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Empower web users to understand the purpose and destination of links

What is Link Purpose in the context of digital accessibility? 

It's easy to forget that people with disabilities — even when equipped with the latest in assistive technologies (AT) — have to work harder to navigate content on the web. Not everyone can quickly open a link, scan the content, realize it's not of interest, and return to the original page.  

That's why the W3C provides guidance on Link Purpose in Guideline 2.4.9, recommending the use of link text that makes the purpose of each link crystal clear. When the link text is understandable without any other context — for example, when an AT device presents a list of all links on a page — it's much easier for users with disabilities to make informed decisions about which links to open.

Why is it important to clearly indicate Link Purpose? 

For web users with no disabilities, it's relatively quick and easy to navigate through a web page, scan the links in context, click on items that look interesting, and return to the source page if those linked items turn out to be irrelevant.  

For other users, browsing the web is typically slower and more complex. Clicking through to a link and finding it to be irrelevant or uninteresting can then be more than just a minor annoyance. For people with severe motion impairment, each navigation command may require significant physical effort, while people with cognitive limitations may become disoriented if they have to frequently return from linked pages that turned out not to be of interest. 

In short, if you want your website to offer a comfortable and efficient user journey to the widest possible group of people, you should ensure that your links clearly explain their own purpose. Doing so will also reduce your risk of a lawsuit under digital accessibility legislation such as the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

What can I do to fix the issue? 

WCAG 2.4.9 specifies that you should ensure the purpose of a link can be inferred from its link text, even out of context. As a best practice, multiple links to the same destination or resource should have the same descriptions each time to avoid confusion. Conversely, links to different destinations or resources should have different descriptions.  

The guideline also recommends combining adjacent icon/image links with text links pointing to the same resource, so that users do not waste time and effort by accidentally visiting the same resource twice. Recommended techniques for specifying Link Purpose include the use of ARIA8 aria-label

Except in extreme cases, identifying unclear link text is not easy to achieve today using automation. And to fix those unclear links, you need human judgment and (ideally) testing by the target audience to be confident in your remediation.  

AudioEye combines automated scanning and remediation technology with human-led testing and custom remediation, providing a unique hybrid service that resolves accessibility issues on an ongoing basis. By subscribing to the AudioEye service, you get the benefit of rapid identification and remediation of Link Purpose and other key accessibility issues. 

Don’t delay — subscribe today and solve your digital accessibility issues with AudioEye. 

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