WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

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Re: search result highlighting and accessibility


From: Simius Puer
Date: Apr 21, 2010 11:18AM

I would tend to agree that the purpose of the highlighting is to draw the
users attention to the given content - that is it's purpose.

I don't agree that marking these instances up with <strong> or <em> is
necessarily correct as it *could* potentially change the semantic meaning of
the text. However, achieving the same effect through CSS styling on an
inline element would be perfectly acceptable. Also, being exceptionally
colour-blind I can tell you highlighting works just fine as a visual
solution - we can "see" colour we can't necessarily tell you what it is -
but a word highlighted will still stand out enough (obviously check your
colour contrasts and do real-world testing!).

As for non-sighted users there is one solution I worked on a while back that
I really liked and so did many of the users we tested it on. It goes
something like this:

1. Inject a visually hidden section into the top of the search results
offering anchor links to the search terms
2. Inject anchors into the text intelligently - usually at the beginning
of the paragraph/sentence that included search term (and explain this in the
visually hidden section mentioned above) as jumping directly to the search
term is usually meaningless.

Some of the more savvy AT users tested simply used their preferred method to
"find on this page" but many of those not quite so adept found the solution
worked well.

Of course, this was done using an enterprise level CMS with an integrated
search engine so it might not be a solution that everyone could use. The
description here is also a little simplified as the full solution was quite
complex, but it covers the important aspects.

This also failed miserably if the search results included PDFs (or other
non-HTML format) as you would expect, but we were also in the process of
stamping those out and allowed them to be filtered from the search results
(as surprisingly popular filter as it turned out!).

I wonder if there is any search engine company out there who could deliver a
fully accessible search 3rd party solution that could do this? Anyone on
this list represent such a company? Anyone from Google, perhaps (and, yes,
I do know they regularly get slated for accessibility issues)??