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RE: Anti-spam email links in Javascript


From: John Foliot - WATS.ca
Date: Apr 9, 2004 10:17AM

> It's not a matter of subjective evaluations. It simply isn't. It could be
> an improvement to have a form as an _alternative_, but _replacing_ an
> email address with a form would reduce accessibility, no matter how good
> the form is (most forms on the Web are awful, with their stamp-side
> textareas and with their reset buttons). Think about a user who knows how
> to use an E-mail program but cannot use a form interface, since only his
> E-mail program contains the assistive technology he needs.

I beg your pardon? You're saying that a form is *less* accessible than an
email address? How can that be?

As pointed out (within this thread), users who may be accessing your content
through a public terminal, or who's user agent does not have (or support) an
email client, cannot contact the site owners through a simple mailto: link.

A properly developed form, on the other hand, is just more HTML, and users
of AT who can access your page content should be able to access your form as
well. Now, it's true that many (most?) developers don't know how to do
forms correctly - no argument there - but to suggest that an email link is
more accessible than a form, is, IMHO false. Jukka, I'll meet you half way
(they are equal), but cannot accept your statement as written.

Advantages to forms:
- properly done, can be navigated through quickly, even more so when coded
with the < fieldset> and < legend> attributes. These attributes also group
similar or like informational concepts, in accordance with WAI Priority 2 -
12.3 "Divide large blocks of information into more manageable groups where
natural and appropriate."

- *most* form scripts also allow for immediate feedback to the sender; a
"Thank you we have received your note" type response page. This type of
positive re-enforcement aids those with cognitive disabilities (it confirms
to them that they were successful), as well as enhances general usability
(because just about everyone wants to know they have been successful when
submitting requests, information, etc.) Developers can even echo back
tracking numbers, etc., again aiding in usability, as well as enhancing
client confidence.

- all functionality is server side as opposed to client side - this topic
could encompass a whole other discussion, but consider: WAI Priority 1 - 6.3
"Ensure that pages are usable when scripts, applets, or other programmatic
objects are turned off or not supported. If this is not possible, provide
equivalent information on an alternative accessible page." One *could*
stretch the interpretation of "programatic object" to encompass an email
client - a stretch for sure, but not unfeasible. If you do not have access
to an email client, you cannot contact the web site - period.

- as noted within this thread, using forms reduces the need to publicly
post an email address, thus reducing spam (which *HAS* to be a good

- using a form helps the submitter to succinctly deliver their message, as
you are "helping them" by asking the leading questions. What is your name?
what is your email address? what is your comment? does it pertain to any of
the pre-determined topics? (this also helps site admins who generally
receive this type of information, as the subject line can be pre-determined,
allowing the recipients to filter and sort their correspondence from the

- having a feedback form on an HTML document also allows developers to
directly link to any privacy policy the site owners may adhere to (whereas a
simple email has no assurances of any privacy protection). In this day and
age, with digital privacy becoming more and more important, this too is an
advantage (although outside the realm of accessibility).

Just my $0.02 (or roughly $0.03 Canadian)

Web Accessibility Specialist / Co-founder of WATS.ca
Web Accessibility Testing and Services
http://www.wats.ca 1.866.932.4878 (North America)

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