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JavaScript and Screenreaders

By Derek Featherstone | July 28th, 2005 | Filed in Accessibility, DOM Scripting TF

What do you get when you cross JavaScript with a screen reader? James Edwards, Bob Easton, Mike Stenhouse and Derek Featherstone find out.

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What do you get when you cross JavaScript with a screen reader?

Exactly. We don’t know. We often hear people say things like “I assume screen readers don’t support JavaScript,” but that simply isn’t the case. We know how screen readers react to certain types of scripts, and we even know that screen reader vendors build additional scripting support and behaviours into their products (JAWS, for example has special functionality to allow people using screen readers to access the contents of “DHTML menus” triggered onmouseover). But really, we don’t know enough about how they interact with advanced DOM Scripting and AJAXian type techniques.

Traditionally we’ve taken the view that something is accessible if it can be used when JavaScript is off. That simply isn’t the case any more now that we’ve headed down the AJAXian highway. To help determine best practices and see just what screen readers are capable of, James Edwards (brothercake), Bob Easton, Mike Stenhouse and myself are starting a series of experiments that will help us determine where we need to go with screen readers and JavaScript.

In the first test case exploring JavaScript and screen readers, we’re looking at some basic events. We’re not exactly sure what we’ll find – and that’s the point, really. We need to start with the basics before we can get very far into the advanced stuff. Hopefully this test will serve as a baseline for comparison as we move forward. This information will be incredibly useful to both the DOM Scripting Task Force and the Accessibility Task Force.

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