RE: SC 2.4.5: links in context

This proposal is meant to address some of the concerns that Ben raised
in his response to my original post on this thread, and I think itmight
catch some of Makoto's concerns as well.

2.4.5 When a link or other programmatic reference to a delivery unit (or
part of the same delivery unit) has focus, text describing the
destination is available without changing the focus.

The current wording is as follows:
2.4.5 Each programmatic reference to another delivery unit or to another
location in the same delivery unit, is associated with text describing
the destination.

In some of the examples listed in the technique "Describing the delivery
unit in text immediately preceding the programmatic reference" [1] and
in my post on "SC 2.4.5: links in context" [2], users encounter
difficulty because they must move focus away from the link in order to
find out where the link goes. Additional key presses are needed first to
find the context and then to return to the link and follow it. In my
opinion, the fact that additional keypresses are needed counts as a
serious accessibility barrier, especially since the situation occurs so

I am not convinced that the current wording of the SC describes a
"functional outcome." I think the proposed wording addresses that
problem (it may create other problems, of course, and I'm sure someone
will point them out...)

The proposed wording *could* be satisfied by AT, for example if the AT
grabbed the title from the link destination and reported it to the user,
or if it went and got the nearest heading before the  link, etc. In
those cases the author wouldn't need to do anything beyond what's
required by other SC (use heading markup to markup headings, provide
titles for delivery units, etc.). 

Ben mentioned that the phrase "description of the destination" might not
be quite right. I think he may be on to something, but I don't have a
proposal for that part yet.



"Good design is accessible design." 
John Slatin, Ph.D.
Director, Accessibility Institute
University of Texas at Austin
FAC 248C
1 University Station G9600
Austin, TX 78712
ph 512-495-4288, f 512-495-4524


-----Original Message-----
From: Ben Caldwell [] 
Sent: Friday, February 24, 2006 3:47 pm
To: John M Slatin
Subject: Re: SC 2.4.5: links in context

Hi John,

Thanks for digging up these examples. Good food for thought.

One concern I have about these in general is with the assumption that
users should always be able to determine the destination of a link from
the links list dialog. While the links list is certainly a useful tool
for finding a link that you already know is there (especially on
frequently visited pages), I'm not convinced that all links should make
sense when read out context. As an author, there are certain
circumstances (news sites and blogs are prime examples) where the
question I ask is, why would it be helpful to know what the destination
of the link is if you haven't already read the content that led up to
that link?

As you mentioned in your summary, I think there are some questions we
need to answer around one word links.

Take the following example:

<p>I wasn't awake this morning until I'd had my first cup of <a

 From an accessibility perspective, is ambiguity about the destination
of the link "coffee" a barrier to accessibility? What if the link
pointed to the Equal Exchange Fair Trade site
( or wikipedia's entry on coffee
( instead of to Starbucks?

AT implementation issues aside, it's great advice to make this link more
usable by adding a title attribute. However, my feeling is that we're
taking this success criterion a bit too far if what it means is that a
page containing only the sentence above does not conform to the
guidelines at Double-A.

John suggested that linking from a single word embedded in the text of a
sentence would be a sufficient technique to meet this criterion since
the context of the sentence usually describes the destination. I
disagree. In the example above, the destination of the link isn't
described, so this would fail this success criterion as currently

To extend this example further, what about a page which contains only
the word "coffee" as a link? In this case, there isn't any text
associated with it that describes the destination. However, this is not
inaccessible, it's just ambiguous. If the user wants to know what the
destination is, they can simply follow the link and find out.

Maybe the question is about the type of link we're talking about. Are
there certain types of links or situations where it's more important
that the destination be clearly described than others? I think part of
what we're wrestling with here is that there are examples where we'd
like to see clear link text at level 2 an other examples where it seems
more like good advice.

Here's my take on the questions and examples from your summary:

John M Slatin wrote:
> The questions are:
> (1) Do the instances I describe actually pass SC 2.4.5 *as it is 
> currently written*?
> (2) If you think they fail the SC *as currently written*, how would 
> you explain why they fail?
> (3) If you think the instances *pass* the SC *as currently written*, 
> do you think the SC itself is OK as written, or should 
> "programmatically associated" descriptions be required? (That is, 
> should we rewrite the SC so that the instances in the attached
document would fail)?

<> - This is an odd construction and I had to
click on the link myself before I could figure out where it would take
me. I would have thought JAWS would provide a better clue about what
this link does by announcing that that the "more" link here is a "this
page link." I agree that determining the context for this link isn't at
all straightforward in this case, but would suggest that it's no more
confusing for AT users than it is for anyone else. In addition, if the
navigation bar had included headings or nested lists by category, I
think this would be a lot easier to figure out. So, as 2.4.5 is
currently written, I think this example would fail because the
destination of the link can not be inferred from context.

<> - This is a great example of the type of site
where it makes very little sense to use the links list as a tool for
navigating the site. Once you're familiar with the way content on
slashdot is organized, a user might use the links list to quickly find
sections of interest (ex. games, media, etc.) but navigating by header
or reading the main content of the page in its entirety is a much better
strategy. I think this example should pass 2.4.5 as currently written
since the destination of the link is clear when the link is read in

For the UT library catalog, I'd suggest that this fails 1.3.1 based on
the fact that the links are in separate cells from the results in a
layout table. This is another very odd construction and I think as
currently structured, this one should fail 2.4.5. However, if this were
in a data table, I think it would be the other way around (though the
overall structure would still have a number of usability issues).

<> - This is similar to the
slashdot example. I agree that it fails 1.3.1, but the purpose of the
page is to provide a series of sports headlines and article snippets. 
For those articles that are a bit on the long side, the "read more" 
provides an easy way for users to pick up where they left off on a
separate page while minimizing the amount of screen real-estate a single
article can take up on the home page. The destination of the "read more"

links in this example is the middle of the article being read, so I'm
not even sure what 2.4.5 would require in this case. Would it really be
helpful to have a title attribute here that said something like,
"paragraph 6 of Thursday wrap and Cohen reaction"? As currently worded,
I think this example should pass 2.4.5.

<> I think this passes the SC as it is currently

Thanks again for providing these specific examples John. It has been
very helpful in thinking this through more carefully.

Not sure what to recommend at this point. If there's a way to categorize
links that can't be understood because they don't have surrounding
context (ex. links in navigation bars or menus), I could see addressing
this at level 2 and moving the current criterion with programmatic to
level 3, but as written, I'm concerned that this criterion is too
restrictive for level 2.


Ben Caldwell | <>
Trace Research and Development Center <>

Received on Friday, 24 February 2006 22:38:00 UTC