically playing, battery-draining, resource-hogging animations. The need for people being able to take back control of animations might be more prevalent than you may initially think.

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Remember: we're all just temporarily-abled. Feeling a little dizzy might not seem like that big a deal, but that moment of nausea might be a critical one: losing balance and falling down, a migraine during an interview, nausea-triggered vomiting while working a food service job, passing out while operating a car UI, etc.

So what can we do about it?

Enter a new Media Query

Safari 10.1 introduces the Reduced Motion Media Query. It is a non-vendor-prefixed declaration that allows developers to “create styles that avoid large areas of motion for users that specify a preference for reduced motion in System Preferences.”

The syntax is pretty straightforward:

CSS

@media (prefers-reduced-motion) {
  .background {
    animation: none;
  }
}

Safari will parse this code and apply it to your site, letting you provide an alternative experience for users who have the Reduced Motion option enabled. Think of this new Media Query like @supports: describe the initial appearance, then modify the styles based on capability.

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Toggletip widget pattern (tooltip alternative)

A screenshot of the Toggletip demo, with the Toggletip displayed. Please open in the CodePen link below to interact with the demo.

What it does

  • Uses a real button as a control.
  • Places the displayed content next in DOM order after the button.
  • Uses some ARIA magic to augment the semantics and behaviour.
  • Displays or dismisses content on click, press or tap (also dismisses on esc key press).
  • Conveys state (collapsed or expanded) to AT users.
  • When initially displayed content is announced by (most) screen readers that support aria-live.
  • Screen readers users can also virtual cursor through and interact with the displayed content.
  • keyboard only users can interact with controls in the displayed content.

What it does not do

Display content on mouse cursor hover.

View Toggletip demo on CodePen

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