Use WAI-ARIA landmark roles in new & existing development projects
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5 February 2013
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) published Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) 1.0 as a "Candidate Recommendation" in January 2011.
This defines "roles" and in particular landmark roles. Landmark roles complement (or replace) the idea of a "skip" link -- they inform assistive technologies like screen readers that parts of Web page are "navigation", the main content, complementary information (think, a news feed in a side block), and so on. The AT can then announce the landmark to the end-user, for example when the whole page is read aloud by a screen reader, or when a page outline is displayed.
I strongly suggest that they should be adopted for all new and existing Web development projects, because:
- They are widely understood by screen readers, including JAWS, NVDA and Window-Eyes;
- They are HTML attributes not elements, so older browsers silently ignore them;
- And, therefore they are low-risk;
- They can be used with HTML 4, XHTML 1/1.1 and HTML5.
The landmark roles are:
WAI-ARIA roles in HTML5
If you choose to use the new HTML5 'sectional' elements use the WAI-ARIA role too -- that is [nav role=navigation] ... [/nav]. There is more consistent support for WAI-ARIA roles among assistive technology than there is for the sectional elements.
There are some example code snippets and useful links below.