- Paul Ratcliffe describes a “2021-friendly” implementation of a skip link. It looks something like this (note that the text is hidden visually until it is focused – I’ve omitted this from the code below):
<a href="#skip-link-target">Skip to main content</a>
<a href="#skip-link-target" id="skip-link-target">Start of main content</a><main>the content</main>
- Paul points out that the use of
<main>markup means savvy screen reader users can skip straight to the main landmark. For those that rely on skip links instead, he recommends a link in the
<header>which refers to a link just above the
<main>(not inside it, as it would impact SEO).
- I hadn’t seen an
<a>element as the target of a skip link before; Paul says this is to give users feedback that the skip link worked. If the page content is too short, the browser wouldn’t scroll and it could be difficult to show that the focus has moved otherwise.
- Susanna Celso left some comments for Paul before writing a follow-up blog post, arguing that the proposed implementation could confuse users (linking to a link that links to itself, and also stating that you’ve reached the “start of main content” when technically you’re still outside that landmark. Susanna makes the case for linking to the
<main>element directly, though concedes screen readers will automatically start reading all of the text in that element, which can be an awkward experience.
- Susanna concludes that the best link target would be a
<h1>, provided it’s the first element inside the
- An interesting and healthy discussion between two clearly knowledgeable developers – worth reading both posts!
- Jake Archibald describes how he was trying to decide what alt text to use for his avatar, which would appear alongside his name, in a list of conference speakers. His (and my) instinct was that it should be nullified (
alt="") because it would otherwise be repeating information elsewhere in the page.
- However, in his avatar, Jake is pulling a pose and aiming to inject a bit of humour. It’s not right that screen reader users miss out on that context. So Jake opted for the following alt text: “Jake, cheekily peering from behind a plant”.
- Léonie Watson has written about this in her blog post, Text descriptions and emotion rich images. Context matters. Developers sometimes worry that descriptive alt text will make the page too ‘noisy’, but as Léonie points out, screen reader users will skip over large swathes of the page in the same way as sighted users would.
- This seems to be a bit of a trending topic at the moment; I recently covered a similar article by Eric Bailey which concludes that most images nowadays are not purely ‘decorative’ and do require alt text.
- Jake adds that “if you’re trying to do the right thing, you’re almost certainly improving the experience for real people”. Most of the time, your alt text won’t be worse than no alt text at all.
- BBC article from 16th August. Highlights:
- “Twitter is making changes to its new redesign, after users complained of headaches and discomfort.”
- “Unveiled only last week, the redesign mainly involved high-contrast colours and a custom-designed font, Chirp.”
- Its aim was to “improve content consumption and clean up ‘visual clutter’. But many, especially with accessibility needs, found it confusing, hard to read and uncomfortably bright.”
- Users have reported the font being smaller and denser, so are having to strain their eyes more to read.
- Twitter Accessibility have confirmed that fixes are on the way.
- Ronise Nepomuceno explains why she hates the term ‘Accessibility Evangelist’:
- It reinforces the idea that accessibility is a ‘nice to have’ that can be deprioritised
- It has its roots in tech in the 1980’s, when Apple put together a team to ‘evangelise’ developers to develop for the Macintosh platform without the financial incentive compared with their competitor IBM. Ronise feels this is exploitative.
- It has religious connotations: “they think we are coming for them, to judge for their sins and condemn them all to eternity in Hell”.
- “It is also essential to respect the boundaries between Digital Accessibility and Disability Rights. They are two different things”.
- Ronise points out that the term is applied in other parts of tech, e.g. “Cloud Evangelist”.
- Sheri Byrne-Haber writes about getting disabled users involved in your product development early on. It is possible to build a product that is technically accessible but is inefficient and unusable in practice. “You cannot retrofit lived experience”.
- Some products don’t support an intersectionality of disabilities. Sheri gives the example of an accessibility overlay that offered profiles for motion sensitivity, and for vision loss, but not for both at the same time.
- Language is important when it comes to writing about accessibility. Terms that are out of favour include “suffering”, “wheelchair bound”, “high / low functioning”, stigmatizing the individuals being labelled and “conveying nothing about the strengths that individual might possess”.
- Sheri bemoans the use of “headcounts” to make disability inclusion decisions. “How many people is this going to benefit?” is irrelevant; accessibility is a civil right.
