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JavaScript countdown timer for session timeout


From: Joel Ward
Date: Jul 25, 2002 4:02PM

Hi everyone,

I have some questions about Section 508 item (p): When a timed response is
required, the user shall be alerted and given sufficient time to indicate
more time is required.

Scenario: We have some JavaScript that shows a countdown timer. When, say,
one minute is left in the client session (which is the same as the server
session/time out), a popup dialog will appear that tells the user that the
session will end soon. Then after the time is up, the session times out if
the user does not make any selections (e.g. because they walked away).

I've read that this is an accepted method to handle Section 508 item (p),
and I think it's a good method for accessibility and usability in general.

However, is the JavaScript countdown timer that is included with this script
an issue regarding 508 and/or accessibility? I tried the script with JAWS
4.02, and the countdown timer did not interfere with JAWS reading of the
page, and the dialog boxes worked as well.

But does this dynamically changing text cause problems for some users? Is
it a good idea? It's only useful for visual users, of course.


P.S. Since this is regarding 508, we don't consider what happens when
JavaScript is turned off. In any case, other than alerting the user of the
server session time in the page text, we can't really do anything if they
have JavaScript turned off. But officially for 508, it's okay that
JavaScript is necessary. Yes, I know this may leave out some users. But
for this web application JavaScript is required anyway, so anyone using it
will need it to be turned on.

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