Christian Heilmann

Talking about Ajax and Accessibility at Abilitynet

Monday, February 19th, 2007 at 9:20 pm

Today I was parachuted in to Abilitynet to give a quick talk about Ajax and accessibility as their original presenter couldn’t make it. I had given the same talk in German last year and updated some of the information on it before going there.

Talking about Accessibility and Ajax

Showing off the new and cool Yahoo! Accessibility Stakeholder Group shirt (“what is the button for?” Braille!) I spent an hour talking about the ins and outs of Ajax and its accessibility issues. You can download the presentation – PDF 400KB for some light reading.

What I found in the demos that I showed and the subsequent testing with different screen readers (IBM homepage reader and newest Jaws) is that it is not enough to assume that you know what screen readers do. While the changing of the link text as shown in example 3 and 4 actually is considered a good practice to tell screen reader users that something changed it only makes sense when the user re-reads the current line in Jaws and it even is worse in HPR, as the user gets asked to reload the page or press “Home”. The intended focus shift in example 4 (and partly nicked from Gez Lemon’s example) didn’t work either, I am sad to say.

It really seems that we either have to start hacking for different screen readers or just wait until WAI ARIA Live Regions are supported cross-browser and platform.

In any case, this is also a good thing as it keeps people from testing something with one screen reader and considering it accessible after that. Blind users are as diverse and different in their internet usage as sighted people are.

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