Let's suppose I have this very basic example (I could have used superscript numbers as well)

Accessibility is great*

then whatever text or content, then

* Book of obvious things

Now, how do I make the asterisk accessible so that users can access the references?

The obvious answer seems to be to use an anchor with a "reference to yadda yadda yadda" title, but it seems too invasive and obviously interrupts the flow, acting as a dialogue.

In addition, although I could use superscript numbers, when I use only one or two calls, a sign is better and more expected, especially when this is just an attention call or clarification, but not an authorized reference.

Anyways, what is the best practice for this case?

  • If you're asking about how to create an accessible footnote, then @Pete's example of wiki is a decent start and is totally related to accessibility. I didn't understand your comment on his answer. Wiki has a link to the footnote, and the footnote itself has a link back up to the reference so that keyboard or screen reader users can get back. It can certainly be improved, but is a great start. Also see this blog on accessible footnotes - sitepoint.com/accessible-footnotes-css. If you're not asking about accessible footnotes, can you clarify what you're asking for? Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 19:56
  • I tested the link on Wikipedia's footnote with iPad and mac screen readers and it didn't go back. As a matter of fact (and probably because of it), it didn't even recognize it. Also, if selected, it visually acts as a dialogue, therefore interrupting the flow focusing user attention on the element.I didn't test it on Windows or Linux, maybe it works fine. Also, tooltips have nothing to do with accessibility, hence my comment. I didn't even vote the answer down (I never do), but it's not what I asked for, Finally, I focused my question on the "asterisk" footnotes rather than numbered
    – Devin
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 23:14
  • the above being said, your link is really cool and closer to what I was looking for, although there's no mention to the "asterisk " footnotes (sorry, don't know how to name them in English)
    – Devin
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 23:16

1 Answer 1


Not sure of best practice, but I've always appreciated the way Wikipedia uses references. They use a combination of superscript numbers and tooltips. Here's a random article as an example - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fields_Medal

This has a couple of benefits:

  1. Using tooltips, it doesn't interrupt the flow (i.e. the user won't be bounced to the bottom of the page). I can easily view the tooltip and click on the reference link while still reading the article

  2. They also include a standard anchor link, taking me directly to the reference in the footer if that's what I prefer. I'd say this option is more appropriate from an accessibility standpoint too. If the tooltip hasn't been coded properly, it may not be accessible to people using assistive technologies

For me, the combination of the two has always worked well.

  • ok, thank you, but this has nothing to do with accessibility. Furthermore, Wikipedia's references are far from being accesible
    – Devin
    Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 21:03

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