Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

AxsJAX: Access-Enabling AJAX

Category: Accessibility, Ajax, Firefox

Charles L. Chen, the developer behind the Fire Vox Firefox plugin that enables the browser to talk to you, has released a new open source project, AxsJAX.

In my first week at Google, I discovered Google Reader a highly optimized feed reader with very good keyboard support. For my starter project at Google, I decided to access-enable this application using W3C ARIA. Using Greasemonkey, I could inject JavaScript code to add the needed ARIA bits to make Google Reader say the right things at the right time.

Based on the experience of access-enabling Reader, we have now refactored the code to come up with a common JavaScript framework for enhancing the accessibility of AJAX applications. This framework is called AxsJAX, and it was refined in the process of access-enabling Web Search.

We’re now excited to open-source this framework since we believe that there is nothing Google-specific in the techniques we have implemented. We invite the Web developer community to help us collectively define a robust framework for rapid prototyping of accessibility enhancements to Web 2.0 applications.

The ability to rapidly prototype end-user interaction has led to an explosion in the number of AJAX applications; until now, visually impaired users have been left behind in this process. We hope that the AxsJAX framework encourages the Web community to bring the power of Web 2.0 development to solving the problem of accessing rich Web interaction in an eyes-free environment.

What AxsJAX does…

The AxsJAX framework helps inject accessibility features into these applications so that users of adaptive technologies such as screen readers and self-voicing browsers experience the same level of interactivity that is now taken for granted by users of Web 2.0 applications.

AxsJAX injects accessibility enhancements as defined by W3C ARIA. The prerequisites for experiencing its benefits include:

  1. A modern Web browser like Firefox 2.0 or later that supports W3C ARIA.
  2. Adaptive technologies that respond correctly to the accessibility enhancements introduced by W3C ARIA.
  3. In particular, many of the enhancements injected by AxsJAX depend on support for live regions a feature that enables adaptive technologies like screen readers and self-voicing browsers deal correctly with asynchronous updates to portions of a Web page.

The AxsJAX framework can inject accessibility enhancements into existing Web 2.0 applications using any of several standard Web techniques:

  • As a bookmarklet — small snippets of JavaScript that are used to create smart bookmarks.
  • Using Greasemonkey — a powerful browser extension that allows end-users to customize the look and feel of Web sites via custom scripts.
  • Using Fire Vox — Fire Vox, an open source talking browser extension for Firefox, automatically injects the AxsJAX scripts if the “Use site specific enhancements” option is turned on.

Posted by Dion Almaer at 7:11 am
6 Comments

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3 rating from 22 votes

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Great news. But I’d start off by changing the name AxsJax into something more accessible, same goes for Fire Vox. Both look cool, but that quickly changes when you start to pronounce them.

Comment by Trulli — November 14, 2007

srsly… how do you pronounce “AxsJax”? o.O

Comment by DarkRat — November 14, 2007

@DarkRat: it’s “Access-JAX”.

Comment by Andy — November 14, 2007

In response to how we named it: AxsJAX was camel-cased
specifically so that it gets pronounced correctly by speech
engines, it’s access-jax.

And I like the Captcha mechanism on this site — knowledge-based
Captchas! Way to go guys — and I wish more of the Web would
adopt this solution, visual captchas are a pain, and audio
captchas enable equal access by providing equal pain;-)

Comment by Raman — November 14, 2007

well, it would be better, if this site would use more than 5 questions ;)

and thanks for the pronounciation. I thought right.

Comment by DarkRat — November 14, 2007

There are not that many showcase projects at AxsJAX website. Would like to see a tutorial or post here on how to get started on this.

Good stuff and keep it coming/

Collagist

Comment by Collagist — June 12, 2008

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