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RE: [#832] Clear link text - priority and acceptability of supplemental text

From: Ben Caldwell <caldwell@trace.wisc.edu>
Date: Tue, 22 Jun 2004 14:52:28 -0500
Message-Id: <200406221951.i5MJpxE7001071@jalopy.cae.wisc.edu>
To: "'Joe Clark'" <joeclark@joeclark.org>, "'WAI-GL'" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>

Joe wrote:

> Jaws for Windows came up with this cool new feature of listing all the
> links on a page. One or two links found here or there might not make
> sense, so let's *impose* this proprietary, software-specific capability
> on every author everywhere.
> 
> Do not custom-craft guidelines to cater to the deficiencies or strengths
> of any particular existing user agent.

I believe that the requirement for clear link text is an artifact from the
days when user agents (especially screen readers) did not provide
reasonable mechanisms for obtaining page overview information and in-page
navigation. The unfortunate side effect of this circumstance was that
users began to tab from link to link on pages in an effort to get an
overview of that contents and structure of that page.

The problem with the tabbing from link to link strategy is that what you
often get when you read links out of context is an overview of where you
can go from the page that you're on rather than what the structure of the
page you're on is. 

This is a place where we need to be encouraging users to utilize header
and other structure navigation features (many of which are already present
in existing user agents) to get an overview of the content and to rid
themselves of old habits of relying on conclusions drawn about content and
organization when tabbing from link to link. 

However, this does not mean that link lists are not useful. Especially
when users are familiar with a page or site, pulling up the list to more
quickly locate a specific link that they already know is there is a useful
and valuable feature.

All in all, I think clear link text is more a question of good design than
it is a barrier to accessibility and would be concerned about moving a
requirement about this to level 1. 

-Ben
Received on Tuesday, 22 June 2004 15:54:20 GMT

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