Now, on to some key points in the above study titled Source Order, Skip links and Structural labels...
This paper proposes that when it comes to accessibility, the quality of the actual code on a web page is much more important than the ordering of the page content. Meaningful and appropriately marked up headings, descriptive link text and the clear identification of different levels of navigation, allow screen reader users to most effectively use their technologies when visiting a website.
Emphasis mine. Put the two together and I think you've got a winning combination. ;)
With some startling conclusions!
The startling conclusion I came to is that most Screen Readers are expecting to see an antiquated tabled layout. They came to that conclusion too but not in the same words I used. ;)
The 18 screen reader and 5 text browser respondents all appear to have very similar expectations about how the content of web pages will be ordered. All 23 participants believe that when they visit a site, the main site navigation will be presented before the informational content of the page.
And then this...
Furthermore, it appears that 20 of the participants expect both the main site and the local navigation to be presented before the content.
Also, during the study you have comments like this which contradict other comments. :)
Interestingly, during these follow up discussions, four screen reader users volunteered the opinion that although navigation is usually presented before the page content, they felt that they would probably find that pages which present the content first easier to use.
One of the survey questions and one that has major importance in page structure.
Did you find the headings identifying the different levels of navigation on the sites useful?
I really like this part. If you are following the core guidelines for accessibility, source ordering should not present any major issues.
It is worth noting however, most of these screen reader shortcuts, such as obtaining lists of links or headings depend to a large extent on the use of well structured code, which conforms to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
And here we have another contradictory comment, what gives?
It is probably desirable however, to present the content of the page before extraneous information, such as advertisements and related links, as well as the page footer.
Oh, and here is the real "Startling Conclusion"...
Finally, the importance of adhering to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines cannot be overstated. The use of semantically correct and valid code, meaningful and appropriately marked up headings and descriptive link text will enable screen reader users to make the most effective use of their technologies when visiting a website.
And, from the task based survey, all respondents said yes to this question.
Were you able to complete the tasks on both sites?
Have you ever checked out Inman positioning for footers of AP sites?
I haven't. But, I've seen other implementations which I'm sure are similar and I still don't fully understand them. My CSS knowledge is somewhat limited in scope and when it comes to some of the "hardcore" stuff, I tend to back off and do something different. Or, I find someone at WebmasterWorld with the knowledge to assist. ;)