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Question: JS and Accessibility.

 
Adam Brundrett
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Sorry to throw this one at you...and I realise it's a topic with unending scope, but, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on issue of web accessibility, DDA requirements and Javascript. As a web developer involved in creating front-ends for clients, they love the rich-client effect that can be generated through the use of something like dojo but then slap you with DDA requirements which can be a real development headache. It's particularly grief-ridden as browser compatibility, after all these years is STILL a mess.

Do you think JS and DDA are at odd's completely? Is it just a matter of client expectation management or should the web-world be working harder as a whole to address this issue

Answer please in less than 10,000 words

[ August 26, 2008: Message edited by: Ulf Dittmer ]

Ulf...not sure why you edited the title as I specifically wanted to get Stoyan's thoughts on this topic hence I indicated it was a question to him? I realise it is a more general question rather than specifically about the book. If you feel it is not appropriate for him, please delete as you see fit.
[ August 26, 2008: Message edited by: Adam Brundrett ]
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Adam,
The idea is to be able to get everyone's thoughts on topics, not just the author. That's how discussion works. I have an opinion. If the subject was addressed to the author of the week, that implies you aren't interested in hearing my thoughts.

I assume the DDA is the Disability Discrimination Act in the UK. I don't have any experience with it, but I do have with Section 508 which is the US equivalent. I'm using the word "accessibility" instead of DDA or 508 specifically. There's really a few layers to this:
1) JS and accessibility - Many forms of JavaScript can be accessible. Form validation/enabling/disabling is a very basic one. I remember in the early days of 508 use, we had debates about whether JavaScript was inherently non-compliant. (The answer was that of course you can use JavaScript. Screenreaders can handle it.)
2) DHTML and accessibility - Some types of DHTML are more accessible than others. A common test is to turn off CSS and see what you get. Screenreaders are getting better at handling DHTML.
3) AJAX and accessibility - I can't wait! AJAX done right can make a page more accessible than having to keep reloading the page. ARIA is a standard that will provide a way of informing screenreaders that parts of the page have changed. It's an "evolving standard" so whether AJAX pages are currently accessible is a subject for debate. And since laws vary buy country, whether it is accessible yet turns into a question for lawyers.
 
Stoyan Stefanov
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Just like Jeanne, I'm excited about ARIA, tutorial here on opera dev (heh, "opera" and "aria")

Of course, JS and accessibility are not mutually exclusive, this is where the fun/art/challenge of the front-end coding shines. The layered approach (progressive enhancement) in something foremost to kep in mind: your content (HTML) just works, the site is usable without javascript and css styles, all form submits work, there's a server-side validation in addition to client-side (essential for security purposes anyway). Navigation and all other interactions work. Then you start enhance this with presentational css stuff and unobtrusive JavaScript. All this is "extra".

The graded browser support idea is also a big help in thinking about the development and also gives a common ground and language to speak to clients, product managers and other non-technical folk.
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Stoyan,
That's a really good tutorial. I never would have thought to look on the Opera site for one!
 
Stoyan Stefanov
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Welcome, Jeanne, they do have interesting articles on their dev.opera.com site.

This here web standards course looks like a great initiative for front-end developers education, although it's not yet complete.
 
Adam Brundrett
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Thanks for the replies. As said already, that Opera Dev ARIA tutorial is a very good introduction. Be interesting to see how the development roadmap continues to pan out.

As a slight aside, the tutorial made me chuckle at one point....I like the three possible aria-live verbosity levels...."polite", "assertive" and "rude"
 
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