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RE: ARIA use in HTML other than for accessibility.

From: Matthew King <mattking@us.ibm.com>
Date: Mon, 4 May 2015 17:17:29 -0700
Message-Id: <201505050018.t450IQ16012798@d03av02.boulder.ibm.com>
To: Bryan Garaventa <bryan.garaventa@ssbbartgroup.com>
Cc: W3C WAI Protocols & Formats <public-pfwg@w3.org>, _mallory <stommepoes@stommepoes.nl>
well said Bryan!

Matt King
IBM Senior Technical Staff Member
I/T Chief Accessibility Strategist
IBM BT/CIO - Global Workforce and Web Process Enablement 
Phone: (503) 578-2329, Tie line: 731-7398
mattking@us.ibm.com



From:   Bryan Garaventa <bryan.garaventa@ssbbartgroup.com>
To:     _mallory <stommepoes@stommepoes.nl>, 
Cc:     W3C WAI Protocols & Formats <public-pfwg@w3.org>
Date:   05/04/2015 04:35 PM
Subject:        RE: ARIA use in HTML other than for accessibility.



> Those whom I trust as a developer to tell me accurate things aren't 
teaching at university. They're working as engineers right now. Most of 
them are more familiar with the field because they're creating it 
> themselves, at companies.

I agree that this is the case now, however I take what many companies 
build apart every day, and I can attest from years of doing this that the 
vast majority of mainstream developers at companies still have a very 
limited understanding of what ARIA does and how it specifically interacts 
with ATs, in many ways causing more problems than it solves when applied 
without this level of understanding.

The power in ARIA is that it directly interfaces with Assistive 
Technologies. This is also the primary danger of it, because if developers 
don't take this into account when using it, they can easily break 
accessibility instead of enhancing it.

A simple example of this is the use of role=alert when applied to a timer 
field that counts the number of seconds displayed there. It may seem 
useful, but since it ties into the alert system on the platform operating 
system, it causes nothing but this information to be constantly repeated 
no matter what a screen reader user is doing on the computer, effectively 
hijacking their system.

> Last time I saw "web development" in higher education, it was still 
espousing <center> and <font> tags and everything in frames. In 2012.

It's true that many old-school learning materials are often out of date 
given the pace of development that we face, but that's no excuse for not 
trying to provide better learning materials for those who are trying to 
learn while still in school.

When provided as E-learning materials, the same materials are available to 
all developers whether they are enrolled in school or not, thus maximizing 
exposure and knowledge transfer. These don't have to be books necessarily, 
but actual interactive online materials that users can learn from, 
provided preferably by those here at the W3C to add weight to their 
validity. This goes beyond the scope of simple tutorials however, which is 
where the background and platform level aspects of ARIA have to be 
conveyed at the same time.

This way new and learning developers won't have to continually return to 
W3Schools for this purpose instead.

> You have gone through this before-- was it something most people in the 
field learned by themselves as well, or something more traditional 
(Computer Science for example)?

To put things into perspective, when I was in school, I was in my early 
twenties and really had no idea what I wanted to do at that time. The 
technology field seemed really interesting though, and everybody seemed to 
be excited about the new developments there. I also realized just how bad 
accessibility for technologies at that time sucked, because I was having a 
terrible time just getting the materials I needed for school in an 
accessible manner. Other things were going on then, and it became 
necessary for me to find work instead of continuing my schooling. So I 
figured I could do both and learn more about the technology field and 
learn programming, hopefully to make things work a bit better.

So I bought outdated eBooks on markup languages, learned them, studied 
online resources and thousands of tutorials and blog posts, discovered how 
many were misguided, full of mistakes and just plain wrong when it came to 
using ATs such as screen readers with them, and had to eventually invent 
my own system to quantify accessible dynamic content management in a way 
that made sense and so that I could really make some progress in building 
interactive web controls accessibly and with consistent results. This also 
required that I learn visually oriented programming as well, such as CSS, 
in order to understand how everything fit together when combined as fully 
functional widgets. Since I can't see, I needed to find or invent tools 
that would allow me to do this, and luckily as time went on others in the 
field coming up against the same challenges were working on parallell 
projects and we were able to share ideas and make this happen.

None of these things were ever easy, and it's taken me over fifteen years 
to learn and build all that I have in order to help others so that they 
may not have to do the same as I.

If things had been different, I would have loved to get a CS degree. I 
don't think it would have made learning web development or ARIA any easier 
at that time, because these disciplins weren't around then as they exist 
now.

The value of the times that we are in now though, gives us a unique 
oportunity to provide real and accurate learning materials for all 
developers, because many of these technologies are sufficiently advanced 
and stable to allow for true education to be possible, where before they 
were not.

What upsets me about these circular conversations about ARIA, is the idea 
that we need to make explaining ARIA so simple that developers don't have 
to learn about accessibility.

I don't have any problem with making ARIA easy to learn, it's the idea 
that developers don't also need to understand how it effects accessibility 
that I find to be a disservice to future developers who actually might 
find these things interesting, instead of just onnorous.

Going back to the original topic, I would love it if technologies had 
in-built logic that automate accessibility especially when using ARIA. The 
fact is though that we don't have magically advanced systems such as these 
yet, and if future engineers are never trained in how to make them this 
way from the outset by having a firm grasp of the concepts involved, we 
never will.

I apologize for the rant, but I really having been banging my head against 
this particular wall for many years.

-----Original Message-----
From: _mallory [mailto:stommepoes@stommepoes.nl] 
Sent: Monday, May 04, 2015 7:26 AM
To: Bryan Garaventa
Subject: Re: ARIA use in HTML other than for accessibility.

On Sun, May 03, 2015 at 04:18:22AM +0000, Bryan Garaventa wrote:
> > Yes tackling it in education is important. But also giving working 
developers resoruces to learn more without the expense involved in further 
education. 
> 
> I agree, but having gone through this particular gauntlet first hand, I 
also know that such educational resources must be first written by those 
who are most familiar with this knowledge in the field, which 
unfortunately does go back to education.
> 

Those whom I trust as a developer to tell me accurate things aren't 
teaching at university. They're working as engineers right now. Most of 
them are more familiar with the field because they're creating it 
themselves, at companies.

Last time I saw "web development" in higher education, it was still 
espousing <center> and <font> tags and everything in frames. In 2012.

You have gone through this before-- was it something most people in the 
field learned by themselves as well, or something more traditional 
(Computer Science for example)?

_mallory
Received on Tuesday, 5 May 2015 00:19:01 UTC

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