Requiring Right-Click Can Make Your Site Inaccessible

It’s not uncommon to see the instruction, “To download the file, right click and …”, but this can be difficult or impossible for screen reader users to do. The problem is that Jaws and Window Eyes don’t offer an easy way to right click on a link. I can do it, but it’s sometimes quite difficult, even for me, a reasonably advanced user.

If the link is text, I have to use the Jaws cursor to find the link on the screen before I can right click it. (The Jaws cursor is basically the mouse, but you move it with the arrow keys and click with the keyboard.) Just finding the link can often be a slow process.

However, if the link is an image (<a href=…><img src=…/></a>), there is no text for me to find with the Jaws cursor. The only option left to me at that point is to click on the link, quickly press ESC to cancel the page loading, and then press Shift+F10 to right click on the link. It took a lot of trial and error to come up with that procedure, so it’s a pretty safe bet that most users won’t be able to download content from these types of links.

This is a major oversight that needs to be addressed by the screen reader manufacturers as soon as possible. But in the meantime, you should avoid requiring your users to right click. If you want to offer content for download, you can either zip the file, or change the content-type sent to the browser. Zipping the content is probably the easiest option, as most web servers will automatically serve such files with a content-type which will cause browsers to prompt the user to save. Changing the mime-type sent to the browser is only slightly more difficult, and can be done with a little PHP or the server-side language of your choice. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any way to accomplish this with JavaScript, but if you do, please post in the comments.

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