In this spotlight, we’ll talk about using links.
WCAG 2.4.4 Link Purpose: In Context - level A and 2.4.9 Link Purpose: Link only - level AAA both relate to making links meaningful to users. The difference is that with 2.4.4, the users should be able to work out where the link will take them from the context surrounding the link, while according to 2.4.9, they should be able to do that from the link text alone.
Links are usually visually different from standard text. Screen readers try to mimic that functionality and allow users to pull up a list of links and navigate through that list quickly. However, if the list has 3 "Click here" and 4 " Find out more" links, users have to investigate the surrounding content to find out what these specifically refer to. If they can work out the meaning from the context surrounding the link, the learning content complies with the level A standard. However, in general, it's considered best practice to comply with the level AAA guideline and make the purpose or the destination of the link clear from the link alone.
Although not specifically mentioned in the WCAG guidelines, here are some more considerations when using links:
Use hyperlink instead of the actual URL link wherever possible. That is because screen readers read out the full chain of the URL and that can be time-consuming. Not to mention that a chain of random numbers and letters are meaningless.
Try to keep the hyperlink short and more or less same or similar to the title of the destination page.
Because links opening in a new tab or window can be disorienting for some learners using assistive technology and it also breaks back-button history navigation, it's recommended that links are set to open in the same window. If users want to open links in a new window, they can do that by using their mouse or keyboard functions.
According to WCAG 1.4.11 Non-text Contrast (AA), the colour contrast between links and surrounding elements should be 3:1. (In most cases, the surrounding element refers to the surrounding text, but in addition, it may also refer to the background colour.)
Finally, "click" is uninclusive of users who do not use a mouse. Instead, using "select" or "follow" are better options.