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HTML 4.01 MAP element prevents links from displaying using a screen reader

From: Sandra Vassallo <S.Vassallo@e-bility.com>
Date: Thu, 01 May 2008 13:45:02 +1000
Message-ID: <48193CBE.5090504@e-bility.com>
To: wsg@webstandardsgroup.org, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org


I recently come across a problem in Firefox with screen readers (Jaws 
and Window Eyes) when using the HTML 4.01 MAP element to group links, 
and thought it would be of interest to others on the list who may be 
using it as well. It also affects Braillenote's Keyweb.

The technique is suggested in WCAG 1.0 and the recent WCAG 2.0 Candidate 



Websites using the map element seem to be affected when a screen reader 
virtualises the page in Firefox.

When user testing in Firefox 2 with Jaws 9, all the navigation links 
were missing from the virtual buffer. However, turning the virtual 
cursor off, the user could tab between all the links (including the 
missing ones). The same page viewed in IE using a screen reader 
displayed all links.

If you would like to try it out there is a test page at: 

After deleting the map element from the markup all the links were 
visible (audible/feelable) with Firefox/Jaws and Braillenote's Keyweb.


I'd be interested to know if anyone else has feedback on this issue. 
I've reported it to Bugzilla and Bruce Maguire has posted a message on 
the JAWS Beta forum, whose members suggested the map element may be the 
problem. GW Micro are in the loop as well.


Firefox is becoming increasingly popular and people are now starting to 
use it with screen readers. The Keyweb browser (although very basic and 
under-developed) is also used by a lot of people because it is installed 
on Braillenote.

If it is a software problem, then for the time being it seems best to 
avoid the MAP element and use a list, div, headings (visible or 
positioned off-screen) to help people understand link relationships and 
find or skip over navigation groups quickly.



Sandra Vassallo
e-Bility Inclusive IT
w: www.inclusiveit.com.au
w: www.e-bility.com
Received on Thursday, 1 May 2008 03:50:33 UTC

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