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Re: Site Maps and Screen Readers

From: Al Gilman <asgilman@iamdigex.net>
Date: Thu, 23 Aug 2001 13:04:27 -0400
Message-Id: <200108231644.MAA6729884@smtp2.mail.iamworld.net>
To: Graham Oliver <graham_oliver@yahoo.com>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
At 11:00 PM 2001-08-08 , Graham Oliver wrote:
>Hi
>Is it possible for a screen reader to make effective
>use of a site map, if it is constructed using proper
>HTML, using h1, h2, h3 etc.
>A JAWS user I speak to says he is unware of any
>functionality that allows him to navigate via
>headings.
>

AG::  The way you are talking about headers, it sounds as though you believe
structural navigation of the site map page constitutes effective use.

There is a caution that should be applied when thinking this way.  The user
doesn't usually need to repair to the site map if the hierarchical
organization
of the site is working for them.  They will follow the navigation links
embedded in the pages and find what they want.  The user usually only goes to
the site map when this fails.  Once the user is at the site map, the upper
levels of sorting the site contents are suspect.  They may just be
insufficiently clear.

Now, I realize some of this is based on old data from blind users using Lynx,
where text-searching pages is effortless.  But the reason that a one-page
compilation of titles for all pages -- listed in hierarchical fashion if you
like -- is something that remains valuable, even today, is that this lets you
easily text-search the full text of the titles of all pages in one pass, and
rapidly navigate among all links where the link text contains your key word or
phrase (anywhere, not just initially).  [This is related to why an alphabetic
key is a questionable idea on the Web, anywhere.]

So in considering site-wide features, consider maintaining a consolidated
table
of navigation for the site (compare with the DAISY/NISO digital talking book);
if not for every page at least detailed sub-departments.  Text-searching on
this page is a safety net service catching problems caused by the site
manager's inability to make high-level categories sufficiently expressive so
that people know under which to look; even when they know what they are
looking
for.  Once you get two or three levels up from the real topics, we are all
struggling for titles that are both short and sufficiently descriptive.

I am not knocking structural navigation, we want it.  But it is on our list of
under-supported functions calling for reform in the technology, I am afraid. 
You can't count on adequate functionality with widespread support for any
scheme of structural navigation within the page at the moment.

 <http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/wai-tech-comments/2000Oct/0001.html>h
ttp://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/wai-tech-comments/2000Oct/0001.html

If you provide just one site map, scrub it for how well it works under
text-searching the page.  That's a method that is very likely to be available
in your customer's delivery context, that some people with disabilities have
found assistive and will likely try to use.

Al

>Cheers 
>Graham Oliver
>
>=====
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Received on Thursday, 23 August 2001 12:44:57 GMT

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