Accessibility Lipstick on a Usability Pig

Applying accessibility techniques to an unusable site is like putting lipstick on a pig. No matter how much you apply, it will always be a pig.


IE9 and Firefox 4: let the standards showdown begin!

Posted May 4, 2011

Six months ago, the implementation of accessibility-friendly W3C standards, especially in relation to media players and screen readers, seemed pretty clear, with all web browsers having some level of implementation of HTML5 except for Internet Explorer 8. The HTML5 standard has since evolved rapidly,
particularly in January and with updates in April. We’ve also seen two major browser releases in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) and Mozilla’s Firefox 4.

Introduction to WAI ARIA

Posted to site March 31, 2011

HyperText Markup Language (HTML) was not originally designed to create web applications. HTML has a limited set of interface controls, and is based around
a sequential client server communication model. Web application developers have gotten around these limitations by creating their own custom components (widgets), using JavaScript to add behaviour to the widgets.

Unfortunately, the techniques used to overcome these limitations have not been accessible. Although custom widgets might look and behave like regular desktop application widgets, such as a tree view widget, the role (what the widget does), state (its unique configuration, such as checked), and other important properties are not available to assistive technologies, such as screen readers. This is the same as styling plain text to look like a heading, rather than using a heading element — the plain text looks like a heading, but isn’t revealed as a heading to assistive technology.

Updates are often missed by people using assistive technology. Assistive technologies usually expect web content to change in response to a navigate event, such as following a link or submitting a form. Web applications use techniques, such as AJAX, to update content silently in the background, which is sometimes missed by assistive technology. Even if assistive technology is aware of updates, the user still might not be aware that the content has been updated, or how to locate the updated content.

WAI-ARIA is a specification that provides a means of describing roles, states, and properties for custom widgets so that they are recognisable and usable by assistive technology users. WAI-ARIA also provides a mechanism to ensure that users of assistive technologies are aware of updates in the application.


Using WAI ARIA Landmark Roles

Posted by Steve Faulkner on January 15, 2009;

WAI-ARIA Landmark Roles
The WAI ARIA specification defines a set of specialised “landmark” roles. These roles provide a method to programmatically identify commonly found sections of web page content in a consistent way. they can be used now in whatever flavour of (X)HTML you prefer. This allows assistive technologies to provide users with features which they can use to identify and navigate to sections of page content.

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