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Making Accessible Menus In HTML

Mads Kristensen
Expert Author
Published: 2007-02-01

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If you want to make your website validate the WAI or Section 508 accessibility guidelines, you have to separate adjacent links with more than white space.

You actually have to do a whole lot more, but separating links is a big thing, because many menus are violating that rule.

The best way to create a menu is by using unsorted lists and putting the actual link tags inside the list items.

Here's how the HTML could look like:

<ul id="menu">
    <li><a tabindex="1" accesskey="H" href="default.aspx">Home</a></li>
    <li><a tabindex="2" accesskey="C" href="contact.aspx">Contact</a></li>
    <li><a tabindex="3" accesskey="P" href="profile.aspx">Profile</a></li>
    <li><a tabindex="4" accesskey="A" href="about.aspx">About</a></li>

This will create a rather ugly list with bullet points, so we have to style it with CSS.

<style type="text/css">
      padding: 0px;
      margin: 0px;
      font: 11px verdana;

    ul#menu li{
      display: inline; /* Remove to make vertical */
      width: 70px;

    ul#menu li a{
      text-decoration: none;
      color: navy;
      font-weight: bold;
      padding: 2px 5px;
      /*display: block; make vertical */

    ul#menu li a:hover{
      color: white;
      background: navy;

View the example

This menu will validate the various accessibility guidelines and is a very clean structure at the same time. I wouldn't dream of creating a menu any other way and, of course, it is cross-browser compatible. Enjoy.


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About the Author:
Mads Kristensen currently works as a Senior Developer at Traceworks located in Copenhagen, Denmark. Mads graduated from Copenhagen Technical Academy with a multimedia degree in 2003, but has been a professional developer since 2000. His main focus is on ASP.NET but is responsible for Winforms, Windows- and web services in his daily work as well. A true .NET developer with great passion for the simple solution.


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