The SpoolCast with Jared Spool

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Episode #67 Ajax Aids Accessibility?

February 20, 2009  ·  23 minutes

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If you do it right, using Ajax techniques can improve accessibility. Surprised? You shouldn't be. Ajax, like most techniques and technologies on the web are what you make of them.

That's why I asked Derek Featherstone to speak with me about his latest work. Derek is a world renown expert on web accessibility. As principle of Further Ahead, he also helps clients deploy sites that exploit the latest techniques. These two statements do not need to be at odds with each other!

Show Notes

Yes, if you do it right, using Ajax techniques can improve accessibility. Surprised? You shouldn't be. Ajax is like most techniques and technologies on the web—they are what you make of them.

I had a chance to talk with Derek Featherstone, a world renown expert on web accessibility and principal of Further Ahead, a consulting firm out of Ottawa, Ontario that helps their clients get the most out of their web site designs.

In the podcast, Derek tells us that we first need to know how to think about Ajax as a design tool. Today's toolkits (such as jQuery) can really help designers build functional prototypes to demonstrate their interaction concepts to developers, who will then integrate their ideas into the production system. Taking advantage of the many available libraries gives you a sandbox for trying out interactions without having to know the best practices for implementing the code.

Derek also discussed common misconceptions about Ajax. He said that, while implementing Ajax that aids accessibility has its challenges, it's within the technical reach of most developers.

I was glad when he reminded me that many interactions that improve experiences for people with special needs also improve the experience of average users. Techniques like managing large data sets on one page through Ajax-powered content updates can also help users with special needs by maintaining context which is normally degraded by full-page refreshes.

As always, I found Derek's insights fascinating and I bet you will too.

For people who are new to Ajax, he'll define the technologies and techniques involved, and describe what they're really good for and what they are not. For those who are using Ajax currently, Derek will delve into where to get your biggest wins with these interactions and what the best practices are for enhancing accessibility with Ajax. It's going to be a great session from one of our best-rated presenters. You won't want to miss it.]