HTML and CSS Reference
Enhancement: Building the Web that Works for Everyone by
To d d P a r k e r, e t a l . ( N e w R i d e r s ) f o r u s e f u l i n f o r m a t i o n o n p r a c t i -
cal uses of ARIA.
A note on screen readers
Houston, we have a problem.
In 2007, I was concerned that no screen reader vendors were participating in the HTML5 specification
process, so I wrote to the W3C to ask it to invite vendors to join. In 2009, I asked HTML editor Ian Hickson
if any vendors had responded. He replied, “A couple did, but only to say they had little time for the stan-
dards process, which was quite disappointing. Since then, though, Apple has ramped up their efforts on
their built-in Mac OS X screen reader software, and we do get a lot of feedback from Apple. So at least
one screen reader vendor is actively involved.”
A recent test ( http://www.accessibleculture.org/research/html5-aria-2011/ ) shows that older versions of
two widely used commercial screen readers cannot properly process content that is marked up with both
HTML5 and ARIA (oh, the irony) or in <nav> elements inside a <header> . Not all screen readers misbe-
have, however; Apple VoiceOver does not omit content, JAWS 12 fixed bugs in versions 10 and 11, and the
open-source NVDA screen reader ( www.nvda-project.org/ ) speaks all content and allows navigation by
Personally, I feel that if you are using the specification the right way, it's not your problem if a browser or
screen reader cannot adequately deal with that content. However, that's my personal opinion; you might
feel differently, or the legal situation where you are might require you to dumb down your code to accom-
modate those screen readers. Of course, they might ix the bugs by the time you read this topic. In the
Yo u a i n ' t s e e n n o t h i n g y e t . A c t u a l l y, t h a t ' s u n t r u e : y o u ' v e s e e n
loads already. So while we're in the zone, let's look at other new
elements of HTML5, and some of the changes from HTML 4. We'll
look at global attributes allowed on any element, as well as wave
“hi” to a few HTML5 features that we won't cover in this topic.
Microdata is a way to give extra semantics to your content with-
out using more HTML elements. It's similar to RDFa and micro-
formats, but is (arguably) simpler.