Motion Accessibility

September 10, 2021

It’s a common misunderstanding that inclusive design and accessibility can only come at the cost of design details like motion. But that isn’t really the case. Our recent “Entrepreneurship with a purpose” themed content package is an example of creativity without sacrificing accessibility. How we approach motion in a responsible way is the key factor. Motion can have a positive impact with visitor engagement, reader recall, brand perception, usability and accessibility when we use it with intention.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) recommendations:

  1. Pause, Stop, Hide:
    Provide a way to pause, stop, or hide any moving, blinking, scrolling content (that lasts more than 5s) unless that moving, blinking, or scrolling content is an essential activity.
  2. Three flashes or below threshold:
    Don’t include anything that flashes more than three times in any one second unless the flashing is below the general flash and red flash thresholds. The intent of WCAG success criterion is to allow users access to the full content of the site without inducing seizures due to photosensitivity. Significant flashing on screen has been known to trigger seizures.
  3. Animation from interactions:
    Motion animation triggered by interaction can be disabled unless the animation is essential for functionality or the information being conveyed. WCAG suggests we avoid unnecessary animation, provide a control for users to turn off any non-essential motion, or take advantage of the reduced motion setting in operating systems and user agents.

WCAG has multiple levels of criteria and conformance, which is why each recommendation has a notation of what level it falls under. Level A compliance is the minimum level of conformance. Level AA is the middle level of conformance and indicates that the criteria for both level A and AA have been met. Level AAA is the highest level of conformance and requires satisfying all the Level A, Level AA and Level AAA success criteria, or a Level AAA conforming alternate version is provided. When we are developing the themed content packages, we strive to meet at least the Level AA conformance, but in many cases we are able to meet the Level AAA requirements.

There are many distinct groups of individuals who are adversely impacted by motion. Moving content can distract many users. Others may have more severe reactions such as dizziness, nausea, or headaches. Designing and developing each motion component in your site to be compliant with WCAG standards is very important. Motion design is a great example of the idea that designing for accessibility will make the designs better for everyone.

If you would like to discuss this topic further, please contact urweb@umn.edu.

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