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What do screen readers really say?

Sent by Bob Easton on 9 September 2003 11:11


Many of us are moving from table based layouts to CSS based layouts and 
throwing out all of the spacer images too. One of the other things to 
get thrown out is the age old practice of attaching the accessibility 
links (skip navigation) to a spacer image.  Instead, we now see 
designers putting skip navigation links, and other sorts of 
accessibility material, in pages as simple text and then hiding it from 
the screen with display:none.

The problem is that it does not work as expected. In all of the major 
screen readers, when you hide material from visual display, you also 
hide it from screen readers.

This conclusion comes from research I did recently with a test suite 
that was answered by people using a wide range of screen readers and 
other assistive technology.

The test suite: http://eleaston.com/bob/screenreader-visibility.html
The results: http://css-discuss.incutio.com/?page=ScreenreaderVisibility

Please read the results. It will answer a few of the likely questions. 
i.e. No, current screen readers do not read aural style sheets.
i.e. The best way to hide skip nav links is the way we have always done 
it, with a link on a small / unobtrusive / or transparent image.
-- 
Bob Easton

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