I’ve been fairly busy recently and whilst I’ve heard about the introduction of WAI-ARIA, I’ve not really had chance to have a look at how these new guidelines will affect the way I build web pages. So today I decided to take the opportunity to sit down and at least get a basic understanding of what it actually is and how it aims to improve accessibility.
A good place to start if you don’t know what WAI-ARIA is about is the W3C’s WAI-ARIA Overview which quotes the following:
Basically, whilst the WAI guidelines deal with accessibility for all types of users, the WAI-ARIA guidelines provide a much more focused way to ensure that users who are only able to interact by using assistive technology (whether that be screen readers or users that can only use a keyboard for example) can interact easily with dynamic websites. The example, the WAI-ARIA document gives is a dynamic collapsable tree structured menu:
I’ve had a good read through the Working Draft and it is a lot to initially take in so I will have another couple of read’s through it before commenting further on how this will actually effect web developers.
Peter Gasston has also put together some useful information on Beginning ARIA Mark-up which also explains how you can use CSS to style elements in browsers that support attribute selectors and is definitely worth a read.
Screen Reader Supporting WAI-ARIA
There’s a number of screen readers available on the market, the better ones usually come at considerable expense but I stumbled across a new screen reader that Roger Johansson reported on a week or so ago called NVDA.
It’s free and apparantly works with Firefox plus it also has support for WAI-ARIA. I’ve not had chance to test it yet but if you want to give it a try you can download the latestNVDA Development Snapshot. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts if you have taken it for a test drive.