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Re: DHTML drop down menus ADA compliant

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@sidar.org>
Date: Wed, 14 Jan 2004 17:20:48 +0100
Cc: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
To: "Emily Hallett" <ehallett@usm.maine.edu>
Message-Id: <9D45CE58-46AD-11D8-AD9E-000A958826AA@sidar.org>

Quick and rough summary: Drop-down menus can be accessible, whether 
they meet the requirements of the ADA is a legal question that is 
difficult to answer at the moment, but the example that you cited 
doesn't meet WCAG which is the most widely-used relevant technical 

Details and fine print:

If you mean do they comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, 
then it is unlikely anyone can tell you without taking a case to court. 
Legal opinion is clearly divided, with at least one judgement 
suggesting that the Act only applies to the things actually listed as 
examples, and others saying that those are identified as examples and 
websites are clearly the kind of thing that Congress would expect to be 
inferred from the examples they gave at the time.

However, leaving the particular legal issue out for a moment, the 
dropdown menus in that site do not appear to conform to the Web Content 
Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) - internationally the most widely 
recognised standard for determining accessibility. (For example, the 
body that administers the Australian equivalent law explicitly names 
WCAG as the best reference on avoiding discrimination in web site 
construction, and there are many other references in other countries).

The major checkpoint in question is checkpoint 6.3, which requires that 
the page function without requiring JAvascript, or an alternative is 
provided. In this example, the alternative is on a different page (the 
submenu appears as a plain menu on the page that the top link goes to).

However there are a number of checkpoints that are failed:

9.2 and 6.4 are basically equivalent in this case - they require that 
you can operate the functionality with any kind of interface (for 
example, it is easy to make these menus work with keyboard as well as 
mouse) but it hasn't been done on this page.

3.4 requires the use of relative units for layout - so that changing 
the size of the font or the window doesn't make stuff disappear. 
Unfortunately the menus are apparently of a fixed size, so enlarging 
the font means that words start to disappear (although at least they 
are made of real text so the font can be enlarged). Again, this could 
be fixed.

There is certainly no blanket prohibition in WCAG on dynamic menus. 
There are just things that they need to comply with, and these don't. I 
haven't yet seen anything that is perfect, although I believe that 
people have done the work to create accessible dynamic menus. Because 
they are actually often confusing, I haven't personally looked for an 
accessible coding of them, although I have seen a fair number that 
aren't. Someone on this list might be able to offer an example of 
drop-down menus that everyone agrees meet WCAG.

And that, I am afraid, is as close as I can get to answering whether 
they are ADA compliant. We could go to court for a judgement, but it is 
likely to be expensive, and not guaranteed to give you a very 
definitive answer.

Please bear in mind that this is free advice off the cuff. If you want 
a detailed technical report, naturally, they can be done, but again 
cost more :-) Anyway, I hope this is helpful.



On Wednesday, Jan 14, 2004, at 16:36 Europe/Rome, Emily Hallett wrote:

> Are DHTML drop down menus ADA compliant?
> Take for example:
> http://www.maine.gov
> This question was brought to my attention.  Any iinformation on this
> topic would be helpful.
> Emily
> Assistive Technology Specialist
> University of Southern Maine
> 96 Falmouth Street
> 144 Luther Bonney Hall
> Portland, ME  04104
> 207-780-4182
Charles McCathieNevile                          Fundación Sidar
charles@sidar.org                                http://www.sidar.org
Received on Wednesday, 14 January 2004 11:22:32 UTC

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