W3C makes ARIA a web standard

Americas, March 25 2014

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) took an important step to make web content and applications more accessible to people with disabilities by publishing Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) 1.0 as a W3C Recommendation. WAI-ARIA defines ways that developers of browsers, media players, mobile devices and assistive technologies, as well as content developers, can achieve greater cross-platform accessibility. WAI-ARIA is introduced in the WAI-ARIA Overview.

W3C logo“ARIA is general tool which can be used to add accessibility to many different technologies,” said Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director. “It is used by HTML 5 now and is being built into additional W3C specifications. In the dynamic and interactive world of the web today, it essential to describe to accessibility software what the different parts of a web page do, so that users with disabilities can use them effectively.”

WAI-ARIA helps close the gap between the advanced capabilities of the Open Web Platform and technologies available for implementing accessibility requirements. Web developers increasingly create user interface controls that allow users to get new Web content without requesting a full page refresh. WAI-ARIA supports interoperability between browsers and assistive technologies when using interactive features such as expandable menus and drag-and-drop features on websites. This provides key support for conforming with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, the international standard for accessibility of websites and applications.

“As we celebrate the Web’s 25th anniversary, enabling usable, accessible rich Internet applications through a growing array of mobile devices, from smartphones to automotive is vital,” said Rod Smith, IBM VP of Emerging Software Technologies. “When IBM introduced this technology to W3C our goal was to ensure a more inclusive rich web. WAI-ARIA sets this precedent by lowering barriers for people with disabilities universally across devices.”

WAI-ARIA brings the accessibility features of desktop applications to the Web. In a desktop environment, people who use specialized assistive technologies to help operate their computers must rely on accessibility application programming interfaces (APIs) specific to each operating system. WAI-ARIA makes that same type of information directly available to web applications.

As part of today’s announcement, W3C also published the WAI-ARIA 1.0 User Agent Implementation Guide, which maps WAI-ARIA to accessibility-supporting features on different platforms, indicating how web browsers, media players and mobile applications can benefit from those features. Content authors who use WAI-ARIA can now more easily re-purpose the same web content across different platforms, without loss of accessibility support.

Implementation testing during the W3C standards development process showed extensive implementation in several major browsers; details are available in the implementation report.

“We saw major progress in quality and comprehensiveness of ARIA implementations in browsers, media players and mobile devices during the Candidate Recommendation phase of ARIA development, and look forward to broader implementations now that the standard has been finalized,” said Janina Sajka, Chair of the Protocols and Formats Working Group. “ARIA provides web developers an overlay technology suitable for delivering stable accessibility support on modern web apps, as well as for rapid remediation of accessibility issues on older web content.”

For more information see http://www.w3.org/WAI/

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