Success Criterion 2.4.4: Link Purpose (In Context)

Understanding Success Criterion: 

The purpose of each link can be determined from the link text alone or from the link text together with its programmatically determined link context, except where the purpose of the link would be ambiguous to users in general.

Accessibility Level: 
Intent of Success Criterion: 

The intent of this Success Criterion is to help users understand the purpose of each link so they can decide whether they want to follow the link. 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.
The text of, or associated with, the link is intended to describe the purpose of the link. In cases where the link takes one to a document or a web application, the name of the document or web application would be sufficient to describe the purpose of the link (which is to take you to the document or web application). Note that it is not required to use the name of the document or web application; other things may also describe the purpose of the link.
Success Criterion 2.4.2 deals with the titles of pages. Here also, the name of a document or web application being presented on the page would be sufficient to describe the purpose of the page. Having the link and the title agree, or be very similar, is good practice and provides continuity between the link 'clicked on' and the web page that the user lands on.
In some situations, authors may want to provide part of the description of the link in logically related text that provides the context for the link. In this case the user should be able to identify the purpose of the link without moving focus from the link. In other words, they can arrive on a link and find out more about it without losing their place. This can be achieved by putting the description of the link in the same sentence, paragraph, list item, or table cell as the link, or in the table header cell for a link in a data table, because these are directly associated with the link itself. Alternatively, authors may choose to use an ARIA technique to associate additional text on the page with the link.
This context will be most usable if it precedes the link. (For instance, if you must use ambiguous link text, it is better to put it at the end of the sentence that describes its destination, rather than putting the ambiguous phrase at the beginning of the sentence.) If the description follows the link, there can be confusion and difficulty for screen reader users who are reading through the page in order (top to bottom).
It is a best practice for links with the same destination to have consistent descriptions (and this is a requirement per Success Criterion 3.2.4 for pages in a set). It is also a best practice for links with different purposes and destinations to have different descriptions.
The Success Criterion includes an exception for links for which the purpose of the link cannot be determined from the information on the Web page. In this situation, the person with the disability is not at a disadvantage; there is no additional context available to understand the link purpose. However, whatever amount of context is available on the Web page that can be used to interpret the purpose of the link must be made available in the link text or programmatically associated with the link to satisfy the Success Criterion.
Note: There may be situations where the purpose of the link is is supposed to be unknown or obscured. For instance, a game may have links identified only as door #1, door #2, and door #3. This link text would be sufficient because the purpose of the links is to create suspense for all users.
See also Understanding Success Criterion 2.4.9 Link Purpose (Link Only).

Specific Benefits of Success Criterion: 
  • This Success Criterion helps people with motion impairment by letting them skip links that they are not interested in, avoiding the keystrokes needed to visit the referenced content and then returning to the current content.
  • People with cognitive limitations will not become disoriented by multiple means of navigation to and from content they are not interested in.
  • People with visual disabilities will be able to determine the purpose of a link by exploring the link's context.