ACTION-10: - clear up status of why ARIA says "similar" to role

- clear up status of why ARIA says "similar" to role

Gregory Rosmaita
Due on:
October 22, 2008
Created on:
October 15, 2008
Associated Product:
Role Module
Related emails:
  1. ACTION-10 (Role Module and ARIA) Closed (from on 2008-12-01)

Related notes:

ACTION: Gregory - ask PFWG why "similar" inserted into 2.1 of ARIA spec and answser to ShaneM's query about Role and ARIA

Roland Merrick, 15 Oct 2008, 14:24:38

SVG Issues Under PF Review:

Roland Merrick, 15 Oct 2008, 14:28:49

this question was added to the PFWG's agenda at GJR's request and discussed at
the 2008-07-16 Protocols & Formats teleconference:

the discussion resulted in the issuance of the following action item:

[NEW] ACTION: Gregory - post draft reply to XHTML2 WG on Role Module
for 48 hour review
[recorded in]

the draft reply (whose subject line is: "[DRAFT] ARIA's relationship
to the Role Module (ACTION-199)" is archived in the member-confidential
pf archives:

it received a 48-hour vetting by the PFWG and since no objections were
raised, and only positive feedback registered, my response on behalf of the
PFWG was sent (and the action should have been closed) on 2008-07-13, with the
posting of:

From: Gregory J. Rosmaita <>
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2008 20:29:11 +0100
Message-Id: <>

CONTEXT: This post is in reference to my inquiry of the PF WG on behalf
of the XHTML2 WG on the use of the Role module in ARIA; my original
query can be found at:

or, for those without member-access:

In the above-referenced post, i quoted the sections of the ARIA
specification that refers to "a role attribute similar to the one
defined in the XHTML Role Attribute Module -- text which has been
revised in the latest (23 July 2008) editor's draft of ARIA 1.0,
as follows:

<q cite="">

An ARIA role is set on an element using the a role attribute similar
to the one defined in the XHTML Role Attribute Module [XHTML-ROLES].

<div role = "checkbox">

The roles defined in this specification include a collection of
document landmarks and the ARIA role taxonomy.

The Roles in this taxonomy were modeled using RDF/OWL [OWL] to build
rich descriptions of the expected behaviors of each role. Features of
the role taxononmy [SIC] provide the following information for each

* describes the context of a role, for example a listitem should
be inside a list;
* defines a hierarchy of roles with related properties, for
example a directory is a type of list;
* makes use of OWL to provide a type hierarchy allowing for
semantic inheritance similar to a class hierarchy;
* makes references to related concepts in other specifications;
* provides descriptions for each role;
* describes what states are supported for each role, for example,
a checkbox supports being checked.

Attaching a role from the role taxonomy to an element in the document
gives assistive technology the information it needs to handle an
element correctly.

Furthermore, the XHTML2 WG was concerned that the references to "role"
in ARIA section 4.2.4,

treats role as a pure abstraction, without reference to the XHTML Role

i was, therefore, tasked by the XHTML2 WG to pose the question to the
PFWG as to why ARIA uses the word "similar", after observing that ARIA
derives its syntax from the extensibility rules defined by the XHTML
Role Module

i was also tasked by the XHTML2 WG to ask if the abstract reference to
"role" in section 4.2.4 is an intentional change?

CLARIFICATION (based on discussions at PF WG telecons of 2008-07-16
and 2008-07-23)

The word "similar" was inserted to satisfy general requirements for HTML
processing, since the Role module includes low-level processing
specifics, which can't be ported to HTML5; therefore, in order to enable
ARIA in HTML5 it is necessary to define low-level DOM parsing whilst
still accepting same content, with same accessibility result. Of course,
if one is using XHTML2 to author a document, then that author would and
SHOULD use the Role Module, but since HTML5 has an issue with modular
referencing, role is treated in ARIA as an abstraction in order to ensure
interoperability with non-modularized MLs as well as host language
without namespaces.

The objective is that the same data will end up being exposed to the
pertinent Accessibility API, which leads to a two-tiered approach:
general requirements and module integration (not generic requirement)
which is due to "angle bracket" distinctions between M12n and HTML5

In addition, PF would like to note that there is an open ACTION item on
Michael Cooper to coordinate with Shane McCarron on this issue:

<q cite="">

Related notes:

2008-06-24 22:34:14: Also need to figure out if this module should be
normative or remain informative; if normative in what circumstances
(e.g., for applications that use XHTML modularization for their
technology). [Michael Cooper]


Please inform the PF if this answer satisfies the XHTML2 WG, and if not,
why not and what would the XHTML2 WG suggest?

PF's goal with ARIA is not to champion one approach to declarative
markup over any other, but to enable much needed (and too long delayed)
access to the tag-soup and embedded widgets and controls that
predominate today's (and yesterday's) web, while paving a way towards a
sane and consistent approach to integrating ARIA into whatever host
language needs the semantics and state and property identification which
ARIA provides.

thank you,
gregory j rosmaita (on behalf of the PFWG)
It is better to ask some of the questions than to know
all the answers. -- James Thurber
Gregory J. Rosmaita,
Camera Obscura:
Oedipus' Online Complex:

Gregory Rosmaita, 1 Dec 2008, 22:47:05

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