I’ve decided to give a talk on web accessibility in a few months, in particular, on how to make web pages accessible. I’ve spent time trying to make this site more accessible, but until today I never turned on a screen reader.

I have a long way to go!

Let’s start with the first thing I learned and implemented. I have breadcrumbs on this site to show your location on the site. I wanted something fast that didn’t need lots of styling, so I wrote the breadcrumbs as

<ul>
    <li><a href="/">Home</a> ></li>
    <li><a href="/blog">Blog</a> ></li>
    <li>Page title</li>
</ul> 

When I turned on VoiceOver, I was horrified to find that my breadcrumb was a list of 5 items, but there are only 3 items in the list. My guess is that VoiceOver is simply counting the number of child elements in the HTML (which turns out to be 5 because of the content I added).

Scratch that idea. The whole idea of putting the separator in the HTML was a bad idea from the beginning - mixing presentation with content. A better approach, and one that works with VoiceOver, is to use CSS to add the separators.

<ul>
    <li class="pathway"><a href="/">Home</></li>
    <li class="pathway"><a href="/blog">Blog</a></li>
    <li class="pathway_end">Page title</li>
</ul>

The CSS then adds a background image with left padding so the text doesn’t overlap the image. The resulting breadcrumb displays like

Home and an arrow, followed by blog and an arrow, etc

The lesson here is: if it’s for presentation, keep it in the CSS.