We have inherited the maintenance of a 10+ year old website which has a few links in it that force the link to be opened in the current tab. You can't right click on the link and open in new tab, or even copy and paste the url, because it uses javascript and a doPostBack (no idea why, old, old code).

Anyway, I know it's poor user experience, as it's essentially a list of results and you would definitely want to open them in new tabs, also it's crazy to try and stop default browser behaviour.

But I'm wondering if there is anything specific in WCAG2.0 that says that we can't be doing this? I'm trying to make a case to have it changed, but poor UX won't be enough. WCAG however will get it over the line. Is anyone able to point me to anything in the web content accessibility guidelines that explicitly says that a website shouldn't do that?

Much appreciated.


3 Answers 3


Most of the information I can find is specific to:

  • Operating in a consistent behavior/way
  • Only allowing the end user to initiate navigation to a new page (whether it be in the current window or a new tab)

The WCAG says "Make web pages appear and operate in consistent ways," and goes on to describe how a change of context should only be initiated by a user request or it should be easily disabled.

This rule could be twisted to say that the behavior does not conform with behavior consistently set by the majority of web applications. Although I'm still not sold that it's a major WCAG violation (hoping someone can chip in and prove me wrong).

  • Completely agree Daniel, this is a good start, and I might just have to run with this. I'm thinking the same though, not entirely sold that it's a major WCAG violation, and I'm trying pretty hard to find a 'smoking gun' that says it is.
    – Brett East
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 0:24

This would be a usability issue that does not appear to affect people with disabilities disproportionately compared to people without disabilities. If the link can be reached and activated by means of the keyboard (in addition to pointing devices; see success criteria 2.1.1 and 2.1.2), I see no reason why it would violate WCAG 2.0.

If you want to argue against this link behaviour, I would argue from general usability principles and the expectation (in many users) that they can open a link in a new tab (or even a new window).


Thinking about this in terms of an unexpected change of context is the right approach, and I posted the following answer on the cross-post:

In my opinion, this is a failure of success criterion 3.2.5 Change on Request at level AAA. Of course, the more common case goes in the opposite direction where links force new tabs or windows without notifying the user, which is documented in common failure 22. However, I would certainly argue that by forcing a change of context in the current tab, which the user may not have requested because they middle-clicked or pressed CTRL+Enter on the link to create a new tab instead, that this is a failure of 3.2.5.

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