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RE: is javascript considered good wacg 2.0 practice? [SEC=UNOFFICIAL]

From: John Foliot <john@foliot.ca>
Date: Mon, 17 Dec 2012 22:52:33 -0800
To: "'ANDERSEN, Leon'" <Leon.Andersen@fahcsia.gov.au>, "'Adam Cooper'" <cooperad@bigpond.com>, "'W3C WAI ig'" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <024f01cddcec$43dde2e0$cb99a8a0$@ca>
ANDERSEN, Leon wrote:
> From 'Topic5':
> "5. Currently assistive technology that is affordable by the general
> public is often very poor
> â—¦Creating content that can't be used by the general public with
> disabilities should be avoided. In many cases, the cost of assistive
> technologies is too high for users who need it. Also, the capabilities
> of free or low cost AT is often so poor today that Web content cannot
> be realistically restricted to this lowest (or even middle) common
> denominator. This creates a very difficult dilemma that needs to be
> addressed."

I think that it is worth noting that this statement is now 4 years old, and a lot of water has flowed under the bridge in those 4 years. 

4 years ago, there were no accessibility supported mobile devices to speak of. NVDA was in its infancy, and there were very few ARIA aware tools in the market place. Most authors were speaking of "Web 2.0" (and not "HTML5") and the initial WebAIM survey (some of the most publicly available data we have) had just been released. From that original survey we have the following statistics:

	"Of the 1121 respondents, 74% use JAWS, 23% use Window-Eyes, 8% use NVDA, and 6% use VoiceOver."

Fast forward to the 2012 survey, and the landscape has changed dramatically:

	"JAWS: 49.1%, Window-Eyes: 12.3%, VoiceOver: 9.2%, NVDA: 13.7%, System Access / System Access To Go: 10.4%, ZoomText: 2.8%, ChromeVox: 0.2%, Other: 2.2%" (source: http://webaim.org/projects/screenreadersurvey4/#primary) 

I think that it is worth noting that more than 33% of those recent numbers (of "Primary Screen Readers") are either free or integrated screen readers, and from all indications at least NVDA and VoiceOver (2 tools from that category) are doing a splendid job with web content. As well, given the Open Source nature of the Linux platform, screen readers such as Orca, Emacspeak, Gnopernicus and others are and will always be free - there is no specific relationship between cost and quality on that platform. 

I believe it is also critical to note that it is not "screen readers" that process JavaScript, it is the browsers themselves that do the heavy lifting: all of the above mentioned screen readers, when paired with a JavaScript supporting browser, can "handle" JavaScript. The quality of the JavaScript itself might vary depending on its source, but since the screen reader does nothing but convey (via speech output or Braille display) what the browsers are communicating to the platform Accessibility APIs, the problem is, and will remain, not the AT tools, but the browsers themselves. The "quality" issue around AT tools is something of a red herring in this discussion.

> With the above in mind and considering the lack of accurate information
> regarding what users are using (browsers/ATs/etc) and why they are
> using it and indeed their proficiency in using these tools, we can't in
> my mind rely on JavaScript availability.

The entire thrust of this conversation has turned to "We (some users) should be able to use Lynx and still access modern web applications". No-one has come forward to counter the fact that those same users *could* use another browser, and then, with whichever screen reader they are using, interact with the web applications: no, these users are insisting on using a specific browser - Lynx - despite the fact that it is pretty much the only browser left out there that does not support JavaScript.

If there were valid and compelling reasons why these users can *only* use Lynx (as opposed to the fact they simply *prefer* to use Lynx) then I think that the discussion would be on a different track. I have posed this question twice now to the advocates for Lynx, and they have chosen not to respond, perhaps because there is no valid reason they can bring forth. Based upon my experience, if you have the capacity to use Lynx on a computer, you can also use Firefox on that same computer (for example). It may not be your first choice, but it *is* a choice, and one that is both quite standards compliant (to address your quality concern) and free (to address the price concern).

However, as long as these anti-JS users insist on using a tool that does not support JavaScript, even when other viable options exist, then they are in the "want" versus "need" category, and I do not personally believe that WCAG 2 or any legislated requirement for equitable access is being ignored or trampled upon. (But, as the kids say today, "haters are gonna hate")

> We should be thinking about the user, after all it is why we're here,
> and as I said in my first reply to this discussion we should design for
> flexibility and inclusivity.

Flexibility is a two way street. As I initially suggested, there is an implied social contract between site developers and their constituents that both parties have a responsibility in the contract for Accessibility and Inclusion. 

The responses we've seen to that suggestion is that some users don't feel they need to meet the modern web half-way: they argue for retaining the functionality of antiquated or incomplete tools and expect that site developers come all the way to their door-step because, well, you know, they are "disabled" and so deserve that kind of accommodation. 

I find that kind of entitlement talk offensive and counter-productive, because the end message that web developers hear is that no matter how hard they try to be "accessible" others will find fault with their efforts. It is also my belief that this is not, now ever was, the intention of WCAG, of WAI, nor of Sir Tim Berners-Lee himself when he wrote, "Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect". Nowhere in anything he has said or done since he uttered that quote suggests that he believes the web should have the brakes applied and not continue to evolve.

Web developers have a responsibility to use the modern web standards - such as ARIA, which was created at the W3C to improve accessibility - to the best of their ability, FOR THEIR USERS. 

Browser manufacturers have a responsibility to create browser tools that meet the standards and deliver on their requirements, again FOR THEIR USERS.

Finally, those end users have a responsibility to use the appropriate tools for any given task, so that the efforts of the authors and web browser manufacturers can be taken advantage of.

Leon, you talked about the lack of hard data around statistics and users, but the same argument goes both ways: do we have any statistics that show that any users who are also PWD cannot use any of the modern browsers available to them? Right now I hear a handful of strident voices that appear to be inflexible and unwilling to budge from their preferred tool (going so far as to call it a "problem"), not because they *can't* use an alternative JS compliant browser, but because *they don't want to*, and they are attempting to use "accessibility" and WCAG 2 to bolster their case. I think that is very, very wrong.

Until they can produce anything beyond personal opinion and preference, I think it does all users a dis-service to take the anti-JavaScript stance. If you or the government of Australia feel differently, then you will make your decisions based upon your own internal compass. However, as has been pointed out numerous times, the W3C and most web accessibility practitioners today feel secure enough to accept JavaScript as part of the modern web platform, and that when authored correctly, to current standards, the resulting output will be accessible to the end user who chooses to use the proper tools for the job.

Received on Tuesday, 18 December 2012 06:53:53 UTC

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