508 Compliant issue in web development

As I am building websites in a government department, it is quite common to hear "Is this site 508 compliant"? Most people in corporate do not know what 508 is about, but in government, 508 makes developers pulling their hair every day.

508 compliance is to let disabled people view websites and low end browser (e.g. text-only browser) display content correctly. If a page displays image, that image must have alternative text to show text information about that image. So disabled user can use screen reader to "view" the page.

But 508 does not mention JavaScript. So can we use JavaScript in web pages? Some people would say No! Why? Because if user disables JavaScript in browser, the web site is not workable for him/her anymore, which means it is not a 508 compliant site. So to make a workable 508-compliant, we have to develop web pages without any JavaScript involved. Of course, we can add JavaScript to make pages look nicer, but without JavaScript, the web pages must also work.

For a web site only displaying content most of the time, it is ok without JavaScript. But for a web application (like Intranet), without JavaScript means driving a car that has no engine. How can you make an Intranet interactive only by using URL parameters and hidden fields? Not to mention good user experience of AJAX that definitely needs JavaScript.

508 was made a decade ago when Internet was supposed to display content, not for interaction. Nowadays, 99% of people will not use text-base browser. 508 seems out-of-date now.