WAI-ARIA becomes a W3C recommendation

  • Author: Tim Lohman
  • Date: 21 Mar 2014

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has announced that it has published a new web standard, the Web Accessibility Initiative’s (WAI) Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) 1.0, and a supporting WAI-ARIA 1.0 User Agent Implementation Guide.

According to the W3C, the ARIA specification, which it refers to as a ‘recommendation’, defines ways that developers of browsers, media players, mobile devices and assistive technologies, as well as content developers, can achieve greater cross-platform accessibility.

The User Agent Implementation Guide describes how WAI-ARIA rolesstates, and properties should be supported in user agents using platform accessibility application programming interfaces (APIs).

W3C Director, Tim Berners-Lee said in a statement that ARIA standard provided web developers with a general tool which can be used to add accessibility to many different technologies.

"It is used by HTML 5 now and is being built into additional W3C specifications,” he said. “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."

In a blog post, W3C’s Web Accessibility Specialist, Michael Cooper, said that in addition to better facilitating user interaction with web content by people with disabilities, the ARIA standard also provided ways to better enable use of web pages as a whole.

“’Landmark roles’ allow authors to annotate regions of the page so users can find them quickly; this is important when users don’t have the overall knowledge of the page layout often represented in graphical browsers,” the blog post reads.

“Navigation and search regions, ancillary content, and of course the main content can be marked so users can find the region they need at the moment. The technology also allows authors to indicate content that should be treated more like a software application than as document content, so assistive technologies can provide application-specific behavior.

“Finally it provides ways to handle regions of the page that automatically update their content, such as stock tickers or chat applications, which can be disruptive or unperceivable to some assistive technology users without the mediation provided by ARIA.”