What is WAI-ARIA?

Table of Contents

WAI-ARIA is the Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). WAI-ARIA  is a technical specification on how to increase web page accessibility for people with disabilities. 

WAI-ARIA is used mainly by developers building dynamic content and user interface components developed with Ajax, HTML, JavaScript, and related technologies.

Why use WAI-ARIA?

Website owners can use WAI-ARIA specifications to ensure that their interactive content meets WCAG success criteria. This content includes frequently used web apps and widgets, such as drag-and-drop, sliders, and accordions. 

Unfortunately, building a website with this type of content to build a site can wreak havoc for people using assistive technology to access web pages. The result can be a website that is inoperable for those with certain types of disabilities.

WAI-ARIA’s target group is narrow when compared to WCAG’s. However, it aims to augment site functionality, particularly for:

  1. People with visual disabilities use screen readers to access web content.
  2. People who cannot operate a mouse or other pointing device and use speech instructions to control their devices.

ARIA is not an out-of-the-box accessibility solution – it does not make dynamic website content accessible on its own. Instead, it defines the steps to create dynamic content, and advanced user interface controls developed with existing technologies, such as JavaScript, HTML, and Ajax – more recognizable to assistive technologies.

How Does It Work?

ARIA is the set of attributes developers can insert into your site’s HTML code to communicate precisely to assistive technologies and their users how dynamic content should be understood. For example, it might inform a screen reader to interpret a widget as a slider. It supplements rather than replaces your website’s code.

It is important to note that WAI-ARIA specifications primarily target developers and are very technical. Therefore, while it is advantageous that website managers understand WAI-ARIA, specialist coding knowledge is required for implementation. 

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