ACCESSIBLE CONTENT: How to Alert Screen Reader Users About Web Page Changes

Cartoon of human hand holding a megaphone reaching out from a cellphone screen

According to the WCAG 2.1 Level AA Guidelines (4.1.3 – Status Messages), folks who use screen readers need to be notified when changes occur on a web page.

aria-live Roles to the Rescue

Add aria-live roles to HTML page code so assistive technology users are notified when something on the page changes.

Example: Screen reader users who are visually-impaired can’t see changes or have trouble perceiving visible status messages on a page, such as shopping cart updates. Their assistive technology devices should announce the status message that was visibly added to the page.

Should you be polite or assertive?

There are different types of aria-live values you can use to announce changes.

  • aria-live=”polite”: Announces the change in a “polite” manner, like after a screen reader is done reading a sentence.
  • aria-live=”assertive”: Announces the change immediately. This should be used only if the change on the page is critical or imperative.

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