Provide the option to turn off interruptions

Webpage that allows user to postpone alerts
Image description: A website titled, "Settings" and text below says, "Postpone updates and alerts for." The 4 radio button options are 30 minutes, 1 hour, 6 hours, and 1 day, with 6 hours selected in purple.

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Why This is Important

Interruptions can be very distracting, especially to people with attention disorders. Interruptions are also confusing if the messaging is not available to screen readers.

Blind and visually impaired people use screen readers to interact with websites and apps. A screen reader is a type of assistive tech that converts things on screen to audio and/or braille. It's important that things are understandable and interactive to screen readers.

Keyboard accessibility is essential for people who do not use a computer mouse (which might be because they have unpredictable or very specific movement due to a motor disability). Many Blind and visually impaired people also use keyboard interactions in order to use their screen reader.

Error support is accessible to people with a diversity of disabilities. A cognitive disability might affect how a person perceives and understands things. A physical disability might lead to unpredictable movement. Other factors such as environment, stress, and multi-tasking may also lead to errors.

In order to be accessible, gestures and interactions must account for people with physical and motor disabilities, who might have unpredictable or very specific movement.

Providing the option to turn off interruptions is accessible for people who need support in focusing on something. This encompasses people with attention and cognitive disabilities as well as people in high stress or high stakes situations.

The interruption, which could take the form of a banner or modal dialog, might also not be available to screen readers, which Blind and visually impaired people use to interact with the web. If the screen reader doesn't recognize the message, it could have an affect on the user without them realizing it.

This references WCAG criterion 2.2.4 Interruptions (Level AAA).

Level AAA compliance is considered more difficult to meet because it requires more resources to fulfill. It also might encompass conflicting access needs (meaning what is accessible to some might be inaccessible to others). Use your best judgment of your target audience and your team's capabilities to determine if this is a pragmatic goal to reach.

How to Implement This

The most common recommendation is to provide a way to turn off interruptions in settings.

Slack, a group messaging app, is a great example of this. People can turn off notifications using a "Do Not Disturb" setting and have a choice between a few different time slots (30 minutes, 1 hour, custom etc.) This is a great option for people if they're in a rush and need to change the setting quickly. Slack also provides "office hours" and automatically doesn't send notifications outside of those hours.

Slack Do Not Disturb menu
Image description: a screenshot of the "Do Not Disturb" setting in slack, which displays 5 postpone options (30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, tomorrow, and custom). The menu also has links to "Notification schedule" and "Set yourself away."

Smart phones also have a "Do Not Disturb" setting built into their OS (Operating System). This is often available through the quick settings panel/shortcut. The quick toggle on/off is great for people who need to remove distractions immediately. The only downside is they may forget to turn it back on, however the OS often automatically turns it back on within a day.

Quick settings menu on a phone
Image description: Screenshot of the Quick Settings menu on Google Pixel, with an arrow pointing to the outlined "Do Not Disturb" button.

How to Test This

Manual Test
Semi-Automated Test
Automated Test
  • Open the settings page. Make note of any ways to turn off interruptions.
  • Interact with the website/app. When an interruption occurs, make note of a way to turn off interruptions.


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