Challenges of a Toggle – How to Make Toggles Accessible

A toggle is a small piece of plastic that is sewn to something such as a coat or bag, and pushed through a loop or hole to fasten it. It is also a type of switch found on computers and some other machines. Toggle can be used to switch between functions or between different settings.

Toggle is a popular design pattern in modern interfaces, often as an alternative to traditional checkboxes or radio buttons. The use of toggles can increase usability, but they do not come without their own set of challenges. The most obvious challenge is that toggles can be visually confusing. To make sure users understand their current state, designers often add visual cues to distinguish the active and inactive states. In addition to colors, some designers include a more pronounced or saturated color as the active state, while others prefer a lighter color to indicate the inactive state.

While using a simple visual cue is generally a good idea, relying solely on one to convey meaning is not. As per guidance from WCAG 1.4.1, color shouldn’t be the only way to communicate the state of an interface element. The good news is that a well-implemented toggle can be cognitively OK for many users, as long as it’s accessible!

Savvy teams consider their toggle configuration inventory as a carrying cost and seek to minimize it. To that end, they ensure that all toggles in their release will live side-by-side in source control and that they won’t be accidentally flipped off during the production lifecycle. Additionally, they test the current production toggle configuration as well as the fall-back configuration with all toggles flipped On.