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Clarification regarding ARIA Combobox

From: Todd Kloots <kloots@yahoo-inc.com>
Date: Thu, 28 Oct 2010 21:55:55 -0700
To: "wai-xtech@w3.org" <wai-xtech@w3.org>
Message-ID: <CE2D259D-7C3D-4294-8493-064FD7A8356D@yahoo-inc.com>
Having just re-read the latest drafts of the ARIA spec and corresponding authoring practices document, I noticed they were out of sync regarding definitions and recommend markup patterns for comboboxes.  Was wondering if this was intentional (perhaps to illustrate that there isn't a single way of doing things?), or if the two documents are just presently slightly out of sync.

The combobox role definition from the ARIA spec defines a combobox as "the combined presentation of a single line textfield with a listbox popup".  And the HTML example that immediately follows that definition shows the "combobox" role applied directly to a text field, with an listbox as its sibling.

Contrast that with the ARIA Authoring Practices document that defines a combobox as "combination of text field, which may be editable, a drop button to choose an item to place in the combo box, and a displayable list of items".  So, this definition includes a button and indicates that the "combobox" role should be applied to a parent element that contains all three controls that the compose the combox (the textfield, button and listbox).

Before the current version of the ARIA spec, I've only seen the pattern as recommended in the Authoring Practices document.  However, in practice we've found the combobox pattern in the current version of the ARIA spec (applying the combobox role directly to the textfield) seems to work best across browsers and screen readers.  

I am curious about the differences between the spec and the Authoring Practices document.  Will there eventually be a consolidated definition and single recommended pattern?  Or is the idea to present a range of patterns, all of which are supposed to be supported equally well for maximum developer flexibility?

Todd Kloots
Accessibility Engineer
Yahoo!, Inc.

Received on Friday, 29 October 2010 04:56:48 UTC

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