Enhancing web 2.0 accessibility via AxsJAX‘ was a 2008 Google Tech Talk , presented by Charles Chen and T.V Raman. The video is a technical tutorial of AxsJAX, or Access-Enabling AJAX. AxsJAX was a Google project that injected web accessibility standards into web 2.0 properties – many of which rely on JavaScript.

This post is for developers only, if you’re a website owner you may find this interesting but probably not. Don’t worry, it’s ok to walk away from things that you don’t need to know. Focus on keeping your website accessible by pressuring your designers and developers to know this kind of stuff.

If you need a primer on AxsJAX, read the AxsJAX frequently asked questions.

After the video, I’ll offer a summary of key points (but no cheating, make a pot of tea and watch the video).

Enhancing web 2.0 accessibility via AxsJAX

Watch ‘Enhancing web 2.0 accessiility with AxsJAX’  on YouTube.

Enhancing web 2.0 accessibility summary

There’s plenty to learn from the video, but here’s my summary of the key points:

What we can do in web browsers

There have been great leaps forward in web 2.0, with dynamic websites and applications but this has brought along issues for people with disabilities, especially blind users. AxsJAX is about taking those dynamic technologies like AJAX and JavaScript and actually enhancing web 2.0 accessibility.

Using the W3C’s ARIA as a basis, we can give screen readers information about what is on a page. We can tell a screen reader that a menu is a menu and set speech for it. By adding just a few lines to the assembly language, we can make JavaScript talk.

The benefits

Not only can developers use AxsJAX on their websites, they can inject it into inaccessible websites through JavaScript. Developers can start enhancing web 2.0 accessibility on third-party sites.

AxsJAX is better than tabbing through a page, it can scroll through just links or just links in a certain section rather than through all focus points on a web page. It can enlarge sections on focus and zoom just the section, rather than the page – this stops users getting lost when they zoom.

AxsJAX tutorial

The majority of the video is a live tutorial of Charles working on Google Product Search (circa 2008), view it from 0:14:30 to 0:47:00.

Both the AxsJAX homepage and AxsJAX tutorials are good places to start learning more.

Closing thoughts and questions

AxsJAX is best when used rapid experiments and iteration.

Awareness of web accessibility is increasing, but getting people to act is still hard. People don’t know what they can and can’t use, especially with dynamic web 2.0 applications like AJAX and JavaScript. With AxsJAX you can inject accessibility for third parties using that same dynamic technology that scares them.

Guidelines for web accessibility are good but nothing beats your knowledge of your website and your users. Guidelines can’t cover every eventuality, so don’t wait to be told that something is an issue – if you see problems go and fix them. Iterate rapidly, take feedback and iterate again.

Don’t worry about fragility or change breaking what you’ve done. Websites that get used will iterate and improve, websites that don’t get used will break but no-one will care. Think of the process as growing robust over time.

You need three things to make your website or application with AxsJAX:

  1. Pick the content to speak to users
  2. Assign keyboard means of moving and acting
  3. Format what is spoken when users move and act

With just a little more time spent on formatting, we can produce really good products.

And that’s the end of the video! Please note that the above summary is my interpretation of ‘Enhancing web 2.0 accessibility with AxsJax‘, which has not be verified by the producers, Charles or Raman.

So what do you make of AxsJAX? Have you developed anything with it? How are you enhancing web 2.0 accessibility? Share your work in the comments.

About Author

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I'm Luke, I started Wuhcag in 2012 to help people like you get to grips with web accessibility. Check out my book, 'How to Meet the WCAG 2.0'.