WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

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Re: accessible tree menus


From: Steve Green
Date: Feb 23, 2009 3:30PM

In our experience of user testing, expandable menus always cause problems
for screen reader users. This is predominantly because they are only ever at
a single point on a page and don't have a good holistic view of it. It is
very difficult to build and maintain a mental model of the tree as it
changes. Furthermore, the only relevant semantic structure is a nested list,
and this is usually quite incomprehensible to a screen reader user because
there is far too much information to remember.

For instance they know where an 'expand' node is but they don't know how
much content has been revealed when the node is expanded. They only know
where the start of it is.

If it is only one level of nesting, they may well be able to cope, but we
have seen menus with more than ten levels of nesting and hundreds of nodes,
and this is quite impossible to navigate sensibly.

The worst examples are where only one node can be open at a time, so opening
a new one automatically closes the last one. Screen reader users are totally
unaware that this has happened so they cannot find menu items they found


-----Original Message-----
[mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ] On Behalf Of Donna Jones
Sent: 23 February 2009 22:11
Subject: [WebAIM] accessible tree menus

hi everyone:

i need some help figuring out the best expandable and accessible tree menu
to use. i'm a third-party consultant on this. a person at the institution
uses a screen reader. a Project VII tree menu was proposed and he had this
to say:

That is, clicking on Degrees launches the Degrees page, which shows the
related subnavigation links. Clicking Certificates launches that page with
its own navigation. So it isn't just the menus that are changing, but the
entire page.

The only downside for me using a screen reader is that each page starts
reading from the beginning, losing the focus on a particular part of the
navigation menu. </quote>

i've read the above a number of times and still not sure that i "get it".
maybe its a problem with the "expandable" bit?? maybe tree menus just
aren't good with screen readers?

i've never done an expandable menu before. i have used the Ultimate
Dropdown Menu but not as a tree/expandable.

he (the screen reader user) recommends a couple:

but even on the site, Patrick says its not ready for for production.
looks better to me.

here's the Ultimate Dropdown Menu's site:
http://www.udm4.com/menu/demos/ and i had a more confidence in its
accessibility but, i really am not sure with the above requirements.

all the best and many thanks for any clarity you can send my way!

Donna Jones

Donna Jones
Portland, Maine
207 772 0266