Inactive UI components and WCAG 2 compliance

Michael S Elledge elledge at
Tue Oct 12 15:34:45 UTC 2010

Hi All--

To add to Everett's comment, I think the key issue here would be if the 
disabled UI control provides meaning to a sighted user. For example, if 
it has text that provides context to a sighted user, then it should have 
sufficient contrast for someone who otherwise wouldn't be able to see 
it, i.e., distinguish the foreground from the background. It would also 
need alternative text for someone using a screen reader.


E.J. Zufelt wrote:
> Good morning Jonathan,
> I would interpret this portion of WCAG as being not in the best 
> interest of accessibility.
> Without justified cause, an inactive (disabled) UI component should 
> still have perceivable text, for all if there is text that is 
> perceivable to some.
> We do not know the ways in which access to this text, even if the UI 
> control  is disabled, may contribute to the user experience of the 
> form.  If we indeed want the UI control to be imperceivable Then we 
> can hide it so that nobody uses it to build better context for the UI 
> of the form.
> HTH,
> Everett Zufelt
> Accessibility Consultant & Web Developer
> Web
> Phone (toll free U.S. & Canada)
> 1-877-ZUFELT-8 (1-877-983-3588)
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> On 2010-10-12, at 10:54 AM, Jonathan Hung wrote:
>> Hi Jan,
>> Greg and I were having a conversation in the IRC channel about WCAG 
>> compliance and inactive/disabled UI components. According to the WCAG 
>> guideline, it states:
>>     "Text or images of text that are part of an inactive user
>>     interface component, that are pure decoration, that are not
>>     visible to anyone, or that are part of a picture that contains
>>     significant other visual content, have no contrast requirement."
>> (Reference: 
>> In the context of a button that is active and then becomes inactive 
>> when activated (i.e. a Submit button that is enabled until pressed), 
>> how should we interpret this guideline? It seems the *act* of 
>> becoming inactive is significant (this merits contrast?), however, 
>> the guideline states that the contrast requirement doesn't apply to 
>> inactive components. How should we handle contrast styling in this case?
>> - Jonathan.
>> ---
>> Jonathan Hung / jhung at <mailto:jhung.utoronto at>
>> IDRC - Interaction Designer / Researcher
>> Fax: (416) 977-9844
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