The question title really says it all, but the comments on this answer should provide more clarity.

Preserved Comments from the Answer

Please note that there were a bunch of comments on this question, too, which only served to further demonstrate the user's resistance to using markup properly purely due to distaste with the style sheet used by SE. I've deleted my participation in it, because it was utterly pointless.

I don't want to get into an edit war with the poster, but the fact of the matter is that personal typographical preferences (and any distaste for how SE has written their style sheets) should not override edits that make the post more readable for more users.

Screen reader software uses markup to assist in document navigation. The original formatting clearly intended to use multiple levels of headings, with square characters on the upper level heading and boldface on the next level down. The edit changed these to proper H2 and H3-level headings (## and ### respectively), because H1 is already used for the question title.

Does aviation.SE have a policy on edits that reduce accessibility?


3 Answers 3


We don't have any specific policy about how using headers for screen reader accessibility. In general, we're (unfortunately) not great when it comes to accessibility on this network but we do want to improve in our accessibility.

Years ago, when I first started using the site, I didn't actually know about headers. I used bold to create sections like the OP of that answer did because I wanted clear sections in some of my long answers but I didn't know what other options I had... and then I found headers and I've never looked back.

If skipping header levels is problematic, I'll have to apologize, because I regularly skip H2 and go straight to H3. I just like the sizing of it better unless I'm trying to actually make subsections. I've never gotten any complaints about it - so I don't know if it's negatively impacting any users.

What I'd like to suggest to you all is to remember that there's a lot of people trying to appreciate the content on this site and they all may have subtly different needs. Any time we can make someone's experience better - particularly if it doesn't negatively impact someone else's experience - we should make an effort to meet that need.

If using H3 - the way the post is currently formatted - helps people using screen readers view the sections of an excellent and long post - that seems like a kind change to make. As others have asserted, there's not a huge visual difference between H3 and bold type.

This is H3

This is Bold

If this meets both of y'all's needs... this seems like the right solution. May also be worth pointing out that the "N Answers" is an H2 so using only H3 in an answer doesn't actually skip a level.

"2 Answers" is a h2 header

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ We are in agreement, this seems H3 is an acceptable solution, with the current CSS, since H2 is actually present. Thanks for pointing that. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Mar 12, 2020 at 10:14

Does personal preference take precedence over accessibility?


Making this answer accessible to people who use screen readers is important. Making text slightly smaller, because you think it's prettier that way, is not important.

In particular, in my browser, the only noticeable difference between a level-3 heading and a bold paragraph is that the heading uses a font size of 17px while the paragraph uses a font size of 15px. That doesn't seem like a big enough difference to be worth fighting for.

  • $\begingroup$ "Making text slightly smaller, because you think it's prettier that way, is not important". This is also the choice of the site. It means denying author rights on voluntarily shared content, e.g. opposing to degrading the quality of an image or the pixel ratio to display it on a small screen, a change many consider minor. Not a surprise, this is in the code of conduct. Competition leaving some rights to the original author may have a better future, authors aware of the value of their content, spending time for this value, may be not ready to see it changed like this. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Mar 12, 2020 at 9:13
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @mins Two points I'd like to make. While you do have the right to make your post look the way you want it to, people who are visually impaired also have the right to have access to that post in a way their screen-readers can make sense of. And if the two conflict, than accessibility wins every time. Two, you don't actually have as much control as you seem to think you do, just by the very nature of the web. Just because "bold" is a certain size on your screen doesn't mean it's the same size on my screen. (cont) $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 14, 2020 at 21:15
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Every browser has their own font choices, and each user can customize them in any way they want. If I want "bold" text to be 24px tall in electric blue on an orange background, I can configure my browser to display that, and there's nothing you, Stack Exchange, or anyone else can do about it. (Well, OK, I suppose someone at the company that makes the browser could do something about it, but besides that, nobody.) $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 14, 2020 at 21:16

In five years, that's the second or third time someone edits my post to change bold headings into true HTML header style (H1). That's to say this is not a frequent request.

Let me explain the problem you points to:

When I see this:

enter image description here

I'm certainly very happy with the design, it looks nice! What about this:

enter image description here

In this case the header style uses very large fonts. I won't definitely not use this. Presentation is as important as content. I rather use bold characters:


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So you're question boils down to whether I've the right to not use headers but bold characters, knowing that badly written screen readers software may not recognize this bold inter-paragraph title as a structuring elements, and therefore won't include it in the "contents" which will summarize the question or answer (I assume this is the problem, but you don't tell exactly what is the problem).

