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Heading structure with 1.3.1 Info and Relationships and 2.4.1 Bypass Block

From: Matthew Putland <matthew.putland@mediaaccess.org.au>
Date: Tue, 3 Jan 2017 02:48:37 +0000
To: "w3c-wai-ig@w3.org" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <175A0C3A8A81CC4AA58A058F62066E530404898E@SERVER01.mediaaccess.local>
Hi WAI interest group,

This is an issue that's been doing my head in for a while. I'm sure that we can all agree that skipping heading levels (like jumping from a <h1> element to a <h3> element) is not recommended. The main issue here is that the relationships of the headings can become confused and heading navigation using assistive technologies becomes more limited (e.g. using the number 1-6 on a keyboard allows you to skip to specific heading levels when using screen readers like JAWS and NVDA, but becomes fairly useless in web content with poor heading structure).

Despite these issues, can anyone explain why skipping heading levels fails/doesn't fail 1.3.1 Info and Relationships<https://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/content-structure-separation-programmatic.html>? If presentation is used to visually show different heading levels, then surely the headings on the page must also have a semantic and sequential heading structure? There's also technique H42<https://www.w3.org/TR/2016/NOTE-WCAG20-TECHS-20161007/H42>, which talks about using headings in a semantic and sequential way.

I find that many website developers/designers will assign a certain style to a heading level, and then base their heading structure on the presentation of the headings and don't pay any attention to the sequential heading structure of the page.

There's also the case of 2.4.1 Bypass Block<https://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/navigation-mechanisms-skip.html> which boggles my mind as well. How is having an semantic and sequential heading structure an acceptable replacement for a skip-to-content link? Sure, headings are great for screen reader users, but people who are unable to use a mouse for any reason cannot skip to headings using a keyboard without assistive technology or access keys (as far as I know).


Matthew Putland
Senior Analyst, Digital Accessibility | Media Access Australia
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Received on Tuesday, 3 January 2017 02:49:13 UTC

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