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RE: Hidden Frames and Screen Readers


From: Hoffman, David
Date: Feb 24, 2003 8:02AM

Hidden Frames are one of many web application obstacles that caused me to
write the CSUN 2003 paper/presentation: CUSTOMIZING THE JAWS BROWSER SCRIPT
FOR WEB APPLICATIONS www.csun.edu/cod/conf/2003/proceedings/62.htm. While
the paper does not directly address the specific problem of hidden frames,
the following explains how we partially addressed this issue for JAWS using
JavaScript and how Freedom Scientific resolved this issue in JAWS 4.51:

Many web applications utilize hidden frames. These frames are either used
for background purposes or are only displayed on some screens and hidden on
others -- without removing the frame and losing the information within them.
The common method used to hide the frames is by setting the height or width
of the frame to 0 or 0%. Unfortunately JAWS (as of version 4.50) ignores the
fact that the frame is not visually displayed. This causes confusion, since
JAWS reads these hidden frames and includes them in the list of available
frames. Furthermore, hidden frames sometimes contain links. JAWS 4.50 treats
these links as any other links, ignoring the fact that the frames are

JavaScript can be used to improve the situation, by turning off the display
in a frame, as follows:

HTML code: <BODY onload="disableFrame();">

Associated JavaScript code:

function disableFrame()
top.document.all.NameOfHiddenFrame.style.display = 'none';

Benefits: JAWS 4.51 - Ignores the hidden frames completely, links, frames,
and all!
JAWS 4.50 - Ignores the links from the hidden frames.
JAWS 4.02 - Ignores the hidden frame when announcing new web
Still includes them in the Frames List and reads them.

However, JAWS 4.51 (just released) does not require this JavaScript
technique. Freedom Scientific responded to our requests regarding this web
application situation. Now, if a frame has a height or width of 0 or 0%,
JAWS 4.51 users will not hear about the frame. If the frame is not meant to
be seen, it is not meant to be heard either.

Thank you Freedom Scientific!

Take care,

David Hoffman
IT Accessibility Specialist
MILVETS Systems Technology, Inc.

-----Original Message-----
From: Josh Richards [mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ]
Sent: Friday, February 21, 2003 6:27 PM
Subject: Hidden Frames and Screen Readers

I work for a small, 508 compliant distance learning company. We've been
striving to improve our product for use with screen readers, but one
unfortunate annoyance is our use of hidden frames in the product.

Removing these frames would require a lot of work, so I would love to know
if there are any tips for hiding frames from screen readers. The goal is to
reduce the amount of non-essential information read aloud to the users so
they can focus more on what is important.

Does anyone know if there are certain doctypes or custom tags that can be
used to indicate "hidden" information to screen readers?


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