I'm working on a project currently where the client organisation deals with vulnerable people regularly. This has resulted in the weird situation where 1) they're really obsessive about legal acknowledgement of things, as they don't want to be sued; and 2) everything has to meet accessibility compliance guidelines.

After talking them out of using DocuSign—yes, they actually wanted users to physically sign a copy of the site's terms and conditions—we've 'settled' on a situation where the user must scroll x% of a scrollable div before they're allowed to click an 'I accept' checkbox and proceed. They've also requested some very clear copy intended to explain this to users (e.g. "Please scroll through the terms and conditions and check the box in order to accept them".)

I have some concerns with this.

  1. This seems like a miserable experience for screenreader users; who have to go through each line of the terms one by one to scroll the container far enough to reach the defined percentage.
  2. This approach would be incompatible with any assistive technologies or user stylesheets that disable or alter the display of the scrollable area.
  3. The terms are marked up as part of a form, and I'm aware that many screenreaders have a 'form mode'. Would this mode cause the user's interactions with the scrollable area to differ (e.g. skipping over the text entirely to progress to the next form field)?

Any help belaying these concerns, or alternatively talking a client out of a bad idea, would be appreciated. Thank you.

  • 3
    Very interesting question, on one hand you should allow screen readers to skip large bodies of text, on the other if you let them skip it then you are acknowledging that the "I have read and agree to the terms..." is a lie. – DasBeasto Nov 21 '17 at 17:46
  • @DasBeasto And that's why no one sues. – Kitanga Nday Nov 22 '17 at 13:49

Would a "Send a copy of this to my email" button/box be acceptable to your legal department? The user could skim or skip over and read later, but there would be proof that you sent the "contract" into their possession.

  • I love this idea! Even for more usual cases it seems like a perfect way to ensure you have indeed done yout best to inform users and it let's the keep a copy of the terms current. – LNubiola Feb 20 at 17:10

I've noticed that when you are about to give access to some account information, to an app or even a website, on a Google owned product (e.g. Gmail), you aren't allowed to click on the advance button (as in it's disabled) until a set number of seconds pass. This, I think, is a way to make you read the permissions you are giving to the app/website. You can try using this.

Of course, this still brings up the issue of the screen readers, users using such tools might not know why they can't continue or why the button is disabled. A solution could be to tell the user something like "You have x number of seconds before proceeding, please try reading the Terms of Condition." whenever they try clicking on the advance button.

Try giving access to some app or service on some Google owned product, but use a screen reader to see how Google tackled this issue.

Its one where you will have to check with your legal team for the implications. Forcing users into a behaviour based on stakeholder paranoia is a disaster and should be avoided at all costs and making users scroll X or wait Y proves absolutely nothing.

Options: Checkbox saying "I have read and agree to the terms and conditions" Button prefixed with "by clicking I have read and agree to the terms and conditions"

These prove far more legally than a forced behaviour.

It does seem like a horrible experience. Couldn't you settle for an abbreviated and easy to understand version to be read?

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