WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

E-mail List Archives

Re: An Accessible method of hiding HTML content


From: Larry G. Hull
Date: Jun 7, 2004 6:57AM

At 9:58 AM -0400 6/5/04, paulb wrote:
>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
>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.

Reading these comments, I was reminded of the increasingly popular
portals which are essentially a very large number of links arranged
into sub-sections that are distinguished by visual cues, often
lacking any text alternatives.

While the technique adds a text-based method of discerning
information that is already present for visual users but is invisible
to blind users, it doesn't seem to directly address the related
problem of finding a sub-section of interest. Perhaps I missed

Sighted users can quickly scan the visual cues to find a sub-section
of interest. Blind users listening to the content in liner fashion,
even with equivalent text for the visual clues, may well give up on a
portal before finding a sub-section of interest due to a number of
sub-sections and a large number of links within each section. For
example, one portal I looked at recently had a sub-section that
provided weather information. To get there in linear fashion, one has
to listen to more than 150 links and any associated text identifying
sub-section visual clues (and this specific portal had no equivalent
text only images for each sub-section.)

I'm open to suggestions on how best to provide screen reader users
with a way to navigate the page similar to scanning the visual clues.
A visually invisible index comes to mind but perhaps there is a
better way?