The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) Protocols and Formats (PF) working group announced the second working drafts of ARIA specifications this week. Accompanying these specifications is a new high level ARIA Suite Overview of the effort that was created out of the WAI Education and Outreach Working Group.
There are a number of enhancements which developers and project managers should be aware of :
- Features which reduce the code needed to add ARIA accessibility support: owns, activedescendent
- AJAX live region support: live, atomic, relevant
- Improved support for trees: level, posinset, setsize
- A datatype specifications for values
- A flowto mechanism to allow logical navigation of flow beyond DOM structure
- Ability to detect sorting mechanism such as in a grid column: sort
- The log role to support web chat sessions
- Enhancements to the RDF role taxonomy to accomodate AJAX
The live region support is clearly the most important. Live regions are portions of your page which may be dynamically updated, using AJAX techniques, without requiring a page reload. We now have a way to tell an assistive technology whether a region of the web page is live as well as how (atomic, relevant) and when (live) to handle the updates to that region. Through the use of the controls property an assistive technology may detect how one object controls another such as a live region. For example, a region may control an entirely different portlet.
These updates constitutes critical semantics that have been needed for web and desktop applications for some time.