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RE: Is it okay to apply "menubar" role, ... etc and related keyboard shortcuts to the main navigation?

From: Joe Chidzik <joe.chidzik@abilitynet.org.uk>
Date: Tue, 3 Jul 2012 07:59:11 -0500
To: "w3c-wai-ig@w3.org" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <4602D70D47EBE642A2B85590FFB33249A988945EB7@34093-MBX-C09.mex07a.mlsrvr.com>

Usually <ul> and <li> elements in a WYSIWYG editor (role="application") will be given ARIA roles "menubar", "menuitem", and "menu", and attributes such as aria-haspopup="true". The application will also be applied some keyboard shortcuts. Here is an demonstration: http://oaa-accessibility.org/example/25/

Although these ARIA roles, attributes, and keyboard shortcuts are usually applied to applications such as a WYSIWYG editor, they might be equally useful when being applied to the main navigation (which has popup sub menus) of a website.

However, I'm not sure if applying the above mentioned roles, attributes, and keyboard shortcuts to the main navigation (role="navigation") will cause confusions or problems to assistive technologies or not. And so far I haven't seen any website do this to its main navigation.

Will it be a benefit or a problem when doing this to the main navigation?

[Joe Chidzik]
Hi Ian, the IBM site uses this approach on the main navigation menu. As a sighted user, I find it beneficial to be able to arrow through menus, rather than tab linearly through a long chain of links. In addition, I found the menu easy to navigate using the JAWS screenreader as well; it was announced as a toolbar, with the links below announced as menu items. Testing with NVDA just caused the main menu items to be read out as "buttons", and the menu items as "links", but it was still quite usable - though less intuitively so.

The only issue with this is that using the arrow keys can represent non-standard, or unexpected behaviour for users. Steve Faulkner responded to a query I had on this topic, and said "A possible method to overcome the unfamiliarity is to provide pseudo tooltip [2] that is displayed when the first item receives focus. this can be used to include brief instructions to the user such as "use arrow keys to navigate" or some such." - you can read the thread at http://webaim.org/discussion/mail_message?id=20720

Received on Tuesday, 3 July 2012 12:59:47 UTC

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