Dynamic content: accessibility for developers

  • Author: Access iQ ®
  • Date: 1 Feb 2013
  • Access: Premium

Quick facts

The challenge for developers is making dynamic changes available to users with assistive technologies, without stealing focus or disrupting the user. The only way to ensure this is to test every interaction from the perspective of a person with a disability.


  • Make autocomplete text accessible
  • Test every interaction from the perspective of a person with a disability

Web standards outline the separation of structure from presentation and functionality. These are broadly split between HTML, CSS and JavaScript:

  • HTML provides the semantic structure for the document.
  • CSS takes care of the presentation of the content, the colours, layout, sizes and backgrounds.
  • JavaScript is commonly used to manage functionality and manipulation of the Document Object Model (DOM), previously referred to as Dynamic HTML (DHTML).

Dynamic content can be described as content that changes in the webpage without requiring a request for a complete refresh or a new URL.

A common method for creating dynamic content is to use JavaScript to manipulate the DOM to either change what is displayed on the page or to call the server and update portions of the page with something new, and not disrupting the other parts of the page.

The main problem with dynamic activity on a webpage for people with disabilities is that dynamic changes are usually visual, and therefore not available to users who cannot perceive it. This is a major problem when creating dynamic content because users who can see the changes happening have no problem shifting their focus between what they are doing and what is changing. People who are blind or vision impaired, however, may not be able to notice the changes since their experience of web content is linear. Therefore, if the changes happened higher up the page, they won't know it since they passed it. Equally, if changes happen below the page, they have not reached it yet so are unaware of the previous state it changed from.

The challenge for developers is making dynamic changes available to users with assistive technologies, without stealing focus or disrupting the user. The only way to ensure this is to test every interaction from the perspective of a person with a disability.

Premium Content

Premium content is available to users that have a current subscription to the content.

This topic is part of our premium content range. To access it, you need a 12-month premium subscription — but let’s put that in perspective. How many hours will you waste if you try to find free information on the internet? And how can you be sure that free info is correct? Or comprehensive? Or specific to your role?

With a premium subscription, you get virtually everything you need, all in one place. All you need to do is follow the information provided, and you’ll know you’re covered.

Each subscription includes:

  • A year of content updates — Premium content is updated regularly, and you get all of those updates for free.
  • Professional support — Ask questions or request further information from an Access iQ™ specialist.
  • Access to Q&A — See the questions and answers submitted by other premium subscribers, so you remain up-to-date on the accessibility challenges faced by others in the industry.

Unlock this content: