I have a couple of shapefiles that i'd like to display in a map that i've created with the ArcGIS js API. I tried creating a service from ArcGIS server but ran into "ArcGIS cannot access the data file." Is there any other way i can create a layer from a shapefile?
You can't read a shapefile directly from an ArcGIS js application, you must publish the shapefile through ArcGIS Server.
If ArcGIS cannot access the file maybe it's just a permission issue on the files. You should grant read permission to the ArcGISSOC (10.0) or arcgis (10.1, 10.2) account. If you are using an ArcGIS Server > 10.1 you must also register the directory.
You may take a look this (applies to version 10.2)