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Pointer Gestures - Understanding WCAG

Pointer Gestures - Understanding WCAG

A flash of online activity for me can tick off many a to-do: Need to make a payment? Internet banking. Shops closed and want an outfit for tomorrow? Online shopping with next day delivery. Parcel to track? Scan QR code and find it fast.

Picture going to do these things then finding you’ve been locked out while you watch your friends accessing everything with ease. For many of the 13.9 million disabled people in the UK, that’s how browsing the world wide web feels.

That’s where the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) comes in. If you haven’t heard of this it’s the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium. Full of criteria we need to adhere to in order to make websites accessible to everyone with or without disability.

People with visual, auditory, motor, speech and cognitive disabilities rely on various assistive technologies and alternative methods of interaction to use digital documents, web and mobile apps. This is just one thing we must consider when creating a website.

From time to time we are going to select a WCAG2.1 success criterion to simplify in a blog. If you’ve ever browsed the guidelines you’ll understand why, it’s an overwhelming but amazing resource

Let’s kick things off with pointer gestures. Here’s a snippet from WCAG:

Pointer Gestures (A)

Success Criterion 2.5.1: Pointer Gestures

All functionality that uses multipoint or path-based gestures for operation can be operated with a single pointer without a path-based gesture, unless a multipoint or path-based gesture is essential. (This requirement applies to web content that interprets pointer actions i.e. this does not apply to actions that are required to operate the user agent or assistive technology).

I’m guessing you’ve got questions…


What is a single-pointer gesture?

A tap, click, double tap, double click, long press, or click & hold (users needn’t concern themselves with direction/much movement)


What is a multi-point gesture?

A two-finger pinch zoom or a split tap where one finger rests on the screen and a second finger taps. These gestures are impossible for some users who may have no choice but to type with a single finger.


What is a path-based gesture?

A gesture that involves an interaction where it’s not just the endpoints matter such as swiping a carousel. Think about how you swipe, your thumb starts in one place (generally centrally - call that point 1) and ends in another (say to the left and in line with where it began - call it point 2) if your thumb starts at point 1 but goes all over the screen before landing at point 2, you won’t achieve the same result; it may not swipe or you may have triggered a link that’s taken you off to another page.


Why is this important?

Some people can’t perform gestures in a controlled manner so accuracy isn’t possible, or they might use a device like an eye-gaze system, or speech-controlled mouse emulator. These specialised or adapted input devices aren’t necessarily capable of performing multipoint or path-based gestures.


So what does this all mean?

The content can respond to multipoint or path-based gestures but an alternative method must be provided i.e. the play / pause controls that accompany a carousel or the plus and minus buttons used to zoom in and out on google maps. 

Worth noting this applies only to the web content so not the operating system or what users may need to do to operate their assistive technologies, that’s not the responsibility of those building the website.

If this has helped make things clearer, there's more ’WCAG made easy’ to come, so watch this space!

Jordana Jeffrey

Created on Wednesday October 09 2019 08:02 AM


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