JavaScript and Accessibility - WebReference Update - 020221

FEATURE: JavaScript and Accessibility

As MSNBC found for their site, relying solely on
JavaScript to access your site is an accessibility barrier. Using
JavaScript to enhance the Web browsing experience is great, but
designing sites that rely solely on JavaScript for users to display
and navigate your site should be used only in situations where you
know who your users are (like an intranet for example). Case in
point, CNET's

Today, as I was updating an old Mac at an office, I wanted to
upgrade the browser. The Mac had versions 2.1 and 3.X of Internet
Explorer installed. 2.1 is ancient, but very fast, and without
scripting. 3.X is small and fast and has scripting built in. You'd
think that when upgrading your browser, download sites would have
simple straightforward hypertext links to download new browsers.
Not in this case.

The link to download Netscape 4.08 (the newest browser that
would work on this particular machine) relied on JavaScript
to work. No joy with IE 2.1. Trying the link with IE 3.01 with
scripting turned on spawned a JScript error, and the page
displayed as a large gray box. This is one case where you'd
think that designers would realize that older browsers upgrading
to a newer browser, might not have JavaScript or the latest
version of JavaScript.

The best use of JavaScript is to enhance the user's experience,
and/or save them clicks and calculations. Judicious layering of
JavaScripts over (X)HTML is a user-friendly and accessible
way to design pages. Gizmos like menus, news flippers, and
navigation buttons that degrade to static links take more work,
but are worth it for user satisfaction. (Not to mention avoiding
accessibility reviews like this one).

I eventually found the browser at, but a less
experienced user would probably give up in frustration. Frustrated
users is perhaps an unintended consequence of inaccessible design.
Delighted users is a better goal. By designing your sites to
gracefully degrade, while providing what Jeffrey Zeldman calls
"forward compatibility" you can ensure that your sites will
work with the widest possible audience.

Addendum: story on JavaScript and link design:


AT&T Web Design

Kimihia: Bad Web Design: JavaScript dependence


Received on Monday, 4 March 2002 04:48:15 UTC