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Comments on WCAG 2.0 - 1.4.3. Contrast (Minimum)

From: Ramón Corominas <ramon@ramoncorominas.com>
Date: Sun, 30 Mar 2008 21:09:04 +0200
Message-ID: <47EFE550.50100@ramoncorominas.com>
To: public-comments-wcag20@w3.org

I don't know if this is the way to respond to comments, sorry if I 
didn't understand it well :)
> ----------------------------------------------------------
> Comment 1: Level A for low or no-contrast content
> Source: http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-comments-wcag20/2008Feb/0027.html
> (Issue ID: 2479)
> ----------------------------
My concerns are mostly about form fields without borders or with very 
light ones, over a light background (in many cases with light shades of 
grey). This is a relatively common practice, and it's not solved with 
"normal" ways to improve contrast in current user agents, that usually 
only affect to the text and not to the form fields themselves.

Of course advanced users can change the user style sheet with 
!important, but they would need to know how to make such technological 
things, which is far away from real world, and IMHO is opposite to 
accesibility philosophy. We must assume that users don't know much about 
these technologies, so they will rely on user agents to setup their 
color preferences. Now, both Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox do 
not provide any option to change border color of form fields. They also 
could completely disable style sheets, but I think this would be like 
forcing users to see the Internet as a "text-only" world. For me that is 
not real accesibility.

I agree that my example was not "real world" for text/background 
contrast, but very near to reality in the case of form fields and their 
borders. My mistake was to use "text contrast", that certainly does not 
represent the real problem. So here are some real world examples of form 
fields with very low contrast (all of them taken from a "first results 
page" in Google):

1. A contact form

Here we have a contact form where fields are invisible for me. I can 
know about their existence because there are textual references to them, 
but of course not because they are visible.

background: #f1f1f1 (external background = #ffffff; Contrast Ratio = 
1.13:1 -almost invisible for everybody-)
border-color: #b5ccba (around = #ffffff/#f1f1f1; CR = 1.71:1/1.51:1)

2. A search form

Here, the text field for search terms is completely invisible over a 
very light background. Again, I can guess that it is there, to the left 
of the button, but I cannot see it directly.

background: #ffffff (external = #ebeef0; CR = 1.17:1)
border-color: #d0d7dc (around = #ffffff/ebeef0; CR = 1.45:1/1.25:1)

In the previous examples, even with assistive technology to enhance 
contrast, I am not able to see it (I used MAGiC).

3. A web Page to test contrast (!)

Here the border contrast is a bit better, but I can only know that there 
are fields because they provide a default text inside them. Without it, 
the fields would be invisible. Now, with assistive technology I can see 
the border.

background: #ffffff (external = #ffffff; contrast = 1.0:1 -invisible-)
border-color: #7f9db9 (around = #ffffff; contrast = 2.83:1)

All these examples are a very representative sample of a common practice 
with form fields: very light borders, very light backgrounds, almost 
invisible form fields. I've "seen" this kind of things a lot of times 
with all kind of forms (user login, contact forms, forums...).

Finally, I must say that I'm surprised -and a bit dissapointed- by your 
last paragraph, when you say -more or less- that "as we cannot find any 
web site that do not met the 5:1 contrast rule, there should not a 
problem with it". It sounds to me like "nobody seems to do it, so don't 
worry about that".

My opinion is that WCAG must prevent all posible issues of accessibility 
that could cause problems to users. In fact, I think that we must 
reverse the arguments: if all current websites already met the contrast 
rule, why should it be a problem for designers? As a designer, I don't 
see it as a restriction, but a help, because this ensures that all my 
designs will be readable by most people.

Ramón Corominas.
> Original Comment:
> ----------------------------
> I've read the rationale about not moving this criterion to Level A,
> arguing that "assistive technology will be able to present the text or
> text equivalent of this content to the user".
> However, for people with no assistive technology (because they don't
> really need it, or even for people with good sight), when the text has
> no contrast (or very low contrast), the content will not be perceived,
> or even noticed.
> I think that when people doesn't even notice that there is some
> content that they should be aware of, they will not even think about
> using some kind of trick to find it, so the content will not be
> perceived at all. It would be the same as if this content does not
> exist.
> An example of this here:
> http://ramoncorominas.com/wcag20/level_a_1_4_3.htm
> I am conscious that this is an exaggerated example, but I, as visually
> impaired, sometimes find things like this, where there is a content
> that I don't even know that exists.
> Sometimes I "discover" this kind of content when a well-sighted friend
> tells me about its existence after some navigation trying to find it
> through a site (an example of this are some form controls with no
> border, over a very light gray background).
> Proposed Change:
> Raise 1.4.3 to Level A, or introduce some Level A rule to force this
> kind of content perceivable without assistive technology.
> ---------------------------------------------
> Response from Working Group:
> ---------------------------------------------
> We considered this at length and we have left 1.4.3 Contrast (Minimum)
> at level AA. Since there are ways to make text high contrast, and we
> expect new ones to become available in the future, we did not require
> it at Level A (to make up for user agent features) due to the
> restrictions it places on color palettes.
> Users with contrast perception difficulties may be able to set a
> custom style sheet with !important on the font color choices, so even
> though they're not using assistive technology they can customize their
> presentation to get a higher contrast presentation.
> In your example, the text at the end of the page would not be visible
> to anyone, which would make the page no less usable for people with
> disabilities than without. While we realize that your example
> represents an extreme, we have not found that examples of real-world
> sites which contain significant barriers of this nature. In a review
> of a variety of popular Web sites, we only found a few places on a
> couple of pages where 5:1 was not met.
Received on Monday, 31 March 2008 06:11:12 UTC

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