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Ajaxessibility

Filed in: accessibility, design, Web, Sat, Mar 12 2005 08:39 PT

Jesse James Garrett of Adaptive Path wrote up an introduction to Ajax, the methodology from which dynamic Web apps such as Gmail are built.

I have to confess, I loved asynchronous server interaction from the first time I tried it.

Eight years ago.

Yes, back on September 30, 1997, when IE 4.0 was released, it came with the Tabular Data Control, a little widget which let you pull down new, live data from the server asynchronously. I was developing Expedia’s IE 4 Channel at the time, so I had the chance to fool around with the TDC in mid-’97. By the end of my time at Microsoft, I was slapping that control just about anywhere I could find space: bug trackers, ski area tickers, maybe a bathroom wall or two. (Sidebar: first person to name the technology used in Channels which led in part to both a W3C activity and a syndication format with so many daddies it needs a paternity test wins a cookie.)

In other words, it seems to me, having seen the light only long enough to have to follow it to this point, Ajax is a methodology that practically invents itself. It’s like finding a car and inventing roads. You almost can’t not think of the application. It’s good stuff, from an interaction designer’s perspective: it’s an anabolic version of the cookie, a flexible state object that can be manipulated and fired back and forth at will, with little or no latency. In lay terms, that’s wicked cool.

Unfortunately for us, it’s also inaccessible as all getout. Even in 2005, assistive technologies like screen readers get serious heartburn when it comes to just about anything we call “dynamic HTML.” It doesn’t know what of this asynchronous content crossing the transom is relevant to the user, and how to deliver it meaningfully to the user. Do they want to announce every line of a ticker script automatically, while the user is trying to read other content? Nope. Bad idea. But they sure do want to know when they have a new Gmail message. What is currently in the DOM is pretty easy to render to users, but real-time changes to the DOM are still essentially black magic.

Now, here’s where my job comes into play. People in the field of accessibility are going to need to take this new methodology and figure out how to make it available to users with disabilities. I know of at least one browser vendor working directly on XmlHttpRequest accessibility, but like much of the rest of the range of Web technology, they’re not going to nail it down themselves. 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.

Before this is the Cool New Technology Everyone Uses, all of the browser vendors, Web devs, and assistive technologies are going to need to get some more stuff nailed down before this methodology is anywhere near directly accessible. I guess that if you need to point at someone and say, “that’s your job,” that would be me.

Damn. I sure do love sticking myself with action items.

9 responses to “Ajaxessibility”

  1. J$ says:

    first person to name the technology used in Channels which led in part to both a W3C activity and a syndication format with so many daddies it needs a paternity test wins a cookie.

    CDF.

    I want my cookie.

  2. Isofarro says:

    Matt, you are not alone: from Simon Willison: http://www.sitepoint.com/blog-post-view.php?id=241871
    and from Jeremy Keith: http://adactio.com/journal/display.php/20050308163812.xml (Jeremy did the Bluffing your way in CSS talk in SXSW)

    I’d love to see a solution!

  3. Isofarro says:

    We’re having a brainstorm over on accessifyforum on this particular topic: http://www.accessifyforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=2660 .

  4. […] Ajaxessibility Unfortunately for us, it’s also inaccessible as all getout. Even in 2005, assistive technologies like screen readers get serious heartburn when it comes to just about anything we call “dynamic HTML.” It doesn’t know what of this asynchronous content crossing the transom is relevant to the user, and how to deliver it meaningfully to the user. Do they want to announce every line of a ticker script automatically, while the user is trying to read other content? Nope. […]

  5. […] Want to learn more? Check this out: – http://www.ajaxian.comhttp://www.ajaxlessons.com – Ajaxessibility – Ebook: Ajax For Dummies – find more using google by typing “ajax resource” with quotes (buka google dan copy link dari hasil search) […]

  6. unidesign says:

    The sharing makes us to get something a point of it. It’s a valaueable especially ajax is getting very popular nowdays which everybody should update with it. Thanks bluesafier for those two useful links. There are more action than other languages as well as weakness like languages.

  7. There are some good articles on new techniques to make AJAX accessible using WAI-ARIA, see:
    http://ejohn.org/blog/ajax-accessibility/

  8. […] Ajaxessibility Unfortunately for us, it’s also inaccessible as all getout. Even in 2005, assistive technologies like screen readers get serious heartburn when it comes to just about anything we call “dynamic HTML.” It doesn’t know what of this asynchronous content crossing the transom is relevant to the user, and how to deliver it meaningfully to the user. Do they want to announce every line of a ticker script automatically, while the user is trying to read other content? Nope. […]

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