Making Chaos Accessible - Aaron Leventhal - Paris Web 2008


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The Web can be nearly anything. Emerging techniques show that chaos finally erupted out of the confinement of standards. From the primordial web soup, new forms are emerging that perhaps the eye can understand, but are devoid of reasonable semantic structure to help the other senses .

Can chaos be made accessible? Are the new interactions only for the benefit of mainstream users? Or is this another case of a crisis becoming an opportunity?

The powerful new WAI-ARIA draft standard can annotate markup with structure. The structure helps assistive technologies such as screen readers, screen magnifiers or alternative input software make sense of the previous chaos. WAI-ARIA has great potential for accessibility, such that users with disabilities can not only survive in the chaos, but thrive as well.

What about adoption? Will authors even use WAI-ARIA? The answer is a good one for the future of accessibility. Adding WAI-ARIA to markup does not change how a web page behaves for mainstream users, even in user agents with no WAI-ARIA support. Thus, we are seeing very steady growth of support. Collaboration among vendors is at a new high, as Microsoft, Mozilla, Opera, Apple and Google work together to harmonize browser implementations. JavaScript widget toolkits such as Dojo, YUI, GWT and jQuery are gaining support. Screen readers and screen magnifiers are also gaining support. Killer examples of WAI-ARIA in web applications are Gmail, Google Docs and Yahoo! mail.

Is the future complex? Yes. But we can also enjoy new possibilies. Finally, compelling interaction and enhanced accessibility will not be strangers.

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Making Chaos Accessible - Aaron Leventhal - Paris Web 2008

  1. Web 2.0 Accessibility: Order in Chaos Aaron Leventhal
  2. Living in Germany Based around rules & structure - “Correct” beer brewing, etc. - Project structure planned first
  3. But born in the United States America likes to break rules & change the game Structure comes as it becomes necessary Sometimes bad, sometimes good
  4. What is Accessibility? Is it engineering compassion?
  5. Visual impairments ♦ People who are blind or deaf-blind use screen reading software Stevie Wonder with speech or soft Braille (blindness) ♦ Partially sighted people may use font/contrast settings or screen magnification software. Aldous Huxley (low vision)
  6. Print disabilities ♦ People with dyslexia use text to speech software combined with word highlighting Helen Keller, writer (deaf and blind) Alexander Graham Bell inventor of the telephone (dyslexia)
  7. Physical disabilities ♦  Quadriplegics use the keyboard with a on screen keyboards and speech input software, with special pointing devices (head/eye tracking mice or mouth sticks) ♦  One handed typists use sticky key software ♦  People with ALS or cerebral palsy may use filter keys, word prediction software and single switch Stephen Hawking devices (ALS)
  8. Other disabilities ♦  Hearing impaired people need software that does not rely on sound for cues ♦  Color blind people need software that does not rely on color alone, This includes 8-10% of males who Beethoven see both red and green as brown! (hearing impaired) ♦  Persons with cognitive and learning disabilities need software with simple layout and messages – also useful for young, elderly and newbie users ♦  Persons with epilepsy need software with no flashing or blinking: (2-55 Hz can cause seizures) Nobel (epilepsy)
  9. Just Tell Us What To Do! ♦ Images and colors: don’t rely on them ♦ Keyboard navigation must be available ♦ Structure with semantic HTML ♦ … Be a good rule follower! (based on WCAG 1)
  10. Can we use JavaScript? WCAG 1.0, 508, EU say no -- must work with script off
  11. Split Personality: Web Developers  Good citizen  Semantics  Static HTML  Accessible  Traditional
  12. The Dark (but Exciting) Side  Rule breaker  Dynamic  JavaScript  Not accessible   utting edge! C
  13. Use WAI-ARIA!
  14. Embracing Change ♦ WAI-ARIA: W3C working draft ♦ Describes the structure of Dynamic Content ♦ New attributes are used, like role=“slider” ♦ Allows both innovation and accessibility ♦ Doesn’t break existing content
  15. What is WAI-ARIA? Describes dynamic content: 1.  Visual 2.  Informational 3.  Interactive
  16. Visual “Eye Candy” 1.  Animation/transitions 2.  Keep quiet: aria-live=“off” 3.  Please allow them to be turned off!
  17. Informational Content 00:12 1.  Built-in role types: role=“alert”|”log”|”timer”|”progressbar” 2.  Generic live content, e.g. stock quotes Set the interruption/politeness: aria-live=“off”|“polite”|”assertive”|”rude”
  18. Interactive Widgets 1.  Usually have onclicks 2.  Keyboard navigation! Important to use Style Guide 3.  ARIA roles and properties: <div role=“slider” aria-valuenow=“50” … 4.  Also, more complex widgets, “tree”, “grid”, etc. 5.  ARIA drag and drop
  19. Sampling of ARIA Semantics grid alert tree application slider menu & more … description tabpanel progressbar valuenow invalid labelledby multiselectable required selected & more … haspopup checked describedby expanded
  20. ARIA even improves HTML 1.  Enhancing forms * aria-invalid, aria-required * role=“alert” * aria-describedby 2.  Tables for layout * <table role=“presentation”> 3.  Landmarks * role=“main”, “navigation”, etc.
  21. Validation? WAI-ARIA breaks HTML 4.01 validation But, accessibility is more important … Use experimental service
  22. Where is ARIA supported? Browser support Assistive Tech (screen readers, magnifiers, ...)
  23. Build your own components? Building ARIA components is a challenge Docs - Specs -
  24. Or borrow them? Use a JavaScript library to save effort Most accessible
  25. Resources Docs & samples Mailing list Google groups “free-aria”