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RE: Skip Nav Ideas

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Mon, 04 Jun 2001 19:25:54 -0700
Message-Id: <4.2.0.58.20010604190933.00b71e30@garth.idyllmtn.com>
To: sec508@trace.wisc.edu
Cc: sec508@trace.wisc.edu, Katie Haritos-Shea <kshea@apollo.fedworld.gov>, michael_cortese@ita.doc.gov, w3c-wai-gl@w3.org, wai-xtech@w3.org, w3c-wai-eo@w3.org
At 05:27 PM 6/4/2001 , Jim Thatcher wrote:
>I find the objections by Kynn and others to the use of a Skip Navigation
>Link as alt text on an image unconvincing. I believe the skip navigation
>idea is second to alt text on images in importance in making a site
>accessible.

Oh, I'm not saying it's a show-stopper, but it's important to realize
that what we are dealing with here is a problem -with HTML- in that it
doesn't have the mechanism to allow for navigation skipping in an
elegant manner (and thus it's not supported by the browsers).  HTML
doesn't even really allow you to identify the navigation or the 
primary content, either.  Which are big detriments to increasing
accessibility.

Thus, to get around this, it's necessary to abuse HTML in order to get
around its limitations -- the primary limitation being "HTML is a 
terrible language for doing web development" :) -- and to do that,
we have to come up with a somewhat messy hack.

Messy hacks are -bad-, and always have been, because once they are
entrenched they become an obstacle to doing things the right way,
or even a crutch that prevents the development of "the right way."
"Why add explicit identification of navigation groups and primary
content to XHTML 2, if you can just include 'skip links?'"

It's very important to remember that a "skip links" mechanism is
a technique -- it's not the means to the end, it's a way of
accomplishing something.  The general principle is "allow for easy
intra-page identification and navigation, between primary (and
other) content and navigation elements."

One way to do that is to include skippable links.  But it may not
be necessary in all cases -- for example, with a right hand navbar,
the need to 'skip links' may be eliminated, since the content will
typically read first, and the navigation links after that.

Jim's site itself is an excellent example of this; while he does have
a "skip to main content" link, it doesn't actually skip over any
navigation links, just a few headers that define what the site is
about.  (In actuality, I don't think he even needs that link, which
only skips two lines content.)

Note, however, that a strict reading of 508 regulations could lead
you to assume that Jim's site is deficient (or would be, if it were a
government site); the 508 rule on "skip links" is:

      (o) A method shall be provided that permits users to skip
          repetitive navigation links.

...and since he doesn't allow for skipping of navigation links (just
of two headings) maybe he's in violation?

I think not, though, since it says "a method shall be provided" and
I feel that the layout of his page _is_ that method.

What's my point here?  I think messy hacks and kludges are okay, as
long as we don't end up fooling ourselves into thinking it's the
"right way" to do things.  As long as we keep in mind that ultimately
we are breaking the technical rules of HTML for a greater purpose,
and as long as we are not convinced there is only -one- method for
allowing links to be skipped!

--Kynn

-- 
Kynn Bartlett  <kynn@idyllmtn.com>                http://kynn.com/
Technical Developer Liaison, Reef             http://www.reef.com/
Chief Technologist, Idyll Mountain Internet   http://idyllmtn.com/
Online Instructor, Accessible Web Design     http://kynn.com/+d201
Received on Monday, 4 June 2001 22:26:19 GMT

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