ACTION-2092: Create a proposal for handling the role description value of “”

Create a proposal for handling the role description value of “”

Matthew King
Due on:
July 7, 2016
Created on:
June 30, 2016
Associated Product:
ARIA 1.1
Related emails:
No related emails

Related notes:

Following are 3 proposals for closing this action.
1. Do not support null or empty values.
2. Allow null or empty value to wipe out speaking of a role.
3. Do not allow null values and also: (1) specify how assistive tech should handle the property and (2) replace note to authors with normative author SHOULD statement.

In branch action2092option1[1], added the following sentence.
"If the value of aria-roledescription is empty or contains only white space characters, user agents MUST treat the element as if the aria-roledescription property were not specified."

In branch action2092option2[2], added the following 2 sentences.
"If the value of aria-roledescription is empty or contains only white space characters, user agents SHOULD expose the value in a manner consistent with how null values are expressed in their platform accessibility API. If the value is empty or null, assistive technologies MAY render the element as if it does not have a role name."

In the process of making the above branches, I noticed that there is still significant ambiguity regarding what an assistive technology should do with the roledescription. The actual intent of the property is not clear. For example, if you provide a roledescription for a region, should the assistive technology still treat the element as a region? This ambiguity also has significant impact on the meaning of the note that tells authors how to limit the use of roledescription.

The issue of how authors, user agents, and assistive technologies may treat null or empty values increases the need to remove these ambiguities. So, I have also proposed an option 3, which equivalent to option 1 but also addresses these issues. I did not make a similar equivalence to option 2 because it is much less clear what the normative authoring and assistive technology guidance should be in that case.

In branch action2092option3[3]:
1. Stated that user agents MUST NOT expose aria-roledescription if it is empty or whitespace (same as option 1)
2. Changed the note that contained an implied normative author SHOULD limiting use of the roledescription into a normative author SHOULD.
3. Added a normative assistive technology SHOULD statement explaining that roledescription should change only how the name of the role of an element is expressed and should not change which assistive technology functions are provided for an element.
4. (editorial) Used a list format to express the authoring and user agent requirements.

[1] action2092option1 branch:

[2] action2092option2 branch:

[3] action2092option3 branch:

Matthew King, 5 Jul 2016, 21:02:55

This was completed and a decision rendered July 14, 2016

Richard Schwerdtfeger, 14 Jul 2016, 17:27:42

Joanie will close once she promotes the branch

Richard Schwerdtfeger, 14 Jul 2016, 17:28:17

CfC to accept "option 3" passed. Content committed to master:

Closing this action.

Joanmarie Diggs, 15 Jul 2016, 15:17:30

Display change log.

Joanmarie Diggs <>, James Nurthen <>, Chairs, Michael Cooper <>, Ruoxi Ran <>, Staff Contacts
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