1.3.4 Support Personalization (minimum)

WCAG 2.1 Review: Introduction 

WCAG 2.1 now has a first public working draft and ​the working group are inviting comments and feedback via Github

As I'm developing software to test sites for accessibility, I'm reviewing the 28 new proposed criteria for WCAG 2.1, primarily to determine how testable the criteria are using either automated or manual methods. ​

This post concerns a specific criterion: ​1.3.4 Support Personalization (minimum).
To view my feedback on other criteria and more background info, go to my listing of feedback

The Criterion

  • ​1.3.4 Support Personalization (minimum)
  • Suggested Priority Level: A
  • Text: Contextual information and author settable properties of regions, critical features and important information are programmatically determinable so that personalization is available.

    Exception: Information does not need to be exposed when there is not a standardized technique of exposing it in the technology or the platform.

My Thoughts

This is one of the criteria that I feel is a bit confusing to a web developer that does not specialise in accessibility. ​I don't think that it is 100% clear that what developers need to do is provide contextual information, not implement the actual personalization features from scratch. 

In fact, I'm not even sure based on the above wording whether developers are involved in implementing the personalization, or whether this is left solely to the user agent. I've commented on Github to ask. ​

The W3C's Personalization Semantics proposal does add a bit of context, "For example, assume an author can make it programmatically known that a button is used to send an email. At at the user end, the button could be rendered with a symbol, term, and/or tooltips that is understandable for this particular user. .... It could be identified with a keyboard short cut that will always be used for send".​

Apart from it possibly needing a bit of rewording, my main concern with this criterion is that the standardized technique for achieving this in HTML is not mature enough for its inclusion, in my opinion. The semantics proposal is still just an editors draft and therefore not endorsed by the W3C. I also believe that the technique for HTML implementation should explicitly reference these semantics and not leave it open to there being multiple standards. This makes it clearer for developers and testers.

While I agree that this criterion may be beneficial for users, I don't believe that there is enough developer guidance available to make this reasonable to implement right away. I'd recommend putting this aside until version 2.2/3.0, or moving it to Priority Level AAA, unless the COBA semantics can be agreed and endorsed by W3C before WCAG 2.1 is published. ​

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