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I am wondering if links on my website need to specify in a screen reader if they are external or remain on the same page?

I've checked WebAIM and their footer links only state the name and if it is a link in a screen reader, i.e.: "About" reads as "About link" in Jaws and their Twitter link also reads as "Twitter link" and not "Twitter external link". All the links stay within the same tab even links to external websites.

Or is this just something that is required in level AAA? I am just looking for clarification.

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WebAIM talks about links to external sites in the same section as it talks about opening new windows so it's not a big stretch to join the two.

The WCAG section "G201: Giving users advanced warning when opening a new window" talks about giving sighted users a warning that link will open in new windows.

Since we are extending the courtesy to sighted users we should also include non-sighted users.

However, having said all of that, this does rather come down to how you handle external links on your site: If you mark them or use alt/desc text then you should do the same for screenreaders. My personal preference is to let all users know when they are leaving my site and open those links in a new tab/window but you may have a different view.

  • It was my understanding that if they open in a new window, you should specify that. None of our links to external websites open in a new tab window, so we are fine. I was told from an accessibility specialist internally that we had to specify that it is an external link if it goes to another website, regardless if it opened in a new tab window or not. I was just looking for clarification. thanks – tiki16 Feb 23 '17 at 14:19
  • It is, at the very least, polite to inform your users that the next content they will be seeing is not part of the site they are currently visiting. If you extend this politeness to sighted users then you should also make it available for those using screen readers. – Andrew Martin Feb 23 '17 at 16:22
  • If your simple question is "is it required to notify the user?", then the answer is "no, it's not required". You're not breaking any WCAG requirements by not notifying the user. I'm curious what your accessibility specialist is using to justify their request. Now, as others have said, it's nice to notify users, but it's not required. – slugolicious Feb 25 '17 at 2:29

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