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WAI: Strategies, guidelines, resources to make the Web accessible to people with disabilities


Here are answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQ) about WAI-ARIA, the Accessible Rich Internet Applications Suite. When we add significant information to this page, we'll send an e-mail to the WAI IG list and an update to the WAI Highlights RSS feed to let you know. ~Shawn Henry, W3C WAI, updated 4 February 2008

Where can I learn about WAI-ARIA?

The best place to start learning about WAI-ARIA and to get updated information about the WAI-ARIA documents is the WAI-ARIA Overview, which:

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What is the current status of WAI-ARIA development?

On 4 February 2008, new and reorganized WAI-ARIA documents were published as Working Drafts. WAI-ARIA may be completed in 2008. When it will be finalized depends on many factors, such as how long it takes to address current comments, what additional comments come in, and how long is needed for the remaining stages of the W3C Process.

WAI-ARIA is developed under the W3C Process, introduced in How WAI Develops Accessibility Guidelines through the W3C Process. The W3C Process helps ensure that WAI-ARIA reflects the diverse needs of a broad community, including industry, disability organizations, accessibility researchers, government, and others interested in Web accessibility.

The public is invited to comment on WAI-ARIA drafts. Calls for Review and document stages are announced via:

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Is WAI-ARIA supported in browsers, assistive technologies, and other user agents?

Yes, WAI-ARIA is already supported in several browsers and assistive technologies. WAI will be collecting and publishing a list of WAI-ARIA implementations in the coming months as WAI-ARIA progresses through W3C document stages. Some of this information is already available on other Web sites.

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What happens in older browsers when WAI-ARIA is implemented?

Nothing; WAI-ARIA coding methods have no effect on how Web content renders in older browsers. In browsers that do not support WAI-ARIA, Web content that adds WAI-ARIA attributes will simply continue to work as it currently does in those browsers.

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Are there JavaScript toolkits that provide built-in WAI-ARIA support?

Yes, some JavaScript toolkits already have WAI-ARIA support built in, and others are adding it. We encourage you to ask your favorite toolkits and application generators to support WAI-ARIA.

WAI will be collecting and publishing a list of WAI-ARIA implementations in the coming months as WAI-ARIA progresses through W3C document stages.

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As a Web content developer, what should I do with WAI-ARIA now?

There are several benefits to starting to implement WAI-ARIA now, including:

Note that while the Working Drafts of WAI-ARIA documents are complete, some aspects of WAI-ARIA may change based on comments received at each review stage.

Some organizations have already started implementing WAI-ARIA in their Web content. Much of WAI-ARIA focuses on advanced Web applications. WAI-ARIA also helps improve accessibility in simple sites using only basic HTML.

Web developers can implement WAI-ARIA in two ways:

  1. Use existing toolkits that incorporate WAI-ARIA techniques. In this case, you don't need to understand much about WAI-ARIA since it's already built in.
  2. Include WAI-ARIA techniques in your custom widgets. When developing custom widgets, add WAI-ARIA properties to provide basic type (role), state and change information. Documentation and examples are available in the WAI-ARIA Best Practices. You should test the results using screen readers, other assistive technologies, and testing tools, some of which are available for free. If you need help, you can sign up for the wai-xtech mailing list and ask questions there.

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Does WAI-ARIA significantly increase the amount of code?

No, the amount of additional code required in Web content and in browsers, assistive technologies, and other user agents is minimal. For Web content, generally only a few additional attributes are needed.

For browsers, WAI-ARIA requires that descriptions are added only to the module that implements accessibility, not to the core browser. The accessibility module then passes information about role, state, and changes in state through mechanisms that are already supported. WAI-ARIA therefore integrates well with existing accessibility interfaces and does not require generation of significantly more code.

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Do WAI-ARIA methods increase the complexity of the development process?

Including WAI-ARIA support does require a little extra effort, yet it is not significantly more than usual development. For those developing static Web pages or using libraries with WAI-ARIA built in, implementing WAI-ARIA is fairly straightforward. Developing custom, cross-browser JavaScript widgets is more complex, and implementing WAI-ARIA in these is proportionally more complex.

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Is the "ARIA" that is mentioned by other organizations the same as WAI-ARIA?

As far as we know, all of the documents and references to "ARIA" that are related to making Web sites accessible are actually references to WAI-ARIA.

WAI uses "WAI-ARIA" to refer to the documents in the Accessible Rich Internet Applications Suite. In order to avoid confusion, we request that others also use "WAI-ARIA", instead of just "ARIA", in documentation.

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Where can I ask more questions about WAI-ARIA?

The WAI-XTech list is available for anyone to discuss technical issues on WAI-ARIA.

To subscribe to the WAI-XTech list, please follow the instructions in Participation in the Protocols and Formats Working Group.

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