Accessibility and AJAX

Without doubt, the biggest buzz-word at this year’s SXSW Interactive was AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript + XML). I am as guilty as the majority of people of being somewhat wowed by the possibilities of this approach and simultaneously impressed that it builds upon previous efforts to clearly separate pesentation from structure/semantics (e.g. styling HTML documents with entirely separate CSS rules); AJAX allows you separate the behaviour layer too, much like unobtrusive JavaScript, in some wonderfully inventive ways. But there’s a small problem - this new technique is highly inaccessible as it stands.

Matt May (W3C WCAG dude - if dude and those acronyms have a place in the same sentence*) makes the point that, first of all, asynchronous server interaction is not new (it’s just a new, improved flavour) and secondly if those people who are pushing AJAX as the ‘new great thing’ don’t think things through thoroughly, there’s going to be trouble:

Authors are going to need some tips on how to ensure their apps work with assistive technology, or this is the train wreck that is JavaScript accessibility all over again.

There are other discussions about the topic, such as this one over at Standards Schmandards which I would strongly advise the standardistas who are thinking of using AJAX to read before untold damage is done. I would not recommend this page, however.

Ajax - the new DHTML? You decide …

* [I jest of course - I know Matt, and he's no freaky, bearded, big jumper-wearing brainbox with poor social skills and bad teeth. That was someone else I met at SXSW ...]

Filed under: Accessibility
Posted by Ian on Tuesday, March 22, 2005

1 Comment

  1. So says Matt

    At least I understand “dude”. Once you called me a “bod”, and I had to get someone to translate. ;)

    Added March 22, 2005 at 3:00 pm

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