Chris Ashton

dai11y 07/01/2022

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Fix web accessibility systematically

Another WCAG 3 related post by Eric Eggert, who claims the new standard will not be the silver bullet some people think it will.

Eric laments the current situation of accessibility technologies: the complex set of documents including WCAG 2, ATAG 2 (standards for authoring tools), UAAG 2 (for browsers / user agents), ARIA, ARIA Authoring Practices (designed to be technologically neutral, so lacking HTML best practice), HTML Accessibility API Mappings and ARIA in HTML. This is a complex world for developers. ““Don’t use ARIA unless you have to” is a common phrase uttered by accessibility experts, but how are ordinary developers supposed to know when they have to?”

The situation isn’t helped by a lack of interoperability, and a lack of traction in browsers. <input type="date"> has been standardised for over a decade, but still “lacks accessibility support in modern browsers”. Early thoughts around ARIA were that “most aspects of it would be converted into native HTML quickly: combo boxes, dialogs, tab panels”, etc – but a world with natively accessible features right out of the box “did not come to pass”. Instead, ARIA is now a meta language that sits between technologies, defining an accessibility vocabulary for them. ARIA takes on features of HTML, instead of the other way around.

Releasing a new WCAG version will not fix the situation: Eric wants to see much more work done in browsers themselves. Making a form input with a missing label should trigger a console warning for developers. Standardising accessibility support in native elements would greatly simplify documentation and improve reliability. The easier accessibility is to teach, the more accessible the resulting websites.

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