Struggling with ARIA (Blog 4)

Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA)

In her blog post for this week, Kelsey writes about Arguing w/ ARIA. Well, if a web developer argues with ARIA, as a non-developer, I definitely struggled with ARIA.

Conceptually, I understand the basics of what it is meant to do and why it is needed. And from where I’m sitting at the moment, it seems like a very good idea.

It is much harder to implement. Especially when you do not know JavaScript.

Where do you start?

Live regions. Roles. Landmark roles. Using JavaScript to add radio buttons. Focus. keyCodes(). I found it difficult to tell where to being when figuring out how to add ARIA functionality. The information resources I found were all very overwhelming, and hard to navigate. I bounced around among multiple concepts before settling on something that seemed relevant to try.

At the end of my ARIA experiment, I found this ARIA Tooltip Example, which included five steps or considerations to make when thinking about ARIA. Something like this list would have been really helpful from the beginning as a step-by-step process for ARIA beginners.

How do you determine what is needed?

Once I chose some aspect to work on, I also struggled with scope. What needs to be labeled and what doesn’t (some examples seemed redundant, like <button role=”button>)? Where do I attach the ARIA information? How much is too much?

Help! JavaScript!

I only have a basic working knowledge of HTML and CSS. While I would like to learn JavaScript in the future (in fact, I purchased a book on it on a whim a few months ago and have eyed the Codecademy JavaScript tutorials), that future has not yet arrived. I tried to look over the basics of JavaScript to see if I could figure out enough to decode a bit, but it was very overwhelming. Once I found a small enough sample script to work with, I was able to add the tiniest of JavaScript elements, but it took a lot of work to understand.

I do find it a bit confusing that we think about using scripting languages as a potential accessibility issue on websites, yet ARIA seems dependent on JavaScript. Perhaps that is because it is making JavaScript more accessible.

Where are the examples?

When learning CSS and HTML, or working with other accessibility features, I often look up examples on the web to learn from or adapt for my own project. Because ARIA is so new, I could not find a lot of examples available online (and the ones I did find often were above my skill set). Hopefully as ARIA is adopted more widely, more examples are made available, especially ones aimed at beginners.

Web developer and accessibility gurus of the world! Make examples and share them!

So is it worth it?

Yes. ARIA was much more challenging to figure out how to implement, but it seems clear to me that making interactive elements accessible is very important on today’s Web. From forms like a job application to interactive elements in news stories to online quizzes for school, the web only grows increasingly more interactive and dynamic. It is important that we use ARIA (or something similar) to make sure the web doesn’t also continue growing more inaccessible.

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