* - Links - Graphical Links Have Inaccessible Link Purpose for Screen Reader Users

What the issue is

Links that are not accessible to screen reader users due to lack of proper ARIA labels or descriptive text result in those users being unable to understand the purpose of the link. This includes links that are entirely graphical with no textual annotation or rely solely on visual cues not conveyed to screen reader users. These practices can make navigation and understanding of web content challenging and frustrating for users who depend on assistive technologies.

Why this is important

A clear and understandable link purpose is critical for screen reader users to navigate and use web content effectively. Without accessible and descriptive link information, users might not be able to make informed decisions about whether to follow a link, resulting in a less equitable user experience. Ensuring all users can discern link purposes supports easier navigation and fosters a more inclusive digital environment.

Who it affects

This issue affects:

  1. Users of screen readers and other assistive technologies who cannot discern the purpose of a link without audible cues.
  2. Users with visual impairments who rely on descriptive link text and accessible naming to understand link destinations.
  3. Users of voice navigation that relies on links having a label that users can ask to "click" on.
  4. Users with cognitive disabilities who benefit from clear and precise link descriptions to navigate web content confidently.

How to remediate the issue

  1. Provide descriptive text for links that clearly indicates the nature of the link destination or action performed upon clicking.
  2. Use ARIA attributes such as `aria-label`, `aria-labelledby`, or `aria-describedby` to provide accessible names or descriptions for links when the visible text is insufficient.
  3. Ensure graphical links (e.g.  or icons) include accessible text through screen reader-only text classes or ARIA attributes.
  4. Conduct user testing with individuals who use screen readers to ensure links are correctly understood and navigable based on their accessible name or description.

Guidance on creating accessible names and descriptions for links can be found at WCAG Quick Reference on Link Purpose (Link Only) and WCAG Quick Reference on Name, Role, Value.