Internet accessibility has been a challenge for the disabled since its inception. I’ve always had a strong view that many IT roles surrounding the web could be best suited to the physically disabled or physically challenged. Society loves to put people in their cliques; it enables better control of the masses, within societal acceptance. Because you’re this way, you belong here. There is no group of society, better able to identify with this than the physically challenged. Agreed, there are still many groups of society that are demeaned, bullied or degraded and I’m not undermining their daily challenges. The disabled not only have society to deal with, but also teachers, employers, their peers, family and friends, oh yes, and themselves. It is presumed they’re unable to take care of themselves, or unable to achieve greatness, that there is a ceiling of achievement. And yes, in some way that might be true, but each person’s greatness, is different, and which, rightly so, is their choice, not societies. But, there are many support systems out there, which can aid them and give them the opportunities, which society thought was out of reach. The physically challenged didn’t lose hope; in fact, I believe this particular societal group is the most optimistic. What’s the alternative, huddle in a corner and whittle away, like some of society would prefer, unlikely! Technology is slowly catching up to their needs, and I say, about time.
WAI-ARIA (Web Accessibility Initiative- Accessible Rich Internet Applications), are planning to make life on the internet significantly easier for the able body challenged! As it currently stands, it is very difficult to negotiate a web site if you can’t use a mouse and limited to keyboard operations. Imagine that for a moment, remove your mouse and use the keyboard only. Not much fun I can assure you, and darn frustrating. The able bodied don’t think about this much, unless of course you’re involved in the industry of helping those who need support in this area. Also, imagine how difficult it would be to create web content if you were limited to a screen reader. Even the able bodied use them to enable multitasking! But, they’re fairly limiting. Imagine having to tab through every single option on a website, before you get to the one at the bottom of the page. We able bodied use a mouse to maneuver this. Imagine trying to drag and drop without the use of a mouse.
The Technical stuff
More specifically, WAI-ARIA provides a framework for adding attributes to identify features for user interaction, how they relate to each other, and their current state. WAI-ARIA describes new navigation techniques to mark regions and common Web structures as menus, primary content, secondary content, banner information, and other types of Web structures. For example, with WAI-ARIA, developers can identify regions of pages and enable keyboard users to easily move among regions, rather than having to press Tab many times.
WAI-ARIA also includes technologies to map controls, Ajax live regions, and events to accessibility application programming interfaces (APIs), including custom controls used for rich Internet applications. WAI-ARIA techniques apply to widgets such as buttons, drop-down lists, calendar functions, tree controls (for example, expandable menus), and others.