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RE: Using Heading to Replace Skip Links

From: Adam Cooper <cooperad@bigpond.com>
Date: Sat, 12 May 2012 16:03:59 +1000
To: "'Vivienne CONWAY'" <v.conway@ecu.edu.au>
Cc: "'W3C WAI-IG'" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <000701cd3005$05d29930$1177cb90$@bigpond.com>
HI Vivienne and all, 

Yes, I would say it fails SC2.4.1.  And what we're really talking about,
here, is what is commonly referred to as the header section. I have seen
some sites that have a labyrinth of same page skip to links and those
irritating back to top links that I would consider failing on the same
criterion, too ;-)

headings are indeed a mechanism for skipping blocks of content using
navigation  keys, but:
1. they are not necessarily repeated or repeated consistently across
multiple pages  (as per the sentiments of SC3.2.3)
2. the features of assistive technologies used to traverse headings can be
disabled, modified, or not present (i.e., relied upon)
3. the purpose of headings is to organise content - it's a happy accident
that they offer some navigational utility to some users in some situations -
"Although this Success Criterion deals with blocks of content that are
repeated on multiple pages, we also strongly promote structural mark-up on
individual pages as per success criterion 1.3.1"

I guess this means, from a practical point of view, like every browser
having a back button, all pages should have appropriate skip to links before
the header section? 

I can already hear certain elements of the web development community
groaning ... 


-----Original Message-----
From: Vivienne CONWAY [mailto:v.conway@ecu.edu.au] 
Sent: Saturday, May 12, 2012 1:28 PM
To: Adam Cooper; 'Ramón Corominas'
Cc: 'W3C WAI-IG'
Subject: RE: Using Heading to Replace Skip Links

Hi Adam and list

That's brilliant advice Adam, thanks.

Further question for you Adam.  If you were assessing the WCAG 2 compliance
of a website and there were no skip links, but an adequate heading
structure, would you still say it fails 2.4.1.?


Vivienne L. Conway, B.IT(Hons), MACS CT
PhD Candidate & Sessional Lecturer, Edith Cowan University, Perth, W.A.
Director, Web Key IT Pty Ltd.
Mob: 0415 383 673

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From: Adam Cooper [cooperad@bigpond.com]
Sent: Saturday, 12 May 2012 11:15 AM
To: 'Ramón Corominas'; Vivienne CONWAY
Cc: 'W3C WAI-IG'
Subject: RE: Using Heading to Replace Skip Links

Hi Ramón and Vivienne,

        Some musings of an everyday screen reader user …

For users dependent on a screen reader, every new page involves discovery.
The almost innate relevance filtering available for visual users is a
time-consuming and strategic process for screen reader users which is why
navigational elements and meaningful structure is so important.

So-called skip to links are useful for screen reader users, especially when
there is only one or no headings on a page, when the header is content-rich,
or when  lumpy tables are used to layout headers and content, but navigating
by ‘navigation keys’ through sufficient and meaningful headings is more

One of the most irritating issues using navigation links with a screen
reader can be the placement of destination anchors. While a mechanism for
bypassing blocks of text is very useful, an efficient mechanism is more
desirable, and, as a screen reader user, I’d prefer not to be fishing around
with cursor keys to find the beginning of a block of content because a CMS
or a developer has not placed an anchor immediately before relevant content.

so, I broadly concur with Vivienne’s sentiment that  “Frankly, I think it
should be a requirement as we're wanting to make things better for people to
get to the content, not more difficult.“

But I would add the following conditions:
1.      Skip links must be the first elements on a page that accept focus
2.      Skip links must be always visible
3.      Skip links must always include link text that clearly identifies
their purpose (I have seen on pages recently <li>Skip to: ><a
href=”#content”>Content</a></li>. Quite apart from the very common and
equally irritating overuse of list elements to position content, I don’t
believe the link purpose is clear.)
4.      Skip to links must destinate immediately prior to relevant content
5.      Avoid using the same name and id attribute values for destination
anchors as this can result in a similar target vagueness with some screen
readers in some situations

Hope this helps,

-----Original Message-----
From: Ramón Corominas [mailto:listas@ramoncorominas.com]
Sent: Wednesday, May 09, 2012 10:13 PM
To: Vivienne CONWAY
Subject: Re: Using Heading to Replace Skip Links

Hi, Vivienne and all,

SC 2.4.1 states:

"2.4.1 Bypass Blocks: A mechanism is available to bypass blocks of content
that are repeated on multiple Web pages. (Level A)"

And "mechanism" is defined as "process or technique for achieving a result",
with the following note:

"Note 1: The mechanism may be explicitly provided in the content, or may be
relied upon to be provided by either the platform or by user agents,
including assistive technologies."

So, in terms of conformance, headings *are* a mechanism that relies upon
UA/AT support.

In addition, I would consider if the meaning of "bypass blocks" is "bypass
the tabs" or simply "bypass the content". Even if they cannot "skip tabs",
Sighted people can simply look after the repeated content if the visual
design remains the same among pages. For example, I can just press "down
arrow" to read the page, and I am not obligued to read the menus before I
can read the main title of an article, so visual consistency can be
considered a "mechanism" (a technique) to achieve "visual bypass". And, for
blind people, headings is enough.

My 2 cents (wink)

Vivienne wrote:

> I've been having some discussions with people as to whether using 
> Headings
as per H69 can replace the use of skip links for Bypass Blocks (SC 2.4.1.).
> I would appreciate your consideration of this interpretation:
> "Headings can only replace skip links for screen reader users - they 
> don't
benefit sighted keyboard-only users (e.g. Prof Hawking) and low vision users
using screen magnifiers, for whom skip links work much better (because they
don't have shortcut keys to navigate headings).
> Although H69 mentions Opera supports navigation by headings - it's 
> turned
off by default and requires a hidden option to turn back on
> http://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/navigation-mechanisms-skip.h
> tml
> Techniques and Failures for Success Criterion 2.4.1 - Bypass Blocks
> Each numbered item in this section represents a technique or 
> combination
of techniques that the WCAG Working Group deems sufficient for meeting this
Success Criterion. The techniques listed only satisfy the Success Criterion
if all of the WCAG 2.0 conformance requirements have been met.
> http://www.w3.org/TR/2008/REC-WCAG20-20081211/#conformance-reqs
> Conformance Requirements
> 4. Only Accessibility-Supported Ways of Using Technologies: Only
accessibility-supported ways of using technologies are relied upon to
satisfy the success criteria. Any information or functionality that is
provided in a way that is not accessibility supported is also available in a
way that is accessibility supported. (See Understanding accessibility
> http://www.w3.org/TR/2008/REC-WCAG20-20081211/#accessibility-supported
> def
> accessibility supported
> The way that the Web content technology is used must be supported by
users' assistive technology (AT)
> Taken together, my interpretation is you can’t use headings alone to 
> claim
conformance with 2.4.1 since they bypass blocks in screen readers but not
other assistive technology (e.g. screen magnifiers, switches, voice
recognition etc.). It looks the conformance requirements are designed to
provide a safety net for cases like this."

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Received on Saturday, 12 May 2012 06:04:42 UTC

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