This part two of a four-part series explores different accessibility issues that can be solved by using Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA).
On modern websites, interface controls such as show/hide and controls to select personal preferences are very common. However, these types of features are often inaccessible to users who can’t use a mouse or an alternate pointing device — typically screen reader users.
This is where ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) comes in. ARIA is used to give meaning, or semantics, to interface controls so a screen reader can use them. As we become more familiar with these kinds of interactive controls and start to expect them, these features become crucial for being able to use a website, so it’s extremely important that they are made accessible.
Media Access Australia’s article Introduction to WAI-ARIA: It’s accessibility but not as we know it says that accessibility guidelines like WCAG 2.0 focus on design principles and aim “to be technology-neutral so they could apply to more situations”.
On the other hand, ARIA uses specific commands to tell assistive technology, such as screen readers, what’s going on. For example, if an event happens on a webpage such as an updated sports score, the assistive technology program being used to help a person with a disability will notice the change and provides the user with access to the new content.”
ARIA solves these main areas of accessibility problems with web applications:
A characteristic of rich internet applications is areas of dynamic content, individual or groups of elements that refresh without the whole page reloading. This is used by news sites to show the latest articles and by social media sites to show new messages automatically.
There are two key accessibility challenges with dynamic content:
ARIA can be used to identify dynamic content updates as Live Regions. When information changes within a Live Region, the user is alerted and the updates voiced depending on the values specified.
The following values can be use with the <aria-live> attribute:
Live Regions allow a great degree of flexibility in how dynamic content updates are presented to users and allows users more control over their web experience.
This is the second article in a four-part series by Richard Corby, web accessibility expert and partner at Webbism. This post was originally published on the Access iQ website as ARIA and accessibility: Live updates.