My answer is yes, I've the right, there is no rule in our code of conduct asking to use headers between paragraphs.

Now I'm not totally an idiot, and certainly not someone who is indifferent to disabilities. This is not because I've the right that I need to use it. But in that case... is there any hurting involved? Certainly not either.

Just have a look at a sample of posts, these which contain paragraph titles are a minority. My bold titles just add something to the content, they don't remove anything.

Ok they don't add something to screen reader users (well those which are badly designed at least), but they don't remove anything either. My posts could just not contain any title.

So my fist idea on that is you're on an unfounded accusation when you think I'm doing what I like (using good style) at the expense of disabled people.

On the suggestion to use H2 style instead of H1, because it's smaller:

This is H2

As for using H3 which is somehow more acceptable, it's not a good coding practice to break the overall document header structure, as some tools use actually H1...H6 for what they are, to analyze the documents and index it. The structure of the document has to be maintained accurately. Even screen readers have problems reading inconsistent levels of heading.

Don’t skip heading levels on a page. For example, try not to go from a level 2 heading to a level 5 heading. Remember – it’s all about organization and consistency.

I won't hide behind this as an excuse, just I wanted to say it would replaces one (arguable) problem by an other.

My proposition:

Let's discuss that with the site team, and let's find a good solution which satisfies everyone:

  • Headings at the proper levels
  • Having a better relationship in term of size and spacing to the main text
  • Which can be used without introducing negative aesthetic effects on the post.
  • Explain clearly in the code of conduct that anyone can edit a post to add HTML headers (or site defined code) in place of CSS attributes like bold.
  • Explain the limits to this privilege, so that everybody car still react to unjustified modifications.

Now I can hear any good idea and can change my mind.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I am quite surprised to read all of this, given that I edited an answer of yours with H3 and you agreed that it looked ok to you $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 5:18
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ See eeit 19 aviation.stackexchange.com/posts/23808/revisions $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 5:19
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Ah, and the edit you reverted used H3 too $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 5:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Federico: No I didn't accept the original edit (by the same editor): "Rollback to Revision 15 - Edit approval overridden by post owner or moderator". In addition note that your edits (as you did on the current answer) don't generate any notification to the owner, so if agreement there is, it's by default. But that's not the question actually. The question is whether I need to accept an edit in the first place or I can use my own judgment to select which ones are important. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 11:04
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ "I don't know how to tag for H3, it's not in the help" I know you're not serious, but it is in the help center (show more). Also under "Styling/Headers" in the answer box via (?) ;) $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 11:13
  • $\begingroup$ @ymb1: Ah ok, but I was serious, I just stopped on the first method and searched for "h3" and didn't find it (also I saw later that you had put the code in a comment too). Anyway using H3 creates the problem we talked about already. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 11:19
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Explain clearly in the code of conduct that anyone can edit a post Explain the limits to this privilege, so that everybody car still react to unjustified modifications what do you think is missing here? aviation.stackexchange.com/help/editing $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Federico: "Users with sufficient reputation may elect to roll back the post to a previous version" (if they think the edit is not justified). This is what is unclear (no mention to altering the post for screen reader use as a good reason) and this is this right which is challenged actually by the OP. So while I think this can be useful, the limits must be clarified and the solution must be elegant. Are you ok to push this in your hierarchy? $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 13:55
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ "badly written screen readers software may not recognize this bold inter-paragraph title as a structuring elements" – What makes you say that such screen readers are "badly written"? A lot of short, bolded paragraphs aren't structuring elements; are you saying that any screen reader that can't tell the difference is "badly written"? And are you aware of any screen readers which are not "badly written" according to your criteria? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 12, 2020 at 2:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ see Catija's answer for a comment from the "hierarchy" $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Commented Mar 12, 2020 at 7:33
  • $\begingroup$ @TerranSwett: "What makes you say that such screen readers are badly written?" OCR software are able to recognize titles just by looking at how they appear in the page. A single line text, with space before and after, written in bold character, is likely an inter paragraph title and a structuring element. Basic screen readers engines are already present by default in OSes like Windows, a paying screen reader can bring a bit more than this. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Mar 12, 2020 at 9:53

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