Thread Subject: Re: Group D: 22(o) Skip navigation
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From: Jim Thatcher
Date: Sun, Dec 03 2006 7:45 PM
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I advocated/introduced the requirement for skip navigation links in the
original Section 508 EITAAC meetings. At that time there was no vehicle to
get past dozens of navigation links (and other stuff) to the main
story/information on a page. I thought we had to have something in the 508
requirements that would address this fundamental barrier.
In retrospect, it ("Skip navigation links") has turned out to be a pretty
poor accommodation - a lot of the time the skip links don't even work in IE
(http://jimthatcher.com/news.htm#haslayout). Also there have been technology
changes for screen reader users. Screen readers will actually skip
repetitive links. When you have the same set of links at the top of the
page, JAWS figures that out and skips over the "repetitive navigation links"
as you move around the pages of a site. But this accommodation doesn't help
you find the various section of a page.
The biggest change is the availability of headings navigation for screen
readers. Headings navigation makes it possible to move from section to
section of a page just by pushing the "H" key (Shift + H to move backwards).
Headings navigation is also available for keyboard (non-screen reader) uses
with the Opera Browser (the S key, W for backwards).
If we can see the page and use the mouse we really don't think of navigating
within a page, but this kind of in-page navigation is critical for all
users. If you can see the screen it's a lot easier. If you can use the mouse
that helps; you can easily follow the link you want. But with lacking
either, it is really difficult, frustrating, and time consuming to move
through EVERYTHING to find what it is that you are looking for.
This has nothing to do with repetition. It is important to be able to find
(get to) different sections of a page, independent of whether the stuff in
between is repetitive or not - even if you can't see the page or use a
WCAG 2.0 includes the following provision that addresses the issue of
in-page navigation (but not obviously).
1.3.1 Information and relationships conveyed through presentation can be
programmatically determined, and notification of changes to these is
available to user agents, including assistive technologies.
This is good. If you look at a page of any complexity - it will have section
headings - well it will have text near various parts of the page that SHOULD
be headings. SC 1.3.1 would require that those can be know to AT. (Think
marked up as HTML headings.) But maybe we need something more specific.
22(o) Provide mechanisms whereby keyboard users are able to navigate to
major sections of each page.
At least one big problem with this is - what is a major section? I hope
someone can come up with better wording - or maybe we should accept
something like 1.3.1 as doing this job. It is a very important job.
Accessibility Consulting: http://jimthatcher.com/
From: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =
[mailto: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ] On Behalf Of Hoffman,
Sent: Friday, December 01, 2006 11:29 AM
To: TEITAC Web/Software Subcommittee
Subject: Re: [teitac-websoftware] Group D: 22(o) Skip navigation
Allen, can we clarify? I'm hoping you mean include something about where
the site includes the skip-nav links rather than actually using the
I'd like to clarify as tabindex seems to be highly overused and used
incorrectly, wreaking havoc on otherwise potentially good page designs.
The tabindex attribute enabling developers to control how users navigate
through the site only seems to work as intended when every element on
the page uses tabindex (sometimes forgotten when an item is added last
minute to a page or when the developers are most concerned with a few
I've seen it used to move users to the main content of a page quickly at
the expense of enabling users to access important navigation controls
easily. For example, I reviewed a complex application recently in which
the main content was set to tabindex=1, a tree navigation control was
set with tabindex=2 or 3 and the critical navigation elements people
needed (but the developers were trying to provide a means to skip given
22(o)) set to tabindex=4. As a result, users would hear the critical
navigation elements read to them first in the reading order by the
assistive technologies, but the tab order differed drastically and users
couldn't get to those critical elements until they had tabbed through
the rest of the page (literally hundreds of links given the tree
If you mean provide guidance about where to include skip links, I'm in.
If you mean specify the tabindex attribute, I'd vote against that and
suggest we consider alternatives.
Good article entitled "Too much accessibility - TABINDEX" from Royal
National Institute of the Blind -
Wow, great post.
I have to chew this over. I have found tabindex to be a great solution
when done right, but if not done right is a problem. But, that is true
about any IT technique. I'm for possibly providing skip-nav
requirements, and also providing logical tab order requirements both.
Remember we are setting standards, not "nice to haves".
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