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Re: is javascript considered good wacg 2.0 practice?

From: Matt May <mattmay@adobe.com>
Date: Fri, 14 Dec 2012 12:17:04 -0800
To: W3C WAI ig <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <CCF0B75A.12C25%mattmay@adobe.com>
Okay. I seem to have to say something like this once a year, so here we go.

JavaScript is here. It is not going away. It does good, useful things. It
can also do bad, useless, even frustrating things. But that's the nature
of any tool. You could use a hammer to hack down your house, if you tried
hard enough. But we don't ban hammers.

If you approach a modern web developer and suggest to them that they avoid
using JavaScript, you will be ignored. It would be exactly like telling a
homebuilder they can't use a hammer. And yeah, there are a lot of sites
you can point to where JavaScript is used poorly, just like I can show you
a lot of ugly houses. In each case, the solution is not to push the
technology down. It's to develop best practices and get people to learn
how to design within the limits. To let them solve problems and foster
improvements, and guide them with policy, as necessary. The Universal
Design movement in building construction has had a huge impact on the
accessibility of buildings over the last 30 years. They didn't get there
by telling architects "no."

As of 2012, the percentage of screen-reader users who report browsing
without JavaScript, according to the WebAIM survey was 1.4%. That number
is consistent with, if not lower than, the percentage of all users
browsing with JavaScript disabled. Assistive technology capable of
handling JavaScript is cheap (including free options on every OS) and
plentiful, and has been for several years. This is not an issue of this
technology not being available on my platform, or not having choice. So
treating JavaScript-free browsing as a sine qua non ("without which,
nothing") of accessibility is not credible.

This approach also undermines the efforts of accessibility advocates in
the tech community who are trying to make accessibility more compatible
with the state of the art. I can't tell you how many times I've seen
talented, motivated developers who are doing serious engineering work to
bring modern web technology to everyone get knocked down by comments like
"JavaScript is inaccessible; it says so in WCAG 1 AAA." If you want to be
stuck with 1990s-era web content, in shorter and shorter supply, as the
web evolves at breakneck pace around you, then by all means, tell
developers to stop using JavaScript. You will find yourselves in an
information desert of your own making.

If, on the other hand, you are willing to recognize that JavaScript is a
tool, an asset, even a vehicle for making the web better and more
inclusive for everyone, you get to be part of the solution. Advocate for
better development practices. Learn JavaScript techniques and teach them
to others (or, if you aren't tech-savvy, support any of the dozens of
projects out there taking very different approaches to that same goal).

Just stop saying that JavaScript as a platform is by its very existence an
accessibility problem. It's not, and saying so is an obstacle to all of
the people working to use it to the advantage of everyone. Or, as the
saying goes, "The person who says something is impossible should not
interrupt the person who is doing it."


On 12/14/12 6:24 AM, "David Hilbert Poehlman" <poehlman1@comcast.net>

>I see why there's been so much discussion on this thread and did not read
>all of it but did read the below so please forgive if I'm repeating
>I remember the day when we had some simple tests for accessibility of a
>site and they were not necessarily aimed at screen reader users.  One of
>those tests was: "can I use the site with Javascript turned off? I also
>had and still have a sneaking feeling that just having js available is
>different than not having it available, (turned off or not), but yes, in
>order to provide equal access to a public interface it must be available
>in as many ways as is possible for a variety of reasons, not the least of
>which is so not to have to say: "sorry, you can't enter here" to anyone.
>Yes, dial in interactive web, browse aloud, non js, non css, non text
>even are paradigms of accessibility.
>Oh, don't get me wrong, I love all the future thinking, I love all the
>some day we'll be able to cross this or that bridge and I heavily applaud
>those who are turning this into reality.  At the same time, we live in
>the here and now and today, there are still millions of people for whom
>the reach is too high through no fault of their own.  If free means the
>cost of a computer or a steep learning curve, than we are sadly mistaken
>in our definition of it.
Received on Friday, 14 December 2012 20:17:38 UTC

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