Bypassing blocks of content: accessibility for developers

  • Author: Access iQ ®
  • Date: 1 Feb 2013
  • Access: Premium

Quick facts

Bypassing blocks of content is necessary to bring the experience for people with disabilities in line with those without disabilities.

  • Create links to skip blocks of repeating content
  • Use skip-to and skip-over links to navigate content
  • Use WAI-ARIA landmark roles to describe the purpose of content areas
  • Group blocks of repeated content in ways that can be easily skipped

Websites often have pieces of content that repeat on every page, such as heading banners, menus, navigation or advertising material. These are often at the top of the page and at the beginning of the webpage, yet the user usually requires the information located in the main content area, which is rarely the first thing encountered on a page.

People without a disability can visually scan a webpage, very easily ignoring content such as images, banners and navigation items, to focus on the content areas that are of interest to them. People using a screen reader or those using only a keyboard or keyboard alternative navigate a website linearly, in the order the webpage is written, and therefore expend much more effort to navigate beyond these repeated blocks.

Imagine if you had to read out every item on the page from the top — the logo of the webpage, the search box and all the menu items — before you could read the information in the main content area. This is what some people face if there is no way for them to skip over repeating content. For this reason, bypassing blocks of content is necessary in order to bring the experience people with disabilities have in line with people without disabilities.

Success Criterion 2.4.1: Bypassing blocks states:

A mechanism is available to bypass blocks of content that are repeated on multiple webpages. (Level A)

The purpose of this is to allow people who navigate content sequentially to skip over repeated content so they have rapid and direct access to primary content.

There are a number of best practices for bypassing repeated material that together produce the best result for the user:

  • Create links to skip blocks of repeating material.
  • Use WAI-ARIA landmark roles to describe the purpose of content areas.
  • Group blocks of repeating material in ways that can be easily skipped.

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