Disability Discrimination Act and AJAX

4 Sep 2008 - 5:08am
5 years ago
14 replies
620 reads
sudhindra
2004

Hi All,Can anyone shed some light on whether using AJAX makes a website non
compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act? I know there would be
violations using some controls of Ajax and not in others, but is there some
study/information on this somewhere (about which controls are non compliant
etc)? Would appreciate any help on this topic..

Sudhindra V.

Comments

4 Sep 2008 - 6:04am
Brian Mclaughlin
2008

The short answer....
Making the assumption that "using Ajax" will mean retrieving data and presenting it without doing a complete screen refresh, yes-it is currently non-compliant to do this.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Sudhindra Venkatesha Murthy" <sudhindra.v at gmail.com>
To: discuss at ixda.org
Sent: Thursday, September 4, 2008 6:08:37 AM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Disability Discrimination Act and AJAX

Hi All,Can anyone shed some light on whether using AJAX makes a website non
compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act? I know there would be
violations using some controls of Ajax and not in others, but is there some
study/information on this somewhere (about which controls are non compliant
etc)? Would appreciate any help on this topic..

Sudhindra V.
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4 Sep 2008 - 5:23am
Lee McIvor
2006

It's not really that simple i'm afraid.

The potential for AJAX to cause accessibility problems is largely based around the fact that it can silently update data in the browser client. So for example if you use AJAX to insert markup and CSS into a page to indicate errors on a form, that can be quite effective for many users, but you need to ensure that this is indicated to users who use screenreaders for example. The screenreader needs to be aware that the page has changed in order to re-read content it may already have scanned.

It's quite possible in most cases to use AJAX calls and still produce accessible solutions, but they have to be taken on a case by case basis. You can't talk about "controls" either, as it's not a technical problem with any given control. Also, AJAX isn't really a set of controls anyway, strictly speaking it's any use of the XHMLHTTPRequest object, which could just be a few lines of javascript.

The key questions would be :

a.) What happens if javascript is disabled or not available to the browser, can the user still complete the task?
b.) If javascript is available, how can you ensure that the user is aware of any changes caused by the use of AJAX?

Regards

Lee

http://leemcivor.co.uk/

----- Original Message ----
From: Sudhindra Venkatesha Murthy <sudhindra.v at gmail.com>
To: discuss at ixda.org
Sent: Thursday, 4 September, 2008 11:08:37
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Disability Discrimination Act and AJAX

Hi All,Can anyone shed some light on whether using AJAX makes a website non
compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act? I know there would be
violations using some controls of Ajax and not in others, but is there some
study/information on this somewhere (about which controls are non compliant
etc)? Would appreciate any help on this topic..

Sudhindra V.
________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help

4 Sep 2008 - 8:09am
Nicholas Iozzo
2007

With most modern screen readers, JS is not the problem is is CSS.

Accessible needs to consider not just JS off, but CSS off as well.
You will have a better chance of ordering your content how the screen
reader will read it if you view your page with CSS off. Better yet,
try out your code with a screen reader!

Finally, as with usability, no cook book checklist will help you
100%. Your best bet is to bring in folks with various disabilities
and see how well they can use your application.

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4 Sep 2008 - 8:24am
Melvin Jay Kumar
2007

Don't you'll think that the question is not whether AJAX is compliant
and should be used or not, but rather : Can people with disabilities
access and complete the tasks that other can do also?

The answer should not be based on the technology but on the design /
architecture of the site to support its various users. AJax can be
compliant or not depending on how you implement it.

just an opinion.

Regards,

Jay Kumar

On Thu, Sep 4, 2008 at 6:08 PM, Sudhindra Venkatesha Murthy
<sudhindra.v at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi All,Can anyone shed some light on whether using AJAX makes a website non
> compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act? I know there would be
> violations using some controls of Ajax and not in others, but is there some
> study/information on this somewhere (about which controls are non compliant
> etc)? Would appreciate any help on this topic..
>
> Sudhindra V.
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

4 Sep 2008 - 11:28am
Yohan Creemers
2008

At Iceweb 2006 Joe Clark gave a presentation on this topic.

His conclusion may still be valid:
"...Ajax has problems. Maybe not fatal problems, but problems
nonetheless. [...] You%u2019re more than halfway there just by
getting your page to work in the first place. What I expect to
happen, though, is that the remaining half of the problem will not be
addressed %u2013 because accessibility is viewed as a
%u201Cfeature%u201D that gets left off in the other half of the
product."

http://joeclark.org/access/research/ice/iceweb2006-notes.html

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4 Sep 2008 - 11:40am
Sam Woodman
2008

This may be a little off subject, but I'd like to see a debate about
screen readers themselves.

Many agencies (here in France) freeze when the client starts
requiring full-on accessibility. Designers gasp in horror as their
ideas for rich interfaces are reduced to cumbersome HTML pages with
multiple screen refreshes. I've heard on many occasions questions
like "why are we having to downgrade the experience for everyone?"
or "how can we achieve experience excellence for those with and
those without disabilities?"

Surely the answer here lies in the screen reader software. I'm
certainly no expert in accessibility issues or screen readers
themselves, but instead of asking can AJAX be accessible, I'd like
to ask when will screen readers be able to interpret AJAX...

