W3C's Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) 1.0 Expands Accessibility of the Open Web Platform

http://www.w3.org/ — 20 March 2014 — Today the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) took an important step to make web content and applications more accessible to people with disabilities by publishing Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) 1.0 as a W3C Recommendation. WAI-ARIA defines ways that developers of browsers, media players, mobile devices and assistive technologies, as well as content developers, can achieve greater cross-platform accessibility. WAI-ARIA is introduced in the WAI-ARIA Overview.

"ARIA is general tool which can be used to add accessibility to many different technologies," said Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director. "It is used by HTML 5 now and is being built into additional W3C specifications. In the dynamic and interactive world of the web today, it essential to describe to accessibility software what the different parts of a web page do, so that users with disabilities can use them effectively."

WAI-ARIA helps close the gap between the advanced capabilities of the Open Web Platform and technologies available for implementing accessibility requirements. Web developers increasingly create user interface controls that allow users to get new Web content without requesting a full page refresh. WAI-ARIA supports interoperability between browsers and assistive technologies when using interactive features such as expandable menus and drag-and-drop features on websites. This provides key support for conforming with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, the international standard for accessibility of websites and applications.

Cross-platform and cross-device accessibility solution

"As we celebrate the Web's 25th anniversary, enabling usable, accessible rich Internet applications through a growing array of mobile devices, from smartphones to automotive is vital," said Rod Smith, IBM VP of Emerging Software Technologies. "When IBM introduced this technology to W3C our goal was to ensure a more inclusive rich web. WAI-ARIA sets this precedent by lowering barriers for people with disabilities universally across devices."

WAI-ARIA brings the accessibility features of desktop applications to the Web. In a desktop environment, people who use specialized assistive technologies to help operate their computers must rely on accessibility application programming interfaces (APIs) specific to each operating system. WAI-ARIA makes that same type of information directly available to web applications.

As part of today's announcement, W3C also published the WAI-ARIA 1.0 User Agent Implementation Guide, which maps WAI-ARIA to accessibility-supporting features on different platforms, indicating how web browsers, media players and mobile applications can benefit from those features. Content authors who use WAI-ARIA can now more easily re-purpose the same web content across different platforms, without loss of accessibility support.

Implementation Progress

Implementation testing during the W3C standards development process showed extensive implementation in several major browsers; details are available in the implementation report.

"We saw major progress in quality and comprehensiveness of ARIA implementations in browsers, media players and mobile devices during the Candidate Recommendation phase of ARIA development, and look forward to broader implementations now that the standard has been finalized," said Janina Sajka, Chair of the Protocols and Formats Working Group. "ARIA provides web developers an overlay technology suitable for delivering stable accessibility support on modern web apps, as well as for rapid remediation of accessibility issues on older web content."

Why W3C

Twenty years ago, web inventor Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) as a forum to steward the development of open technology standards ensuring the long-term growth of the Web. W3C is vendor neutral in its approach and maintains a royalty-free patent policy. W3C activities are conducted openly and are transparent to the public. In addition, all W3C standards are available free of charge to encourage quick industry adoption. Together, the community is rebuilding the Web into an Open Web Platform for the delivery of services and rich applications across a broad set of industries, including mobile, payments, television, publishing, and transportation.

About the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international consortium where Member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards. W3C primarily pursues its mission through the creation of Web standards and guidelines designed to ensure long-term growth for the Web. The Open Web Platform is a current major focus. Over 375 organizations are Members of the Consortium. W3C is jointly run by the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT CSAIL) in the USA, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) headquartered in France, Keio University in Japan, and Beihang University in China, and has additional Offices worldwide. For more information see http://www.w3.org/

About the Web Accessibility Initiative

W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) works with organizations around the world to make the Web more accessible for people with disabilities and older users. WAI pursues accessibility of the Web by ensuring that Web technologies support accessibility; developing guidelines for web content, browsers and media players, and authoring tools; developing resources to support improved evaluation tools; developing resources for education and outreach; and coordinating with research and development efforts that can affect future accessibility of the Web. WAI is supported in part by the U.S. Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), the European Commission's Information Society Technologies Programme, Adobe Systems, Deque Systems, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM. For more information see http://www.w3.org/WAI/

Media Contact

Ian Jacobs, <w3t-pr@w3.org>, +1.718 260 9447