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Re: An Accessible method of hiding HTML content


From: Paul Bohman
Date: Jun 5, 2004 7:58AM

tomas wrote:

>> Paul's technique doesn't use display: none, but rather moves the
>> content off the page, so remains accessible.
> Sorry, but no, it's not. It may be accessible to some screenreaders,
> but since it still uses a CSS background image it remains
> inaccessible to folks who need a different color scheme.

Right. That's essentially what I said in my last post. The technique of
hiding text content from sighted users is best applied to situations in
which the visual context is not represented in a text form. Under these
circumstances, then, you can provide a "text alternative" to visual
contextual information, such as the beginning and ending of sub-sections
of a Web page. The technique then adds a text-based method of discerning
information that was already present for visual users, but which is
invisible to blind users.

In the case of background images, I have already stated (in agreement
with you) that my technique works for screen reader users, but not for
users with low vision who reset their background colors.

I think the real value of the technique is in helping screen reader
users orient themselves. Screen reader users navigate the Web more
slowly. Part of this slowness is due to the fact that they have to
listen to Web content in a mostly linear fashion. Another part of this
slowness is due to the mental concentration required to create a mental
map of the page. It can be difficult to distinguish one section of the
page from another, especially in complex pages.

Sighted users usually do not have much difficulty distinguishing
sub-sections of pages. These sub-sections are usually distinguished by
visual cues of some form or another. For example, the background color
may be different, or the content may be off to the right or off to the
left of the main content. The sub-section may have a different font. It
may have bold text. It may be enclosed in a layout table.

Any of these visual elements can provide a visual "map" of the page for
sighted users. Blind users cannot access this visual information.

By providing hidden text of some sort (whether using this technique or
another), blind users can be given the same sort of contextual
orientation that sighted users already have.

All it takes is for a small bit of text to say "begin main content" or
"end of the 'contact us' sub-menu."

And yes, this technique must be used carefully and judiciously. Not
every site needs to use it. The technique can be a burden to screen
reader users if over-used. It can be confusing if used poorly.

However, it can be useful when used well.

I'll be updating my article to reflect the comments on this list as soon
as this thread exhausts itself.

Paul Bohman
Project Coordinator
WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind)
Utah State University

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