Checkpoint 503.3: Alternative User Interfaces

Where an application provides an alternative user interface that functions as assistive technology, the application shall use platform and other industry standard accessibility services.


This checkpoint clarifies that any "novel" interface designed by a product team to support users with disabilities should be considered as an assistive technology and must satisfy the 502.x interoperability requirements of the Revised Section 508 standards.

As discussed in the 2015 draft of the 508 Refresh, "The section aims to forestall the rare, but problematic, situation where there is a question about whether a product should be treated as assistive technology or another type of software.... Examples of alternative user interfaces include on-screen keyboards for a single switch user, and screen reading software for a person who is blind."

More recent smartphone-relevant examples include voice recognition and on-screen keyboards with word prediction. In such situations, developers should use native platform versions of these features (which should provide the compatibility with the ATs). If a product creates a custom version of such interfaces, it must utilize industry standards for accessibility.

It is expected that this checkpoint will be Not Applicable for almost all products, since such alternative interfaces are rarely created by a product team. Products that do present an alternative UI that meets this criterion need to use platform and accessibility application interfaces to meet this checkpoint.

Note: This checkpoint is not intended to apply in situations where an alternative but conventional presentation of material is undertaken to support users with disabilities. For instance, providing an alternative to complex visual information in the form of a sortable data table is an alternative presentation of the information in a conventional format. The tabular information does not function as assistive technology.

Development Techniques

Note: Review the General techniques as well as other tabs applicable to your technology.  Prioritize the use of technology-specific techniques, and implement the General techniques as needed. You are always required to find, understand and implement accessible code techniques to meet the checkpoint. The documented techniques and supplements are not exhaustive; they illustrate acceptable ways to achieve the spirit of the checkpoint. If numbered, techniques are in order of preference, with recommended techniques listed first.

General techniques

Each item in this section represents a technique deemed sufficient.

Using platform or other standard accessibility services

Where an application provides assistive technology-like functionality, support both platform services as well as standard accessibility services. See 502.x checkpoints such as 502.3.1 Object information and 502.2.2 No Disruption of Accessibility Features for details of such accessibility application interfaces.

Mobile Native (iOS) techniques

There are no specific Mobile Native iOS techniques for this checkpoint. Refer to the General techniques section.

Eclipse techniques

There are no specific Eclipse techniques for this checkpoint. Refer to the General techniques section.

Windows-based (MSAA+IA2) techniques

There are no specific Windows-based techniques for this checkpoint. Refer to the General techniques section.

Most links in this checklist reside outside at the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. W3C Recommendation 11 December 2008:

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