ISSUE-1048: roledescription usage should not be limited to elements with defined ARIA roles

roledescription role limits

roledescription usage should not be limited to elements with defined ARIA roles

ARIA 1.1
Raised by:
James Craig
Opened on:
The following requirement is overly restrictive:

User agents must not expose the aria-roledescription property if … The element to which aria-roledescription is applied does not have a valid WAI-ARIA role or does not have an implicit WAI-ARIA role semantic.

This would mean the feature could not be used on any markup element in any host language until such a time as ARIA defined an equivalent role. As we already know ARIA is well behind the current release of HTML, this is an overly restrictive limitation and should be removed.
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Rich pointed out this text exists in the spec, too, so changing the Product to ARIA 1.1.

For clarity, the "Authors SHOULD" statement in the spec is fine. The "UAs MUST NOT map" is the problem. That's overly restrictive, and sets up ARIA to be a bottleneck for continued progress in host languages like HTML, particularly in Web Components where we fully expect web authors to move faster than spec authors or user agents.

James Craig, 26 Oct 2016, 07:02:58

Here's another non-Web Components example.

There are 79 matches in HTML Mapping for "No corresponding role." Should we really disallow use of role description on all of them? For example:

1. <code> Using an explicit ARIA role on <code> would cause the browser to lose functionality, but it'd be fine to define the role description on a per language basis: e.g. "CSS code sample", "Objective C code sample", etc. Sites like GitHub and Stack Overflow could even do this automatically on their language-formatted code samples. (e.g. "```js") How does it benefit us to take this possibility away from web authors?

2. <meter> Am I really not allowed to describe this meter just because ARIA hasn't gotten around to role parity yet?

3. <fieldset> Probably harmless to change the role description, but extremely harmful to require authors to explicitly use a different role in order to do so.

I can imagine some talented web authors in the near future saying, "I can technically make it operable, but I can't make it understandable because ARIA 1.1 required browsers to ignore my role description." Overly prescriptive regulations and limitations like this end up more harmful than helpful.

What if you only included this stipulation on generic elements like <div> and <span>? I'd be okay with that restriction. The goal seems to be to avoid problem cases like <div aria-roledescription="button"> and restricting usage on generics would be one way to do that, without penalizing appropriate use on another type of element.

James Craig, 27 Oct 2016, 05:49:36

Closing. Now tracked as GitHub #500.

James Craig, 14 Dec 2016, 08:03:52

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