Internet psychologist and accessibility

Written By: Peter Abrahams
Content Copyright © 2006 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
Also posted on: Accessibility

Recently I was listening to internet psychologist Graham Jones
giving a talk on blogging. He believes that blogging is an
essential part of any organisation as it helps raise awareness and
then creates business.

I am trying to emulate him and blog as often as possible and
this blog is about a remark that he made en passant. He
said that research has shown that when people look at a page for
the first time they look at the following in order:

  • The menu (they expect that to be down the left hand side, but
    if they do not find it there they look along the top).
  • The headline of the page.
  • The pictures.
  • The search box.

As these are the most important things, how can we set up pages
so this information is accessible to people with disabilities? This
question applies to people with vision impairments and people who
do not use a pointing device but tend to tab around the page.

My immediate answers are:

  • The headline should be in the title of the page so that a
    screen reader will read that before anything else, the user then
    knows if they have come to the right place or not.
  • The tab sequence should start with special tabs that would skip
    you directly to:
    • the real menu of the page (not the navigation section).
    • the pictures with proper alt text.
    • the start of the page content.
    • the search box.

These special tabs should be implemented so that they are
invisible unless the tab key is pressed at which point they become
visible. There are very few sites who have implemented tabs like
this so far (see my discussion ‘Usability is in the

  • There should also be a skip to the accessibility page. Up to
    now I would have suggested that should be the very first tab, but
    that does get boring if you have to tab over it every time you use
    a page on the site. I now think it should be the very last tab on
    the page (i.e. on the right of the bottom line). The benefit of
    this is it can be easily accessed by back-tabbing a few times the
    first time you go to a site. Just to complete this idea the next
    tab back should be the trustmark if the page has one (see Accessibility
    ). It would be nice if this became an informal
    standard for accessible web pages.

If you have any further psychological insights into web page
layout for accessibility please send them as comments to this

PS If you want to find Graham’s blog just google ‘internet
psychologist’ and he promises that he will be on the first