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Re: Section 508 1194.22(p)


From: Terence de Giere
Date: Mar 26, 2002 10:02PM


There are many scripts that run with assistive technologies which
support scripting, some that interfere with the interpretation of a page
with assistive technologies which support scripting, and some assistive
technologies that do not run scripting. The question is whether the
scripting is trivial, that is, if it doesn't work, the function,
usability and understanding of the page are not affected. The goverment
seems to be leaning in the direction of the use of screen readers with a
graphical browser that supports scripting. The public may be using a
wider range of technology, some which does not support scripting. I have
a friend who uses an old audio browser that does not support scripting
to browse the Web. I sometimes use a later version of that browser, and
other browsers that do not support scripting.

When a page with scripting on it is rendered with all versions of this
audio browser, script elements are rendered as "an unsupported script".
As a courtesy to the user, informing them of what they are misssing and
whether it is critical to the use of page is a good idea. Some scripts,
like mouseovers on graphics within links used as navigation buttons are
trivial, if the images have alternate text, the links are functional and
can be used if the mouseovers cannot be experienced. However if a
critical process such as validating data in a form by JavaScript is in
the page, then malfunction of the script, or its not running can be an
issue since the page will not be processed properly, or perhaps will not
be usable at all. I think paragraph (p) is badly worded causing
confusion. I am not clear on what it means either. My initial
interpretation was the same as yours. I think critical functions that
are scripted need a non-script alternative, or server-side script or
other programming alternatives which do not need the user's browser to
run correctly. The more interactive and dynamic a page is, the more
likely it will cause usability and accessibility problems with assistive
technology. The 508 rules are considerably less expansive than the W3C
guidelines and provide a minimum level of accessibility. One should
always try within the project limits to put in as much accessibility as
possible into a page.

If JavaScript provides a mechanism for informing a user that time is
running out to complete a function, and is also the means to extend the
time, it simply will not work with some technology. That rule, paragraph
(l) just says there has to be a way for the user to extend the time and
the user has to be informed. It does not say the user needs to be given
a countdown clock or even that they have to be actively informed by a
dynamic process that time is going to run out, only that the process has
a time limit and there is a way to extend it. This could be a simple
message "O.K. Bub, you've got 10 minutes to finish this form, but you
may activate the *extend time button* to get another 5 minutes of time
at any time" and a server-side process activated by form submission to
extend the time. If there is private information being transferred, they
should also be informed to shut down the browser afterwards, so that
critical information does not remain in memory.

My own experience with browsing with assistive technology is scripting
is a real pain sometimes. I would follow this rule - If the user can
complete the task and understand the page properly with scripting off,
then the page is O.K.with regard to these rules. If scripting is off and
the user takes 15 minutes longer (or whatever time) than the normal
timeout period to finish the task, and can complete the task, then the
page is O.K.

The number of users on the Interent with no scripting or scripting off
is about 10-12 percent now. Two years ago it was 20 percent. note that
some browsers allow a user to also selectively turn off pop-up windows.
I tested this on some JavaScript alerts with a couple of different
browsers - in one case the Alert pop-up functioned, in the other it was
suppressed, even though JavaScript was on. It appears the vendors of
these browsers interpreted the term pop-up window differently. One
included JavaScript alerts in the definition of pop-up even though it is
not exactly a window (a small new Web page). Pop-up windows can confuse
non-visual users. The W3C recommends users be informed if a window is
going to pop-up because it takes them suddenly out of the Web page they
are in. So if a Window or alert pops up "Hey, guess what, you aren't
going to finish this form in time" it may disorient some users; they may
not know they have left the current Web page. For other users with other
technology, the same process will end without any messages showing up.

Terence de Giere
=======================Sharon Daniels said-----------------
Subject: Re: Section 508 1194.22(p)
From: "Sharon Daniels" < <EMAIL REMOVED> >
Date: Tue, 26 Mar 2002 15:47:05 -0500

I guess that I have been misinterpreting the 508 guidelines. I thought
that if you had a Javascript that performed an action, it should be
accessible in another way for users who are using assistive technology
that does not support Javascript. I "thought" that "functional text"
meant that you had to provide a text alternative that performed the same
action. So I posed the same question to the Technical Support on the
section508.gov web site to try to get clarification on the "timed

They told me: "Functional text means text that identifies what will
happen when the script is activated. Of course with a script that is
keeping track of time, there is no text because the user doesn't
activate the script manually. The only text would be the timeout alert.
If scripting is not supported then the whole issue is non-applicable.
508 does not require that all features provided by scripting be
available without scripting."

So to me this says that if you are using assistive technology that does
not support scripting...too bad for you. I know that it says if you use
scripts they must be accessible, but what good does that do for someone
who doesn't have that technology?

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