Chris Ashton

dai11y 11/10/2021

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Twitter thread about “presentational list heuristics” by James Craig. The whole thing is worth a read, but here are the highlights:

  • There used to be a problem with too many lists for assistive tech users: “all I hear when reading news sites is ‘list, two items … end of list, list 4 items…’ and I don’t care about all the lists.”
  • This was caused by developers marking too much content up as lists, even when not appropriate.
  • Therefore, WebKit now applies some heuristics to these lists, to decide whether or not to expose the list semantics to the accessibility tree.
  • It considers whether the list has any bullet points. After all, if a sighted user doesn’t need to know it’s a list, then why should a screen reader user?
  • Similar principles are applied to table markup, which was regularly used for layouts in the early web.
  • “Many people think it’s only display: none; and visibility: hidden; but dozens, if not hundreds, of style characteristics contribute [to computing the accessibility tree].”
  • False positives are extremely rare. That said, developers can force the list semantics to be obeyed by applying role="list" to the <ul>/<ol>.

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