Everyone Included: Hypothesis Accessibility Reaches WCAG 2.1

By frannyfrench | 19 January, 2022

Metal WELCOME sign with letters in rainbow colors hanging on a brick wall. Image Credit: Welcome (https://flic.kr/p/runEnh) by Bob Duran, licensed CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/).

Hypothesis has passed another inclusivity milepost: When used in a learning management system (LMS), our social annotation tool now meets the rigorous level of AA compliance with WCAG 2.1. Accessibility is an ongoing commitment for us, and our product team has prioritized taking the steps to make annotation easy for everyone. Our WCAG 2.1 designation comes through an external review conducted by the Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC), a key collaborator in helping us map and expand the accessibility of our tool so that we can help all students and instructors annotate texts in the classroom. Get our latest voluntary product accessibility template (VPAT), and read more about how we approach inclusivity.

Building off of WCAG 2.0, WCAG 2.1 includes 17 additional success criteria ​​to help with a range of accessibility needs for people with low vision, for people with cognitive and learning disabilities, and for accessibility on mobile devices. You can take a deep dive on the WCAG website, but some highlights include:

  • Non-text contrast
    • User interface components like boxes and buttons are more clearly defined, making them easier to see.
  • Text spacing
    • line height: to at least 1.5 times the font size
    • spacing following paragraphs: to at least 2 times the font size
    • letter spacing (tracking) to at least 0.12 times the font size
    • word spacing to at least 0.16 times the font size
  • Timeouts
    • Users are notified about the duration of any user inactivity that could result in a loss of data already put in.
  • Animations caused by interaction
    • Animations, such as pop-ups that “follow users” and are triggered by user interaction, can be disabled for a less distracting, dizzying interactive experience.
  • Target size
    • The size of the target for pointer inputs — mouse, touch, pen — has been enlarged to at least 44×44 pixels, making it easier to “hit” the right button.
  • Status messages
    • Voice messages confirm when you have done something like add a meeting to your calendar.

Schools are often required to offer fully accessible platforms, but ensuring accessibility is more than a compliance to-do list for us: Our goal always is to support the activities and contributions of users across a broad spectrum of abilities. Providing fully inclusive design not only helps people with physical, cognitive, and other disabilities, it also takes into account factors like gender, culture, and age. For example, our keyboard shortcuts for creating annotations and highlights typify the kind of functionality that makes our product more accessible to people with disabilities, and streamlines the user interface for anyone annotating with Hypothesis.

While our tool is now more accessible within the LMS, the content it’s overlaying may not be — e.g., instructor-assigned texts. Inclusivity, like annotation, is a collaborative effort, so we recommend that educators consider the accessibility of the texts they serve up for annotation, especially when it comes to full-class participation. Check out our guide to improving the accessibility of PDFs. And for more information on what inclusivity covers, watch this excellent video from the W3C.

Accessibility work on a product is never done. Our mode of operation is to incorporate inclusive design into all of our product development practices. And we will continue to collaborate with schools and annotators to test and improve how Hypothesis works with assistive technology.

Learn more and get involved

If you have difficulties using Hypothesis annotation and/or use assistive technology to interact with it, we would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions about how we can improve your user experience. Please feel free to contact us. And subscribe at the bottom of this page to receive email news about Hypothesis and annotation, including any accessibility updates.

Start using Hypothesis in your LMS and learn more about pricing for your school.


Share this article