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Categories: Bad reviews, Newspapers. Tags: ,

The Guardian and accessibility

October 20, 2008 2 Comments

The Guardian's redesign of its comment section breaks its own accessibility policy by relying purely on javascript. Not only that, it's a usability nightmare.

Guardian comments and javascript

The big problem is that to even see the comments, you need to have javascript turned on. Without it, the comments are not shown.

What you see on the guardian site with javascript off - nothing

What you see on the guardian site with javascript off - nothing

This means you also can't post - meaning the Guardian has blocked its commenting functionality from anyone who isn't using javascript - something that often applies to people using assistive technologies to surf.

(This also means the Guardian is arguably in breach of the disability discrimination act, which 'makes it unlawful for a service provider to discriminate against a disabled person by refusing to provide any service which it provides to members of the public').

Guardian's accessibility policy

The guardian's own accessibility policy says that 'We have placed great emphasis on testing with people to ensure a better experience for all users and all technologies' and that 'We are in the process of introducing a new design for guardian.co.uk, taking care to ensure improved accessibility'.

Neither of these statements seems to be true - they are forcing users to use javascript.

Other problems from relying on javascript

The fact that you have to have javascript on to see the comments has had several other side effects:

  • Google can't index the content (making the guardian the only newspaper site with web 2.0 functionality that hides users' posts from a search engine)
  • Mobile devices can't see it reliably (lots of mobile phone browsers don't use javascript so the comments sections can't be used).
  • The pages take ages to load (all that unnecessary javascript).
  • The comments are sloooow to appear Once the page has loaded, the JS runs and the comments are loaded into the page. This is slow. Really slow.

Following several complaints, the guardian has promised to post on its use and reliance on javascript. But we're still waiting.

Funnily, in one of the posts to the guardian's inside guardian blog, it is said approvingly that 'Chris advises avoiding Javascript if possible. Use Javascript and CSS to benefit the user, not to create basic functionality.'

If only they had followed their own advice.

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