AJAX Accessibility Is Addressed

    July 12, 2006

The Web development technique known as AJAX has a lot of fans, and it has earned a reputation as something that is sure to be commonplace in the future. But in the meantime, it is running into difficulties here and there; chief among these are accessibility issues. This particular problem is getting a lot of attention.

The Wikipedia entry for AJAX summarizes the issue: “Using Ajax technologies in web applications provides many challenges for developers interested in adhering to WAI accessibility guidelines. In addition there are numerous development groups . . . which require strict adherence to Section 508 Compliance standards. Failure to comply with these standards can often lead to cancellation of contracts or lawsuits intended to ensure compliance.”

This provides a big incentive for companies to achieve AJAX compliance. One business that has accomplished this is MB Technologies, which recently announced that its Bindows software “features Section 508 accessibility compliance.” In an interview with Darryl K. Taft of eWEEK, Yoram Meriaz, the chief executive of MB Technologies, spoke about the project.

“It was nothing short of a huge undertaking for Bindows to build an AJAX framework that enabled the construction of AJAX and Web 2.0 sites that support accessibility,” Meriaz stated. “We had a team of developers working on it since January 2005 to achieve this objective.” The founder and president of TGP, a company that is in the field of accessible interface design, also worked on Bindows, also weighed in.

“Bindows represents a major advancement in the accessibility of rich Internet and Web 2.0 applications and, I am very happy to say, raises the bar for AJAX accessibility,” Mike Paciello asserted. “MB Technologies and TPG are committed to continued enhancement of Bindows to ensure that it empowers developers with the framework and tool set they need to create Section 508- and W3C-compliant applications. Bindows 2.0 represents that level of commitment, establishing MB Technologies as a frontrunner in the pursuit of AJAX and dynamic Web application accessibility.”

eWEEK also reported that Original Software and Microsoft are addressing AJAX compatibility. Kevin Smith, the senior product manager in the Web Platform and Tools division of Microsoft, commented on his company’s efforts. “Accessibility was a big focus in ASP.Net 2.0, so by extension it’s part of Atlas,” he said. “Out of the box, ASP.Net 2.0 generates XHTML 1.0 Transitional and Section 508/WCAG [Web Content Accessibility Guidelines] conformant code. ASP.Net 2.0 produces markup that conforms to these standards, making it much easier to build accessible conformant sites.”

These entities aren’t the only ones with an interest in the matter. IBM is working with the Dojo Foundation to lend a hand with AJAX accessibility, and the issue is one of the top priorities of the Open AJAX Alliance, which is involved with a number of groups and corporations. But despite all this work, Dion Almaer, a co-founder of the site Ajaxian.com, may have made the most pragmatic observation with his comment to eWEEK: “It is hard to be 100 percent accessible.”

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Doug is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest eBusiness news.