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Re: Question on "skip to main content"

for

From: Jared Smith
Date: Sep 25, 2009 12:40PM


A few thoughts:

- Section 508 does not directly require "skip" links. It does require
"a method" of skipping repeated navigation.

- Heading or document structure could be considered "a method", but
this has little benefit for sighted keyboard users because browsers
(except Opera or Firefox with an extension) do not support keyboard
navigation by headings or other elements (despite the fact this has
been a requirement of the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines since
2002).

- Thus, a "skip" link is currently the best way of addressing the
needs of sighted keyboard users. As such, using the "visible on focus"
approach (http://www.webaim.org/techniques/skipnav/#focus) is
acceptable, so long as the "skip" link is readily visible when it is
'tabbed' to. An always-visible "skip" link does convey a pretty strong
statement of commitment to accessibility.

- ARIA landmarks provide a MUCH better solution to all of this because
they not only provide targets for keyboard navigation, but the areas
of the page are given descriptive identifiers (search, main,
navigation, etc.). But again, ARIA landmarks are not yet supported in
browsers, except with the use of screen readers - so they do not yet
benefit sighted keyboard users.

In short, we could kiss "skip" links goodbye forever if there were
simply better browser support for keyboard navigation for sighted
users (which would naturally remove the need for screen readers to
duplicate this functionality). Opera does a splendid job of doing
this, and other browsers should follow suit. But until such support is
widespread, I'm afraid that the best solution to keyboard
accessibility remains "skip" links.

Jared Smith
WebAIM