The Web Platform
March 7–8, 2016: Training
March 8–10, 2016: Conference
San Francisco, CA

Don’t turn off that JavaScript just yet

Nicolas Steenhout (Part of a Whole)

Prerequisite knowledge

Participants should be familiar with HTML and JavaScript.


It wasn’t so many years ago that some accessibility experts would turn off JavaScript to test a site and deem it inaccessible if they couldn’t use the site. Things have changed. Assistive technology, such as the screen reader, has come a long way and can interact with JavaScript if accessibility has been kept in mind. Surveys consistently show that over 97% of screen-reader users have JavaScript enabled, not to mention the many people with disabilities who don’t use screen-reader software but also have JavaScript enabled. Planning for (and maintaining) a “noscript” solution is not going to make a page accessible.

If you develop websites or web-based applications and use JavaScript, this presentation is for you. People with disabilities account for over a billion people worldwide. That’s roughly 15% of the world population who experience challenges on the Web because they can’t see the screen, hear media files, use a mouse, concentrate for long periods of time, perceive colors, etc. This, in effect, makes people with disabilities the world’s largest minority on the Web, with $220 billion in discretionary spending power in the United States alone—much bigger and more influential than any other minority. Considering the needs of this population is only wise.

Nicolas Steenhout offers solutions to some of the accessibility issues that can arise when using JavaScript. Nicolas will briefly discuss ARIA, but the meat of the presentation will consist of:

  • Event handlers
  • Pop-up windows
  • Page refreshes
  • JavaScript generated content

Attendees will gain an understanding of how disabilities can affect web use and learn some simple ways to improve the accessibility of common tasks conducted with JavaScript.

Photo of Nicolas Steenhout

Nicolas Steenhout

Part of a Whole

For more than 20 years, Nicolas Steenhout has been addressing inclusivity head-on as a web accessibility expert. As a developer in the mid-’90s, Nic was approached by colleagues, clients, and friends with web-based issues that weren’t yet part of the public consciousness: Images weren’t being properly announced to people who are blind; video-only tutorials didn’t account for people who are deaf; overengineered web pages made it impossible for those with ADHD to engage. Nic quickly realized that amid a major technological revolution, a significant part of the digital landscape was being neglected. In 1996, he took on a federally funded position in the US disability sector. The world of nonprofits allowed him to work closely with people with a wide variety of impairments and gave him an even greater understanding of the web’s shortcomings. At the same time, the experience introduced him to new assistive technologies—technologies that were breaking barriers for people with disabilities. Over the next two decades, Nic has continued his work for both the nonprofit and private sectors. He has held several executive positions and currently provides his services as an independent consultant to businesses and government agencies that seek Nic’s expertise in strategic planning and training. All over North America, Europe, and Australasia, he’s engaged with thousands of individuals with disabilities. These interactions have fueled his passion for storytelling. A public speaker, avid blogger, and podcaster, Nic provides real-world insight into everyday accessibility issues and explores everything from disability awareness and security to how JavaScript can be used to better the web for all. He’ll even share the occasional anecdote about his service dog.