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Re: Java and Screen Reader Question

From: Shane Anderson <Shane@cpd2.usu.edu>
Date: Mon, 16 Feb 2004 17:16:53 -0700
To: lubow_scott@bah.com
Cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-ID: <1076977013.cc5a1ec0Shane@cpd2.usu.edu>

-----Original Message-----

I am working on a site that has a navigation bar on the left side, which is all Java.  There is an alternative hard coded alternative on the bottom of the screen.  I was told that a screen reader wouldn't read the Java, and would skip right to the alternative which is the hard coded menu.  Is this true or if the Java is coded using the Java Accessibility API, the navigation will be accessible?

My response:

There are many accessibility issues with Java. I like Java and I program in Java, BUT when it comes to applets you will not be able to make them accessible to the general public. This is true even if you use the Java Accessibility API.

Not everyone has Java installed and if they do, will it run your applet? For example, on a new computer running Windows XP using IE6 only some AWT applets will run correctly, because the Microsoft JVM uses Java 1.1.4 and the Java plug-in is not installed. Even if your applet is coded using latest version of Java and the Java Accessibility API, someone who purchased a Dell yesterday cannot view your Web site as you intended it to be viewed, unless they download and run the Java Plug-in. And if that user uses Jaws or Window Eyes then they will also have to download and run the Java Access Bridge plug-in. What a pain!

Another problem is that both the <applet> tag and the <object> tag have inconsistent implementations. Here again IE, the most used Web browser in the world (unfortunately), does not use the <object> tag correctly. When used according to the (X)HTML standards, it invokes the Microsoft JVM no matter what plug-in the user has. The only alternative is to use the deprecated <applet> tag which works correctly when Java is installed but when it is not, the alternative rendering varies across other browsers.

Still another problem is that users can’t change colors or font sizes easily. 

I would really discourage the use of Java for navigation, even with an alternative somewhere else. I never expect to find every link on every page of a Web site, if that is what you are trying to accomplish. You wouldn’t use fancy drop-down navigation in a stand alone Java application. Why use it on a Web site? 

Shane Anderson
Programmer Analyst
Web Accessibility in Mind (WebAIM.org)
Received on Monday, 16 February 2004 19:09:26 UTC

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