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RE: Frames and Accessibility

From: Jim Thatcher <jim@jimthatcher.com>
Date: Fri, 17 Jan 2003 08:49:33 -0600
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-id: <002c01c2be37$a8b41c90$6601a8c0@JTCOM2400>

Hi Julian,

Everybody is down on frames and I think one reason is that screen
readers (because of IE) have not, up till now, properly implemented
frames. Frames provide the best "skip Navigation" imaginable. When you
open content from the menu frame, assistive technology should
automatically be reading the content. Any time you follow a link within
a frameset, content that changes should automatically get focus. IE
doesn't do that, so JAWS didn't either (I have forgotten what
Window-Eyes does). HPR does it right now and JAWS will, in the next

In all the responses to your question, Julian, I didn't see the one
"required by" Section 508. That is to provide meaningful titles to each
frame that describe the purpose of the frame. As someone said about the
name attribute, "top" is not good but "messages" makes sense. These
titles should be in BOTH the name and title attributes of the frame
elements because some assistive technologies use the name attribute;
some use the title. It is also a good idea to check that your frame
pages have meaningful TITLE elements, something that is often omitted
because they are not usually visible. There is more about frames in the
web course, http://jimthatcher.com/webcourse4.htm#webcourse4.2 .

With all the bad vibes that frames are receiving in this thread; please
understand that there is nothing in WCAG AA that require you not to use

508 Web Accessibility Tutorial http://jimthatcher.com/webcourse1.htm.
"Constructing Accessible Web Sites:"  http://jimthatcher.com/news.htm

-----Original Message-----
From: w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org] On
Behalf Of Julian Voelcker
Sent: Friday, January 17, 2003 7:23 AM
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Subject: Re: Frames and Accessibility

Hi Tina,

Thanks for getting back to me.

> Keeping the nature of the information firmly in mind, is a very good
>   starting point. So why don't ask yourself whether or not the nature
>   the information you want people to get access to is _really_
>   into two physically different entities ?
>     In the case of the library, is not the navigation really an
>    part of the content ? A description of it ?
>     In the case of the chat, you are describing not only using frames,
>    also client-side technology - ie. a self-refreshing frame - which
>    not be available. This places you in the situation of actively
>    on two different techniques, neither of which is guaranteed to be
>    present.
>     If you really want to reach 'AA', then refreshing done client-side
>    currently out of the question. With that in mind, why not also
>    the frames ?

In both cases we have gone down the relevant route due to usability

It is impractical for us to cut back on the functionality/usability of
pages which is why we are considering providing an alternative version
of the 

> Perhaps it would be a more productive route to look at the
>   which seems so dependent on a client-side technique that might not
exist ?

We are working through the site to ensure that it will work if js is
The pages that we might have problems with are the pages that we would
to keep framed so will be looking to detect if js is enabled and then
the users to the non framed accessible versions.

> That would mean that the alternative page need use a different
>   that the main pages, which means you need *two* implementations.
Again it
>   seems more fruitful to actually rethink the concept.

We don't really consider that to be much of a problem.  We would rather
that than provide the users with reduced usability.

> That, in my opinion, is the entirely wrong way to go. Accessibility is
>   more hurt by having site-specific methods for changing fonts,
>   and soforth, than it is helped by it.

We have argued this one back and forth.  The site is aimed at the
sector and we have spoken to a number of charities involved with visual 
impairments and have received very mixed views.

At the end of the day we have decided to provide the facilities for
those that 
want to use it, but will also be providing advice on how they can change

settings in their browser and use their own stylesheets so that all
display how they want them.

> I suggest that you _first_ of all ask yourself "Why do we want to
>   WCAG 1.0 double-A ?", with the weight on the _why_. There is little
>   in doing it just to do it.

Our users have requested it and will benefit from it.

Sorry it is difficult to explain things more fully without showing you
pages, but they are all in a secure area of the site.


Julian Voelcker
Received on Friday, 17 January 2003 09:49:44 UTC

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