Accessible Internet Links
Links, or technically hyperlinks, are simply a group of words or symbols that represent a web page that you can access simply by clicking. For instance, to read the most recent blog on you can click on this hyperlink Web Accessibility: Document Structure and jump on over.
Of course most people are able to visually recognize a link on a page by the blue-colored font that’s underlined (or you can see the “hand”). But what about folks with low vision or blindness?
Fortunately, today’s technology has made screen readers available to help people with low vision or blindness operate computers independently. The screen reader does just that: reads the content on the screen for the user.
Since links are everywhere on the internet, they should be carefully considered when providing web accessibility. Like stated above, links can be visually recognized by the blue, underlined font, but how do screen readers recognize links? Simple: the screen reader will say “link” before each link it approaches on a page. For example, the “Workforce Solutions” link will be read as “link: Workforce Solutions,” which alerts the user they have approached a link and they can react accordingly.
You might be thinking “that’s cool, but it would be nice if the user could go straight to a link instead of having to listen to a lot of content before finally getting to a specific link,” and you’re right, the user can. Most screen readers have the ability to show a list of all links on a particular page in alphabetical order. For example, the JAWS screen reader used by Workforce Solutions brings up a list of links on a page when the user clicks Insert+F7 on the keyboard (hold down the insert key and press the F7 function key).
Another similar way to browse links on a page is by simply using the tab key. The tab key can be used in most screen readers to jump from one link to the next or shift-tab to the previous link. This operation may seem a little different to a person that has average vision, but often times due to my laziness I utilize the tab key to jump to different links or form elements (like cells in a table).
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when creating a webpage that is more accessible to the users needing a screen reader.
- When creating hyperlinked words, be sure and exclude the word “link.” The screen reader will say, “link: link to Workforce Solutions,” which will sound redundant and silly after a while (I know because I’ve done that).
- Since most screen readers allow the user to navigate from link to link, consider what words you use for a link and make them as brief and clear as possible. Also, a link should make sense out of context. “Click here” or “Click for details” will not tell the user much. Instead use descriptive words to let the user know where that link will lead them to.
Keeping these things in mind and recognizing the importance of web accessibility will open new doors to users. Stay tuned to this blog for future entries on web accessibility.
See you at work!
David Spears is a member of the Workforce Solutions Navigator team for the Texas Gulf Coast Region. Combining training and education to real world examples, David brings personal and professional experience with disabilities to the table in order to help job seekers with disabilities realize their potential. David has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business Administration with over 20 years of experience in the business world.