The splendid Julie Howell, a tireless campaigner from the Royal
National Institute for the Blind wrote: "There is no ‘pop ups is bad’ thing – if anyone says there is, they need correcting. Sure, pop-ups can cause usability probs, but there is no ‘accessibility’ issue there necessarily."
Bob "The Bobster" Regan of Macromedia concurs that it’s largely a usability problem: "They ‘break’ the back button. If you are focused on a pop up – then the back button suddenly doesn’t work and you won’t know why. They are actually allowed, you just have to warn the user ‘opens in a new window’ … They can actually be good in certain cases. Imagine a complex Flash app used to simulate a chemical process. You may want to put that in a pop up to limit the other ‘noise’ around it. It’s like frames – not purely evil.".
I’ve also had a couple more mistakes pointed out by Jooly: "’DDA compliance’ and ‘web accessibility’ aren’t interchangeable terms. A site can be WAI complaint and still in breach of the DDA, ya know… all comes down to the definition of ‘service’ and how the ‘service’ is administered.
Oh, and that bit about ‘we’re approaching the deadline for DDA’… that’s wrong. The deadline for web sites was 1 October 1999. Honestly, these misapprehensions are keeping me in this job far too long."
Thanks to all the experts. Even the scary ones who told me off.