Sam Woodman
Adobe Consulting

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4 Sep 2008 - 12:31pm
Nicholas Iozzo
2007

the two are not mutually exclusive. I have designed many rich
interaction for clients that are still accessible. The goal is to
think in terms of progressive enhancements instead of graceful
degradation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_enhancement

That will get you a strategy for your rich interactions. Then you
take care designing the templates and stylesheets for much of the
remaining work.

Screen readers are making many strides to bridge the gap. But if you
are communicating information via position and motion only, then it
will be a challenge to translate that into a purely spoken mechanism.

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4 Sep 2008 - 12:52pm
Michael Zarro
2008

Nicholas makes a great point. The best (and only?) way to ensure
accessibility is to test with users who make use of assistive technologies
(not just screen readers).
Here in the US accessibility remains somewhat obscured, I guess we're
waiting for the courts to figure out what defines "accessible." Recently
Target settled a lawsuit for $6M with the National Federation of the Blind
regarding its website. While this does not provide a legal precedent, it is
at least an indication of where we're headed. You can read about the
settlement here:http://webaim.org/blog/target-lawsuit-settled/

An argument I have used to promote development for accessibility is that the
same techniques often make the site/application mobile-friendly. That seems
to assuage my designer colleagues to some extent.

4 Sep 2008 - 10:47pm
Jeff Seager
2007

Some resources that might help you, Sudhindra:
http://tinyurl.com/6xv6d6
http://xtech06.usefulinc.com/schedule/paper/29
http://webbackplane.com/thought/pbe
http://adactio.com/journal/959
http://tinyurl.com/2xtugr
http://www.sitepoint.com/article/simply-javascript/
http://tinyurl.com/3sx7jj

Nicholas is right. Accessibility is all about progressive
enhancement, and once the proper habits are developed it makes a lot
of sense. It's like dressing in layers, each of which can be added
or removed as needed.

The problem with a lot of rich interaction is that some designers
leap forward to the next new technology before building an adequate
foundation in HTML and CSS, both of which are simple and
straightforward, but also powerful in their own way. They jump right
in and build a site that relies heavily on AJAX or Flash, and only
later wonder why some people complain that they can't access
essential content. The Tower of Babel comes to mind as an apt
metaphor.

For the sake of accessibility, everything should be done at the
lowest possible level. If there's a way to structure and style it
appropriately in HTML/CSS, do that first and add the rich interaction
later. Otherwise you may find yourself needing to retrofit for
accessibility, and that's just as messy as stripping off the icing
to rebuild a cake.

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5 Sep 2008 - 9:53am
Adam Connor
2007

Echoing Nicholas and Jeff, I believe it is important for designers to
have a fundamental understanding of how interactions are implemented
online (or in any environment) in order to understand possible
accessibility implications.

In my designs, I've always tried to lay out two paths for
interaction. One that makes use of the "lowest possible level" so
that those faces with accessibility issues are still able to utilize
the tool, and one that builds on top of the first to streamline
interactions for those whos technology can handle it.

One thing to mention though is that there have been times where even
though I take this approach, one interaction path is
adopted/implemented by the development and business areas and not the
other. This primarily happens when those areas (for some reason)
implementing 2 paths is twice as expensive, and/or accessibility is
not a concern. Sad, I know.

-adam

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5 Sep 2008 - 9:55am
Adam Connor
2007

I should add that while designing two interaction paths might sound
like double the work, once you have a basic understanding of
Progressive Enhancement and implementation techniques, the amount of
additional work is typically minimal.

-adam

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5 Sep 2008 - 10:47am
Nicholas Iozzo
2007

I have found I just think that way about the rich interactions I
design now. It is just another factor to consider as you explore the
design space of your project.

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6 Sep 2008 - 12:26pm
Caroline Jarrett
2007

>From Mike Zarro
>
> Nicholas makes a great point. The best (and only?) way to ensure
> accessibility is to test with users who make use of assistive
> technologies
> (not just screen readers).

It is essential to take this a step further:

The best (and only?) way to ensure accessibility is to test with users who
have disabilities.

Reason: lots of people with disabilities (the majority, even?) don't have
any assistive technologies.

Example: the very large numbers of people with age-related eyesight
problems.

Example: the people with cognitive disabilities. There are very few
assistive technologies that will help with text that's too difficult to
understand. Possibly none.

And it's also important to understand that people with disabilities who use
assistive technologies may use those technologies in a different way to
people without disabilities who use them. Example: many people with
disabilities who use a screen reader 'speed hear' in a way that the casual
user of a screen reader wouldn't be able to emulate.

Longer article on the topic of working with assistive technologies as a
non-disabled person:
http://www.usabilitynews.com/news/article1773.asp

best
Caroline

6 Sep 2008 - 9:53pm
Jeff Seager
2007

Great article, Caroline! Thanks for that. I work with a guy who
teaches people with low vision and blindness to use those assistive
technologies, and I lean on him for that kind of insight. But I
don't recall ever reading it anywhere, and I have looked! I
regularly consult resources published by the RNIB, AFB, WebAIM and
others, because accessibility is a high priority for me.

Anyway, I think more people would make an effort to think and code
accessibly if they could gain some small measure of the understanding
you have. Please keep it up!

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