RE: Visual Indicators

Hello Alastair, hello all,

it was clearly stated that the WCAG should not be prescriptive, which contradicts to the below suggestion to determine exactly how a link or button should show their nature. There are several options, specifically inside a toolbar, and buttons often reveal their nature by a colored background or on hover or focus.

Requesting the end user to add visuals via style sheet is not an option, because

  *   It is unfeasible if the user has to redesign a web page to be able to use it
  *   Most end users are not deep into web programming to perform such changes
  *   The most common user agents to not support adding tweaked style sheets
  *   Most web pages and applications are themed, and themes usually break when adding tweaked style sheet classes/properties

So we agree that there are too many questions open to go forward with this SC.

Best regards,

From: Alastair Campbell <>
Sent: Donnerstag, 16. April 2020 10:19
To: David MacDonald <>
Cc: WCAG <>
Subject: RE: Visual Indicators

Hi David,

It is an interesting idea, but we would really need to have a good idea of where that breaks at the moment.

I’ve been running similar CSS [1] via Stylus (on and off) for a while, and generally it works. You might even say there is no need for an SC?

Where it doesn’t work it is either because:

  1.  The correct markup is not used (generally a failure of 1.3.1/4.1.2), or
  2.  some random layout CSS hides some or all of the border/outline area.

In the second (fairly rare) case it is really hard to see how to improve that without impacting the design. For example, you might have a ‘card’ that contains an image link, and in the responsive design at some sizes you’ll have a border, but at others the card ‘contains’ the link and the borders are hidden.

With the specific text chosen it also missed image links entirely, although that might be intentional?

Personally, I think there are still too many questions open at this stage, and that is without addressing the question of whether a plugin-approach is suitable.



From: David MacDonald

Hi All

I've added an OPTION 3 to the spreadsheet which is a fallback passive SC based on the text spacing SC ...

Plain language:
"Don't do anything that overrides a browser plugin's ability to override CSS to create outlines on buttons and underlines on links."

In content implemented using markup languages that support visual adaptation of user interface components<>, one of the following is true, with no loss of content or functionality, and by changing no other style property:

1.     A user agent or plugin can adjust:

o   Button and input borders up to 3px (CSS) in width

o   link underlines up to 2px (CSS) in width

2.     There is a mechanism available on the page where

o   Button and input have borders with at least a 3:1 ratio

o   link underlines with at least a 3:1 ratio

3.     On page load:

o   Buttons and inputs have borders with at least a 3:1 ratio

o   link underlines up to 1px (CSS) in width with at least a 3:1 ratio


David MacDonald

CanAdapt Solutions Inc.

Tel:  613-806-9005



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On Fri, Apr 10, 2020 at 12:20 PM Alastair Campbell <<>> wrote:
Hi everyone,

I’m trying to get to some conclusion from this thread, focusing on what people are suggesting to change (and to paraphrase people horribly):

  *   Gundula would like to widen the scope back to it’s original (all controls provide affordance) but within a process, and avoid overlap from referencing inline links.
  *   Andrew & JohnF are concern with requiring underlines/icons when there are examples (like Google results) which would fail but appear to have a clear expectation of being links (i.e. a false-fail). Design push-back would also be expected. Personalisation seems a better option.
  *   JonA is concerned about defining what is part of a process or not.
  *   The COGA TF (via Rachael) are concerned the current version was missing the intent and proposed a new version:

“Interactive elements do not rely solely on spacing or a single visually identifiable characteristic to differentiate them from static elements, except for the following:

  *   An underline is sufficient to indicate a link is interactive
  *   A color difference is sufficient to indicate an element is disabled
  *   The control is part of a group of controls that has a visual indicator for the group”

My first impression of that update is that “a single visually identifiable characteristic” needs some explanation, I’m not sure how to apply that. Also, if the single characteristic were a border or background, wouldn’t that be ok?

Overall, we seem to be oscillating between what we would like (the original affordances SC) and a very narrow version focusing on some specific aspects.

The affordances version needs a huge amount of research/testing to define what visual aspects are needed to make something appear interactive.

The narrower versions still suffer from creating false-positives and being very prescriptive about particular design aspects. IMHO being prescriptive isn’t necessarily a blocker, but if people can point to false positives then it is undermined.

I’m struggling to see a path forward for this one on 2.2 timescales, we really need that research on what standard/core affordances are for various controls to align the SC/guideline text with the exact issues.


Received on Thursday, 16 April 2020 13:38:38 UTC