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2.5. WAI-ARIA

The W3C WAI group has a working draft for ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications), which solves many of the problems with simple markup that would otherwise require scripted solutions. (These solutions include the method of notifying screen readers that a particular DOM element has changed.) It also provides a more dynamic web application approach to associating elements, allowing controls to get paired with the affected elements and enabling a more cohesive experience for users with screen readers or any other clients taking advantage of ARIA.

The “live regions” aspect of the current ARIA working draft introduces a particularly useful set of functionality referenced from XHTML, which (once screen readers other than Fire Vox support it) will render scripts—such as those shown in the “Screen Readers Can Handle Ajax” section of this chapter—in a manner that is rather clumsy and archaic by comparison. It allows elements with the aaa:live attribute set to off, polite, assertive, or rude to not only automatically bring the updated DOM element in question to the user’s attention without losing the current context in the page, but also to the degree specified. When set to off (the default), it will not update the user. When set to polite, it will wait until the user seems idle before informing the user of an update. When set to assertive, it will update the user at the earliest convenient time (generally at the end of the current sentence). When set to rude, it will interrupt whatever the user might have currently been speaking and will in most cases seem quite jarring; fortunately, it will most likely get used only for fatal errors or similar situations.


  

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