WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

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Re: javascript


From: Paul Bohman
Date: Aug 23, 2001 10:51PM

[Leo] In my mind, if a user chooses to turn off client-side JavaScript
capabilities on their browser, then the resulting inaccessibility of certain
websites is a different issue as they have made this choice and can just as
easily switch the JavaScript back on. What do others think about this?
[Paul] I tend to agree with you on this one, at least in principle. The
reality is not quite so cut-and-dried though. Sometimes, the best browser
for a particular person for a particular disability is a browser which
doesn't support JavaScript, or which only supports it partially. This
usually doesn't mean that the person absolutely MUST use this other browser,
but it means that it is BEST for this particular individual. If this person
wants, he or she could use a different browser, and turn the JavaScript on,
but that would be a second-best solution. So, although I agree in principle,
the reality of the matter is that I can't always say that they have
JavaScript disabled just because they want to. With this in mind, whenever
using JavaScript, I recommend always providing an alternative method to
achieve the same functionality.
[Leo] In my mind, what is important in terms of making a website accessible
to those with an impairment is making sure that any functionality provided
by client-side JavaScript is also accessible to these users. I think the use
of logical event handlers can solve a lot of these issues (maybe even the
dhtml drop down menu problem - if the menus can be opened by the keyboard,
the contents of each menu can be read by a screen reader, and the link
opening the menu is described to indicate that this is what is does).
[Paul] Again, I agree, in principle. Your logic is not flawed, but the
technologies are, unfortunately. Assistive technologies, JavaScript, and
browsers do not yet work as well together as we'd like them to. Sometimes
these functionalities can be achieved, but not all of the time. The testing
and debugging process of producing disability-accessible DHTML JavaScripts
is oftentimes not worth the effort. It would be a good project to undertake,
though, for someone who has the time and skill (and who is willing to share
the results with us!).
[Leo] I like the idea of designing pages without JavaScript, and then
including any at the end of the design process for "non-essential features."
However, sometimes client-side JavaScript may be needed for an essential
feature (for example the Netscape resize fix for layers that dreamweaver
provides). As long as such JavaScript isn't doing anything that someone with
an impairment will miss out on, is it really inaccessible?
[Paul] I think you mean to ask "is it really that bad." The answer to your
literal question ("is it really inaccessible") is "yes", of course it is
inaccessible to those who have JavaScript disabled (or to those who cannot
use a mouse with mouse-dependent JavaScripts, etc.). But is that bad? It all
depends on what it is that is inaccessible. If the content is important,
then it's inaccessibility would be a problem. That would be bad. If the
content is not important, then the fact that it is inaccessible is
irrelevant. I know this sounds simplistic, but this is a judgment that the
content's author has to make.
Perhaps someday client-side scripting (e.g. JavaScript) will work well with
all of the major assistive technologies and browsers. At that point, I will
feel comfortable putting my efforts into making the scripting directly
accessible, without worrying about a non-scripted alternative. Until then, I
will continue to provide an alternative.
Paul Bohman
Technology Coordinator
WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind)
Utah State University