WAI-ARIA introduces additional semantics necessary to make Rich Internet Applications fully accessible, and usable, to assistive technologies. It also may add the needed punch to improve the usability of static documents by people with disabilities. We hope to bring WAI-ARIA to last call status in the first quarter of 2009. Already it has huge implementation support and on line education. One of the most important resources now established for WAI-ARIA is CodeTalks. This site is extremely active with code samples, references to educational videos, and online collaboration growing daily. Another critical resource is the Google Group Free ARIA. Many from the W3C WAI WAI-ARIA community and CodeTalks communicate on Free-ARIA.
The lack of appropriate tooling to validate Rich Internet Applications against WCAG 2.0 is a serious problem. To address this gap two efforts are being kicked off. One I am pulling together is the Accessibility Tools Task Force in the Open Ajax Alliance. Here we are developing best practices and rules to aid test and development tools in valdating these types of applications and assisting developers. Participation in the Open Ajax Alliance is free and participants are asked to sign a minimal agreement. Another effort being kicked off is the WA-ARIA Firebug Accessibility Dashboard Project which can be followed on CodeTalks. This effort is being led by IBM and the Mozilla Foundation under Aaron Leventhal and is designed to assist authors using the Firebug IDE to produce accessible Rich Internet Applications.
In 2008 we have seen a dramatic enhancement in the accessibility API support in browsers driven by the need to support WAI-ARIA. Firefox 3 added IAccessible2 support on Windows and ATK support on Linux. Microsoft is in the process of adding UI Automation support to Internet Explorer.Finally, in 2008 we are starting to see advancements in assistive technologies user interfaces to make Web 2.0 applications more usable. Jaws 10 released on November 3 with a host of user interface enhancement to support WAI-ARIA. Some of these usability enhancements included automatic forms mode switching, WAI-ARIA landmarks, and early support for Ajax live regions.
With WCAG 2.0 out and these advancements I expect 2009 to be a year where we see the usability of the Web to take a dramatic leap in usability by people with disabilities as products start to adopt it.