Should all status updates be an alert?


My site shows the text "Please wait" after the user clicks a button, but it's not very important and disappears quickly. Does it still need to be announced by assistive technology?


A temporary update like “Please wait” or “Processing” informs users of what's currently happening. For these kind of updates, Success Criterion 4.1.3: Status Messages applies and the alert message should be coded so it can be automatically announced by assistive technology.

The intention for this criterion is that users have access to equivalent information. If visual users are informed about a status update, then non-visual users need access to the same update, even if only briefly presented. Status updates like this can be valuable for all users by indicating that the system is working on their request, and not just frozen or nonfunctional.

For a status message that’s not critical, we recommend coding the message as a polite alert (as opposed to an assertive alert). Polite alerts communicate their relative importance to the accessibility tree, and with certain technologies users can modify how polite alerts are announced or even suppress them. Coding the status as a polite alert makes the information available, and users can control how they prefer to receive this type of information.

To learn more about coding accessible alerts, explore the Forms: Labels, Cues, and Errors course from Accessible Web Academy.

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