Sometimes browsers should fix bad accessibility patterns. And sometimes they do

Note: This post is older than two years. It may still be totally valid, but things change and technology moves fast. Code based posts may be especially prone to changes...

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User agents are sometimes going beyond their own guidelines and helping to improve accessibility with smart accessible defaults.

Browsers (and other so-called user agents as well) have to respect special guidelines made just for them. Yes, beside Web Content Accessibility we must also be aware of User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG – link opens in new window).

This is actually very smart – if we think of some general things that should be made accessible by default – by the browser itself, for example possibility to zoom within browser and also set your own, personal, preferences that suit your needs.

So – developers of user agents (beside browsers there are also other ways to access internet and it’s content, but that is for another blog post) should adhere to their own guidelines and then we get some universal accessibility “out of the box”.

But sometimes browsers can also improve accessibility of the content, so move beyond their own scope and actually help web developers, designers and editors with smart accessibility defaults.

Focus visible success criterion saved by browser

One of the latest examples of this is the Google Chrome focus ring design. You may have noticed it on some sites and I must say it is a good example of subtle yet important accessibility improvement.

If web developers don’t disable the default focus outline styling, then all websites rendered by Google Chrome get a very good focus ring that is immediately improving webpage accessibility.

This has a direct positive impact on Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) success criterion 2.4.7: Focus Visible (opens in new window).

Just a quick reminder – this criterion is meant to help persons that can see to easily identify what element has focus. You may have experienced some navigation or form items missing focus indication and what the negative impact on the usability of such pages or applications.
I can not imagine not having focus indication on my tax assessment form.

So – thank you Chrome (and other browsers too) – for improving accessibility “on a browser level”.

Author: Bogdan Cerovac

I am IAAP certified Web Accessibility Specialist (from 2020) and was Google certified Mobile Web Specialist.

Work as digital agency co-owner web developer and accessibility lead.

Sole entrepreneur behind IDEA-lab Cerovac (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility lab) after work. Check out my Accessibility Services if you want me to help your with digital accessibility.

Also head of the expert council at Institute for Digital Accessibility A11Y.si (in Slovenian).

Living and working in Norway (🇳🇴), originally from Slovenia (🇸🇮), loves exploring the globe (🌐).

Nurturing the web from 1999, this blog from 2019.

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