Anchors must only be used as links with valid URLs or URL fragments

Rule Description

Anchor links must be used with valid URLs or URL fragments so that they are discernible by a screen reader.

The Algorithm, in Simple Terms

Ensures that every anchor link is used as a link with a valid URL or URL fragment

Why this is Important

Inaccessible link elements pose great barriers to accessibility, as they are a fundamental component of a website.

Users who rely exclusively on a keyboard (and no mouse) to navigate a webpage can only click on links that can receive programmatic focus. If a link cannot receive programmatic focus, it will be inaccessible to these users.

Like sighted users, screen reader users need to know where a link is pointing. Inner link text provides this information, though it won't be very useful if a screen reader can't access it.

Keyboard users — such as blind screen reader users or people who cannot use a mouse due to tremors in their hands — can activate only the links and form elements that can receive programmatic focus. They cannot activate anything that cannot receive programmatic focus. If there are any events that are activated exclusively by the other types of focus — for example onmouseover events that depend on the mouse hover focus — those events will be inaccessible to keyboard users. By default, only links and form elements receive keyboard focus. Other elements can be modified to receive focus by adding tabindex="0".

Compliance Data & Impact

User Impact: Serious
Disabilities Affected:
  • Blindness
  • Deafblindness
  • Mobility/Dexterity
Severity: Serious
Issue Type:
  • Deque Best Practice
WCAG Success Criteria:
  • Not applicable
Section 508 Guidelines:
  • Not applicable

How to Fix the Problem

Best Practice: Give Links a Valid Destination (Using the href Attribute)

Provide a valid link destination in the href attribute to ensure that links function properly even with JavaScript turned off. In particular, you should avoid href="" or href="#". The "#" symbol is used as a "fragment identifier separator", which means its intended purpose within the href attribute is to precede a string of text which identifies a fragment within the page (a named anchor or an ID on the page). The use of "#" as the hypertext reference essentially means that the anchor points to nothing. In some browsers this may "point" to the entire document or to the top of the page, and this will cause an unexpected shift in focus.


Link href Recommendations
Recommended Not Recommended

Placing a link to another page in the href value:

<a href="index.html">Home</a>

Placing a link to an internal destination on the same page in the href value:

<a href="rules/axe/3.0#annual">Annual Reports</a>

Placing a valid link in the href attribute, plus a JavaScript function:

<a href="" onclick="; return false;">Annual Reports</a>

Leaving off the href attribute:

<a onclick="window.location.href=index.html">Home</a>

Placing nothing in the href attribute:

<a href="" onclick="window.location.href=index.html">Home</a>

Placing "#" in the href attribute:

<a href="class/html-css1/navigation/links#" onclick="window.location.href=index.html">Home</a>

Placing a JavaScript function in the href attribute:

<a href="javascript:void(0)" onclick="myFunc();">Annual Reports</a>

Related Deque University Course Pages

Other Related Resources

Additional Information

Relevant Technologies:
  • HTML 4
  • HTML5
Relevant Custom Widget Type(s):
  • Link (ARIA)
Test Reliability: Automated testing is possible, with high accuracy
Rule ID: href-no-hash