Accessibility problem with pop-up blocker in Windows XP SP 2

A bug in combination with Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Freedom Scientific’s JAWS 5 Screen Reader.

The Updates

The Example

The following two links both open new windows to my homepage. The first one uses the HTML target attribute, and the second uses an accessible scripting solution. Both links still work (in normal browsers) if JavaScript is turned off.

The Problem

Among other things, Service Pack 2 for Windows XP includes a pop-up blocker for Internet Explorer 6. While not running JAWS, the target link works fine and opens the new window whether you use a mouse or the keyboard. However, when JAWS 5 is running, the pop-up is blocked. I see a visual error message in the status bar that says:

“Popups were blocked on this page. Press the ‘Ctrl’ key when clicking to allow pop-ups.”

Control plus Enter does not work and since I am not able to “click” with the keyboard, I cannot access that pop-up content. Instead of making the link activate normally in the same window, the link just doesn’t work at all.

The accessible JavaScript solution still works properly.

I was not able to verify the problem on my computer at home, because Service Pack 2 destroyed my machine and I have not yet repaired or reformatted the system. I would appreciate any verification you readers can provide. Windows XP Service Pack 2 and the JAWS 5 developer demo are both free downloads.

The Solution

I am not sure if the bug is in the Windows pop-up blocker or in the JAWS screen reader, but the combination of these programs results in a major accessibility problem for the user. Until one of these companies finds a proper solution, all web developers should stop using the target attribute to open new windows. Accessible scripting methods have long been the recommended practice for opening new windows, so consider this you last call on a deprecated method. Well, a method that was modularized for a reason, anyway.

Don’t know of an accessible scripting solution? Try this one. It’s fully documented in the source.