The Accessibility 101 Series
Presented by My Blind Spot®
Click Here; or, The Untold Story of Link Text
The fundamental idea behind the internet is that a user can easily jump to other pages or accomplish some actions via links. Generally, links are special pieces of text (usually identified by the text being a different color and/or font from the surrounding text) or images which bring the user to a destination upon being activated. Needless to say, this should make navigating the web very easy. But for some folks – people who rely on a screen reader to interact with computers and other digital technologies, in particular – this may not necessarily be as easy as it sounds.
Can you count how many times – just today – you have come across link text that reads “click here?” Probably quite a few times, right? While this is all well and good for sighted folks who can very quickly determine what that link is in reference to, vague link texts can be quite troublesome and frustrating for users of screen readers. The main reason for this is that many blind or low-vision users utilize the built-in functionality of their screen readers to bring up lists of elements (such as links) which are present on a given page. This enables the user to quickly find and navigate to the portion of the web page that is of interest to them. But there is a catch: the link text, and ONLY the link text is what appears on the list. Now imagine having this list open in front of you and there are 50 or 100 “click here’s.” How would you know what each individual “click here” link does, or where it will take you? This is the big issue with link texts which users of screen readers encounter all too often.
The solution to this troublesome issue is actually extremelysimple: instead of “click here”, ensure that the link text makes sense out-of-context and is descriptive of its purpose. For example, instead of having the words “click here to visit our contact page” with “click here” being the link text, make the words “visit our contact page” with “contact page” being the link text. Now any and all users will be 100 percent certain that activating that link will bring them to the contact page, even when the link text is taken out-of-context!
Whether you are a web developer or have no knowledge of coding at all, the next time you are browsing the internet try this exercise: ask yourself “if I read just the link text, do I understand what activating that link will do?” You’ll be surprised how often the answer is “no.”