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RE: is javascript considered good wacg 2.0 practice?

From: John Foliot <john@foliot.ca>
Date: Mon, 17 Dec 2012 12:31:00 -0800
To: "'Karen Lewellen'" <klewellen@shellworld.net>, "'David Hilbert Poehlman'" <poehlman1@comcast.net>
Cc: "'W3C WAI ig'" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <01ce01cddc95$6f757960$4e606c20$@ca>
Karen Lewellen wrote:
> Honestly and I mean this sincerely.  I think of Java Scripting as
> window dressing.

And right there is where you've reached the disconnect. 

As I (and numerous others) have already noted, the web of today is not just
pushing of text documents marked up with structural mark-up language, it is
a fully fledged delivery platform for applications. JavaScript IS NOT just
for window dressing any longer, it is an integral part of how users interact
(as opposed to just "read") with the web today. 

Karen has taken great pains to point out how she can READ her emails at
Gmail, that she can READ search results from Google, how she can READ news
stories from various news services on line. If all you want to do is read,
then yes, all you need is a browser that supports marked up text. But that
is presumably not what she wants to do with the Bell Canada site, instead
she wants to INTERACT with Bell, via their web site: pay her bill, perhaps
monitor her long-distance charges, maybe other things too. Interaction often
(usually?) requires scripting, and if your toolset of choice does not
support scripting, then you cannot interact with those web sites that
require scripting for interaction - not because of the way any given site
has been constructed (whether pristinely or poorly), but because your tool
of choice cannot work with what it is being given.

Ruing the day, wringing your hands and insisting that somehow this advance
in technology is discriminatory to PWD is plain wrong: any user, sighted or
non-sighted, mobility impaired or not, with an auditory impairment or not,
with or without some form of cognitive impairment will still require a user
agent that supports JavaScript if they want to fully participate on the web
today with these interactive applications. 

This is NOT a human rights issues, it is a question of keeping in step with
technology - plain and simple.

> if it is possible for it to be turned off then that
> possibility
> exists because people will want to turn it off. 

And yet, the site Karen is referencing states that it is NOT possible to
turn off JavaScript and still interact with that site. That is the declared
conditions for participation for all users, not just her, not just
non-sighted or other disabled users, but for EVERYONE. 

*IF* the web site in question has followed the Standards, and *IF* the tools
to use that site are freely available to all users, and it can be easily
demonstrated that multiple combinations of Operating System/Browser/and AT
Tool can successfully accomplish the task at hand, then it is NOT the site
that is failing, it is the particular technology stack that you as a user
have chosen to use.

Nothing in the WCAG 2 Standard, nor (as far as I know, any legislation,
Canadian or otherwise) specifically says that every software combination
MUST successfully allow you to do everything you want to be able to do on
the web, and to suggest otherwise is Pollyanna thinking.

> Therefore your site
> should
> do basic things without it, end of discussion.

...or so you want us all to agree upon. I disagree (loudly!), and I venture
to posit that so does WCAG 2. I challenge you to quote to me anywhere in
WCAG 2 where it says that - it doesn't, but feel to take my challenge.

This very much feels like it has become something of a Witch Hunt, and that
Karen is looking to the W3C/WAI to somehow support her particular
perspective of how the web should work today. I am personally offended by
that, WCAG 2 is not about stopping progress, it is about ensuring that
progress can be made accessible.

> I am reminded of a carol Burnett parity commercial.  A woman goes into
> a
> McDonald's like restaurant  and says I  want a hamburger and I  have
> not
> eaten in three days.
> the person behind the counter says sure...but first!
> and the entire staff starts singing the restaurant theme song, with
> flashing lights and dancing  and confetti and fireworks...while this
> lady just wants to
> eat.

Wrong analogy: the JavaScript on most sites today is NOT for flashing lights
and confetti, but for more basic things like fuelling the range where that
burger will be cooked. Refusing to accept this reality is certainly your
right, and there are still people today who believe that the moon landing
was staged on a sound-set in Hollywood. People are free to believe whatever
they want to believe - you cross the line when you insist that others
believe what you believe.

To return to Karen's initial question: the answer is Yes, using JavaScript
is permitted by WCAG 2, and Yes, JavaScript can be made accessible to those
toolsets that support JavaScript in the first place. Refusing to use a tool
that supports JavaScript does not constitute a failure to provide access on
the part of any particular web site, it is a failure of the tools you insist
upon using: further, this remains true for ANY user, and is not restricted
to users who may have any particular disability. Karen can dress up her
complaint any which way she chooses, but these truths will remain truths no
matter what she argues.

David Hilbert Poehlman wrote:
> 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 remember those days too. We were all surfing the web with Netscape 3.1,
Geocities was all the rage, and animated gifs of dancing envelopes or
mailboxes were on every second site. I also remember the day when I could
purchase a Coke *and* a chocolate bar for a $0.25... that was then, this is

WCAG 2 specifically does not maintain that requirement, because it is
unrealistic today to insist on that. The vast majority of freely available
browsers today support client side scripting. Virtually all of those
browsers are free, and many of them are available on multiple operating
systems. The vast majority of screen readers can interact with properly
scripted, standards compliant web content today: they rely on the browser to
do the scripting processing, and those browsers then convey the relevant
information to the DOM or virtual buffer where the AT takes over. The W3C
has, over the past decade, developed a technology - ARIA - that allows
content authors the ability to ensure that their scripted widgets can be
made accessible, by creating a declarative 'bridge' between the authored
code and the native accessibility APIs of all of the major operating

One key place where this entire ecosystem breaks down however is when a
specific user refuses to use the appropriate technology that is available
today to interact with that ecosystem, clinging instead to technology that
lacks the basic functionality that the ecosystem requires. While it is
certainly that person's right to do so, they cannot then turn around and say
that the entire web must conform to their self-imposed limited technology

> 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.

I've not seen any evidence that the reach for a modern operating system
(including a modern browser and modern AT) is so high as to be out of reach,
certainly not in a first-world country such as Canada. Yes, you need to
purchase a computer (so does everyone else), but after that, there are
browsers, AT tools and even operating systems that are completely free to
use that support this technology. How can that be too high a barrier?

What I am seeing here is a hard-line stance that is suggesting that
irrespective of the fact that some users insist upon using 1990's era
technology, they also expect to be able to fully participate with 2012 web
applications. That is an unreasonable assertion to be making and I am
certainly not shy to say so.

Y'all can keep debating this around in circles, and you can all maintain
your personal opinions: JavaScript is here, is here to stay, and it can be
made accessible to tools that support JavaScript. Nothing anyone can say
will change those facts.

Received on Monday, 17 December 2012 20:31:39 UTC

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