Mistakes were made… with links
Why ugly long links are a mistake.
Have you ever provided links to your student like this?
Besides being visually nauseating, pasting full links in your instructional materials can cause major challenges for students that rely on screen readers.
Screen readers will actually read the entire link out loud to a student. That means that this:
Sounds like this to a student using a screen reader:
All that to say, we need to avoid pasting ugly long links.
Why “CLICK HERE” is a mistake.
Another common mistake is hyperlinking our links to variations of “here”, “click here”, “go here”, or “read more”. For example: “Learn more about making accessible PowerPoints by going here.”
While this seems like a step in an accessible direction, it actually creates several issues:
- It presupposes that the student has a device to click with. A student that relies on a screen is not using a mouse.
- Too many click here‘s doesn’t allow the student to differentiate between the links. For example: Click here, here, and here to learn about PowerPoints, Word documents, and images.
- “Click here” is a useless description when taken out context. Those relying on screen readers will not know where the link leads, and if it’s the content they’re look for.
A screen readers will provide a summary list of links that are on a page (e.g., course shell page, Word document) so that the student can go through the list of available links and click on the one they are looking for. Watch the video to see what happens with the link on says, “click here”.
Descriptive links are your solution.
What are descriptive links?
A descriptive link is a link embedded in descriptive text. The goal is for the linked text to make sense out-of-context.
Compare descriptive links and inaccessible links.
This video illustrates the comparison of inaccessible and accessible links (descriptive links) side by side using NVDA, a screen reader with Chrome browser.
How to write descriptive links.
A descriptive link should incorporate at least two things:
- Media type (e.g., webpage, PowerPoint)
- Description of the content
For example: Visit the webpage on the emperor penguin by National Geographic.
I explicitly include the type of media (a webpage) and I provide a description of the content (“the emperor penguin by National Geographic”). The hyperlinked text describes where the link will take them. The linked text makes sense even out-of-context..
We should use descriptive links to introduce any type of media we are hyperlinking (e.g., websites, books, articles, PowerPoints, videos). See further examples below:
- Check out the Teaching Headquarters for the Americans with Disabilities Act website.
- Order a book entitled “How to Do Things with Words” by J.L. Austin.
- Read an article called “The Linguistics of Hyperlinks” by Lauren Gawne.
- Be sure to download this week’s PowerPoint presentation on Identity and Group Membership.
- Watch the lecture on YouTube about All Caps and Alternating Caps.
Check out some more before & after examples
Some students need to rely on screen readers to review your PowerPoints. In the examples below, see the difference between pasting a link in your slides versus embedding a link to text in your slides.
Before ADA Best Practice
After ADA Best Practice
Some students need to rely on screen readers to review your course shell pages. In the examples below, see the difference between pasting links on your pages versus embedding the links in text. Not only is the “after” example using ADA best practices, but it is also easier to read for students that are vision-abled.