The W3C has announced an initiative to help web developers make rich internet applications' (RIA) dynamic content more accessible to people with disabilities. Using still another obscure acronym -- WAI-ARIA (Web Accessibility Initiative - Accessible Rich Internet Application) -- the W3C has announced first "public working drafts" for the effort.Since devices such as screen readers, speech dictation software, and on-screen keyboards are used by disabled persons, the W3C initiative provides technology enhancements and guidelines to provide programing semantics with which to address these devices.
For example, to provide reliable access to a form element, a tool must also be able to recognize the state of that element (whether it is checked, disabled, focused, collapsed, or hidden). And, often developers using AJAX and similar technologies can not, or are not addressing these accessibility needs in their programing work.
The Roadmap for Accessible Rich Internet Applications
(WAI-ARIA Roadmap) describes an overall approach for ensuring interoperability between rich Internet applications and technologies used by people with disabilities.
XHTML figures heavily in the proposed solutions, though engineers working on the project have also identified the need for new technologies to bridge the gap in reaching accessibility objectives. Web Content Management System (CMS)
developers have been eying accessibility issues for some time â€“ a quick Google session shows companies have been addressing these â€œWAIâ€ needs in product releases as far back as early 2005. But finally, the W3C appears to be mapping out objectives and methods to address some of the missing programing links for developers. Slog on past the acronyms, and the initiative's documents are a good next step.