- Sheri ends with this: “Accessibility is a program, not a project”. If you work from a checklist, or are working to an end date, that is a warning sign.
- Kait Sanchez writes about the experience of screen reader users on social media. The auto generated alt text for photos on Instagram and other sites is often poor: “two brown cats lying on a textured surface” turned out to be a woman in a wedding dress.
- Kait says that technology can’t replace the human element; a computer is never going to know you posted an image of your dog because of its hilarious quizzical expression, rather than because he is a black-and-white pitbull mix.
- Alt text hasn’t always been possible to write on social media platforms, who often play catch-up to improve their accessibility only once they gain popularity. There’s an assumption that blind people aren’t interested in visual media. But as Kait points out, culture is moulded on social networks, and it’s not fair for people to miss out on a shared social language.
- It’s easy to blame the social media users for not providing alt text, or the tech platforms for not educating them. However, content such as memes – rapidly evolving iterations of undescribed images with tiny words in weird fonts – are particularly hard to write alt text for:
- “The funniest images rely on comedic timing through careful visual composition, prior knowledge of a specific meme, or familiarity with several different cultural references.”
- “Writing an image description for an esoteric meme can feel like explaining internet culture to your grandparents: you suddenly don’t know how to describe what exactly made you laugh.”
- We can educate against the simpler problems though. Kent Dodds demonstrates why special characters and emojis in usernames provide a terrible experience for some social media users. “A screen reader isn’t technically incorrect if it reads a character as “mathematical bold capital,” but most sighted people will read it simply as a letter with different formatting.”
- I’ve seen this before, but Stefan Judis’ newsletter pointed it out to me again.
- This is the Government Digital Service’s “service manual” on “Building a resilient frontend using progressive enhancement”.
- It maintains that we don’t support no-JS / no-CSS browsers for the sake of a minority of individuals who may disable such features. Instead, we do so to account for all manner of other circumstances, including network errors, ad blockers, firewalls and proxies, all of which can interfere with the loading and execution of CSS/JS.
- Making services work without JS or CSS makes them more accessible to a wide variety of users.
- Scott O’Hara writes about the
<section>element, designed for representing a group of content that has an “overarching theme”. Headings within each
<section>are meant to be scoped semantically within that section (you could in theory put
<h1>tags inside each
<section>), but in practice, nothing different gets programmatically exposed to assistive technologies.
- The only thing
<section>currently does in that regard is to define an implicit
role="region". However, this does not get announced to screen readers unless it is given a name, either via
- Scott recommends naming
<section>elements only when absolutely necessary: “if everything’s a landmark then there’s nothing really special about them, is there?”. Instead, Scott suggests using proper heading levels to indicate sections and sub-sections of content.
Hyperlegible: an approach to accessible type design (video, 10 minutes)
- Linus Boman, who I was lucky enough to have as a housemate a few years ago, is a design expert. Here, he talks about the new Atkinson Hyperlegible Font – which he helped to develop – and which is now freely available on Google Fonts for personal and commercial use.
- The font is designed to be as accessible as possible whilst still embodying harmonious design (avoiding the trap of becoming “some kind of ransom note”, as Linus puts it).
- Linus describes how each glyph’s apertures are widened to make it easier to distinguish, and walks through other techniques such as adding serifs to differentiate between homoglyphs (e.g. lowercase L and uppercase i).
- At around 7 minutes in, the video does a particularly good job of illustrating how conditions such as blurry vision or diabetic retinopothy affect the legibility of the characters.
- Linus has quite an active YouTube channel which is definitely worth checking out further!
- A blog post by the Government Communication Service.
- In the old days of social media, URLs used to count towards the character limit, so using a URL shortener was often a necessity. This isn’t the case anymore.
- Whilst these URL shorteners provide insights into how often a link is clicked, they offer little more than the social media platforms and Google Analytics offer natively.
- Short URLs provide no clue as to the content, and can’t be trusted. Some link shortening tools threaten user privacy too, installing cookies when people follow our links.
- GCS go into more detail on creating accessible links for social media:
- One link per post (as “people who navigate via keyboard shortcuts often find it frustrating to navigate to multiple links”)
- Clear calls to action (“Read guidance on applying for a driving license + LINK”)
- Use capital letters at the start of each word in a hashtag, e.g. #AccessibilityAwareness. These tags are often turned into links, and assistive technologies reading the link text should read the words correctly when capitalised.
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