RE: Section 508 Question on Javascript - Section 1194.22, Parag raph (l)

I talked to Doug Wakefield at the Access Board about this issue a couple of
weeks ago. Here's my (possibly faulty) translation of his intent in writing
this paragraph:

The assumption is that the user will have a reasonably current
browser/assistive technology combination, such as IE 5 and Jaws for Windows
3.7, specifically, one that supports javascript. [This is the biggest
philosophical difference between 508 and WAI.] 

In this case, you're assuming that behind-the-scenes Javascript (such as
validation) will work properly. If so, you need only to make sure that
"visual" content is available to all users. For example, a form that
validates for an email address could pop up an alert box saying "Please
enter an email address." Jaws 3.7 can read alert boxes, so this is

One piece that is oddly missing here is a requirement that all
content/functionality be keyboard accessible. (For instance, no onClick
events used without a non-js fall-through.) The closest idea is in (n), but
it only includes coding for forms:

(n) When electronic forms are designed to be completed on-line, the form
shall allow people using assistive technology to access the information,
field elements, and functionality required for completion and submission of
the form, including all directions and cues. 

Interesting. (I've cc:d Doug on this email-- he may be able to clear up any


-----Original Message-----
From: Kynn Bartlett []
Sent: Monday, February 12, 2001 4:35 PM
To: Graham Oliver
Subject: Re: Section 508 Question on Javascript - Section 1194.22,
Paragraph (l)

At 12:55 PM 2/12/2001 , Graham Oliver wrote:
>I have been asked to write an article on accessibility
>which covers Section 508 so would like to give a
>reasonable interpretation of this regulation.
>Anyone care to have a go?

Here's what you're asking about:

>Could someone explain this to me, for example in the
>case of a simple piece of script to display a pop-up.

>Section 1194.22, Paragraph (l) 'When pages utilize scripting languages to
>content, or to create interface elements, the
>information provided by the script shall be identified
>with functional text that can be read by assistive

Here's my take on a "reasonable interpretation":

I think this is a poorly worded way of saying, "if you use
Javascript or other scripting language, provide a textual
equivalent for the function."  But it seems obfuscated in so
many details that it's hard to tell if that -is- the correct

Is this specific wording intended to highlight any of the
following interpretations?

* The mention of two specific uses of "scripting languages"
   may mean that is _only_ restricted to those uses, (a)
   displaying content, and (b) creating interface elements.

* Does this only refer to client-side scripts?  I guess so,
   because it doesn't make sense otherwise, but who can tell?

* Is the operative part 'information provided by the script'
   meaning this only applies to information?  Or does 
   'functional text' mean that it's refering to the function
   of the script?

* Is this asking that information be -identified- as missing,
   and that identification be accessible?  In other words,
   "This javascript, could you see it, would tell you the 
   current date and time" -- is that acceptable?

* It refers to 'assistive technology' but I am not sure if that
   is defined -- does that mean that, if current versions of
   JAWS for windows support limited Javascript, that's the target?
   It's very unclear whether or not this applies to, say, Lynx
   being used with a screenreader.

So those are the issues -- which is why I say it's poorly
worded.  Putting wording aside and looking at likely intent --
based on my understanding of accessibility issues -- I would go
with the interpretation that this means:

"If you use client-side scripting languages, such as Javascript,
to provide information or to create interface elements, you
must provide textual equivalents (accessible by assistive
technology) which provide equal functionality."

Note that this does NOT seem to cover another very common use
of Javascript, which is to provide form interactions such as
validation, except as applies to information display or interface
elements.  Part (n) covers the requirement of forms.


PS:  Unofficial Section 508 checklist is at:

      When I get some time, I want to add annotations.

Kynn Bartlett <>
Technical Developer Liaison
Customer Management/Team Edapta
Reef North America
Tel +1 909-674-5225

Received on Monday, 12 February 2001 17:16:56 UTC