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Our site is getting flagged for accessibility issues for having separate links with the same text. However, I'm wondering if the links are actually distinguishable by screen readers since they have different parent items as part of an unordered list.

For example:

In this example, there are two separate links with the same text ("Sedans"), which would get flagged as an accessibility problem. However, each is a list item with a different parent.

Is it really necessary, from an accessibility standpoint, to differentiate each link like this?

  • Ford
    • Ford Sedans
    • Ford Coupes
    • Ford SUVs
  • Honda
    • Honda Sedans
    • Honda Coupes
    • Honda SUVs
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Technically, the purpose of the link can be determined based on what WCAG refers to as its "programmatically determined" context (i.e. its position in a hierarchical list).

That said, the second example in the question (with the manufacturer repeated before the type) is undoubtedly easier for more people to understand. A screen reader or braille display user will often browse an aggregated list of links without the benefit of the surrounding content, which is why links should be unique and self descriptive wherever possible. I would also argue that the second example is easier for sighted users too because it doesn't force them to compare the link text with its parent in order to understand the target (less thinking and fewer eye fixations).

WCAG SC 2.4.4 has the following to say on this subject:

Whenever possible, provide link text that identifies the purpose of the link without needing additional context. Assistive technology has the ability to provide users with a list of links that are on the Web page. Link text that is as meaningful as possible will aid users who want to choose from this list of links. Meaningful link text also helps those who wish to tab from link to link. Meaningful links help users choose which links to follow without requiring complicated strategies to understand the page.

  • Thanks for your answer and for including applicable links. I appreciate your answer with regards to accessibility. However I disagree with your argument that this is a better solution for sighted users. The whole purpose of branched lists is for (sighted) users to find the specific item they're looking for by starting with the most general and following the appropriate path to that item. I would argue that including the parent's title in the child item is redundant, increasing visual clutter and hindering navigability for sighted users. – Drew McDowell Jun 1 '15 at 13:37

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