Unintentionally Blank

Phil Nash on the Internet, Web Standards and Accessibility

JavaScript Accessibility Matters!

Nov 19, 2007

by Phil Nash

About a month ago I wrote about how a few high profile sites locked users out or prevented the use of parts of their site because they relied on JavaScript being available. Since publishing the post a couple of interesting things happened to reinforce to me that JavaScript accessibility matters.

The Nationwide Understands

The power of a little blog was shown the other day when I received a comment from Ian Lloyd (of Accessify and The Web Standards Project). While I have read Ian's writing online, I had no idea that he worked for the Nationwide and was surprised to find this out in his comment and delighted to hear that he has referred the issue (users without JavaScript enabled could not access the login page to the online banking section) on to be dealt with.

For any large company, reacting to criticism from a relatively unknown blogger is quite unusual, but to do so with the grace that Ian did, especially resolving to look further into it, is fantastic. I understand what Ian said, legacy code could be at fault and it could be a long time before anything hits the main site due to the necessary processes of big business, but if the Nationwide are able to change this and allow access to the whole of their site without JavaScript being required then I will be pleased to claim a big victory for accessibility!

The People Have JavaScript Problems

It may seem to some people that 6% of users not using JavaScript is insignificant. Facebook claims to have 54 million active users, Hotmail advertises over 11 million unique users. 6% of those figures is 3 and a quarter million and over half a million users respectively, not insignificant figures.

These big numbers sound impressive, but they are also faceless numbers based on aggregated statistics and can start to mean nothing after a while. Over the last month, since publishing the original article, a few Internet users have drifted by my site driven by a few searches that prove being unable to use sites without JavaScript is confusing. In the last month I have had 4 visits from search engines with the query "facebook without javascript," 3 visits from the search term "hotmail without javascript," and 24 other visits from search terms involving the words JavaScript and either Facebook or Hotmail. These are real users that are finding it difficult or impossible to use a web site because it relies on JavaScript for certain functions.


There are users out there who do not have JavaScript enabled. It is possible, with the right mindset (like Ian Lloyd and Nationwide), to consider this and create sites that do not rely on JavaScript for core functionality. Don't exclude users by forgetting this.

Unintentionally Blank is Phil Nash's thoughts on web development from 2006-2008. Any code or opinions may be out of date.