Hurricane relief for Windows/IE users only

    Kevin Yank

    (Via Ars Technica) While the United States has strict regulations in place for the accessibility of publicly-funded websites, those regulations apparently don’t concern the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), responsible for current disaster management efforts in New Orleans. Not only does its individual assistance registration site require JavaScript to work, but it will also only work in the Internet Explorer for Windows browser.

    When attempting to sign up for registration in Firefox or other Mozilla-based browsers, users must pass a CAPTCHA test, and then receive this message:

    In order to use this site, you must have JavaScript Enabled and Internet Explorer version 6.
    Download it from Microsoft or call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) to register.

    On Opera 8 for Windows, which masquerades as Internet Explorer by default, the CAPTCHA test doesn’t even work.

    FEMA claims that the system was originally developed for in-house use only, and is working on a replacement system that will accomodate all popular browsers. This just goes to show, however that developers should embrace best practices wherever possible, even when building applications for limited deployment.

    In the meantime, Macintosh users will have to brave the phone hotlines and aid workers will have to keep fitting out onsite kiosks with expensive and time-consuming Windows XP SP2 installations, all to accomodate a site that uses browser-specific JavaScript when accessible design with little or no scripting could have done the same job. Someone should Greasemonkey the site, just to drive the point home.