Friday, January 25, 2008

Empty Links and Screen Readers

The most accessible linking structures ...

"With the help of other members of the Yahoo! Accessibility Stakeholders group, I ran a screen reader test to establish whether links that contain no link text were an accessibility barrier. We tested a number of approaches to hiding links across a typical range of screen reader and browsers.

The conclusion is that the most accessible link is one that contains link text. Different techniques of hiding links, from no link text, through to hiding by CSS can cause an accessibility barrier to screen reader users. Each screen reader presented its user with a different set of problems and barriers.

What follows is a detail description of the test, tabulated results, summary of techniques that passed, failed or came close, and a list of web development recommendations.

The Microformats include pattern

The Microformats group have created an include pattern which is a mechanism for including a portion of data from one area of a page into another area on the same page. Essentially, it’s a means of preventing the duplication of data.

A good example of this is a page that lists all the reviews done by one person. Instead of every review having to duplicate the reviewer details, we can use the include pattern to define the reviewer once, and include it into each review. No needless duplication.

The main technique being advocated as an include is the humble link, but in an effort to minimise duplication of content, the example is an empty link; a link with no link text:

... The current accessibility understanding is that empty links can present a barrier to screen reader users. The Microformats group have attempted to solve this problem by using the title attribute to offer something a screen reader can use to announce a link.

The issue here is to find a way of marking up a microformat include pattern that’s accessible to screen reader users."    (Continued via Yahoo! User Interface Blog)    [Usability Resources]

Table for browser combinations. - Usability, User Interface Design

Table for browser combinations.

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