W3C Releases Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) Working Draft
Some code and functionality used in web development may not be available to all users, especially those who rely on screen readers, or cannot use a mouse. The W3C addresses these accessibility challenges. An updated Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) Working Draft, published by W3C, is designed to make web content and web applications more accessible to users with disabilities. Guidelines and best practices of the WAI-ARIA Working Draft focus specifically on how to deliver accessible rich internet applications, dynamic content and advanced user interface controls developed with AJAX, HTML, JavaScript and related technologies.

Accessibility Essentials

It is essential that several components of web development are coded with accessibility in mind in order for the Web to be accessible to people with disabilities. Some of such components are: * Content - In a web page or web application, including text, images, sounds, markups Web browsers, media players * Assistive technology - Screen readers, alternative keyboards, switches, scanning software * Evaluation tools - Web accessibility evaluation tools, HTML validators, CSS validators. W3C’s objective is to produce a usable and accessible web experience for all user categories, using WAI-ARIA roles, states and properties used to make widgets and navigation elements more accessible.

Developer Guidance and Support

What does that mean for developers? There are several benefits to starting to implement WAI-ARIA now, and W3C is there to help you by providing: * Documentation: The WAI-ARIA Primer and WAI-ARIA Best Practices contain detailed advice and examples for developers. * Support: WAI-ARIA is already being supported in some browsers, assistive technologies, as well as JavaScript toolkits. * Opportunity for input: W3C is encouraging developers to provide feedback and suggestions for changes to the WAI-ARIA documents, while they are still being developed. Additionally, developers can implement WAI-ARIA in two ways: # Use existing toolkits that incorporate WAI-ARIA techniques # Use WAI-ARIA techniques in your custom widgets All of the above, however, doesn’t mean more work, as the amount of additional code required for compliance with WAI-ARIA is minimal; generally, only a few additional attributes are needed. To further aid the developers, W3C has set up a mailing list for WAI-ARIA technical discussions and Q&A.

Quick Tips to Make Your Site More Accessible

Here are ten quick tips, as recommended by W3C, on how to make your web applications and web sites more accessible: # Use the alt attribute to describe the function of images and animations # Use the client-side map and text for hotspots # Provide captioning and transcripts of audio and descriptions for video # For hypertext links, use text that makes sense when read out of context. Avoid using "click here." # Use headings, lists and consistent structure. Use CSS for layout and style. # For graphs and charts, use the longdesc attribute. # For scripts, applets and plug-ins, provide alternative content # Use the noframes element # With tables, make line-by-line reading sensible # Validate your code using tools, checklist and guidelines