Wednesday, January 19, 2011

W3C Moves WAI-ARIA 1.0 to Candidate Recommendation

W3CThe W3C is on a roll this week. It's the post-holiday rush, I think, which is at least making some stuff move forward. I just hope that all these new developments don't get lost among each other.

W3C has just published Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) 1.0 as a Candidate Recommendation (see the email alert or the blog post). WAI-ARIA is a spec that defines methods to make web pages (content, applications, etc.) more accessible to people with disabilities. Beyond just hooks in HTML for accessibility, it's also intended to help with implementations of JavaScript (such as AJAX). Ideally WAI-ARIA is supposed to provide techniques for implementing Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. If the spec is too dense to read, you can get an overview of WAI-ARIA instead.

The W3C's Protocols and Formats Working Group (PFWG) has already received about 350 comments on WAI-ARIA and is now looking for implementation testing to see how practical the specification is for real-world use. The PFWG wants to see at least two implementations of each feature from the specification and so the call is out to developers to help. For those who want to help, the deadline is February 25, 2011 (just over a month away) and the W3C has posted instructions.

Along with the WAI-ARIA announcement, the W3C has also announced that the Role Attribute has published its Last Call Working Draft and will be accepting comments through February 25, 2011. The Role Attribute is intended to allow authors to annotate markup with semantic information about an element's purpose. In addition to uses for device adaptation, server-side processing, and complex data description, it also has a role in accessibility by supporting WAI-ARIA. Which may explain the matching close-of-comments date.

The W3C has a slightly confusing progression of a specification before it is considered a "standard." There are essentially four steps:

  1. Working Draft (WD): This is the first time a proposed specification is shown to the public and open for comment.
  2. Candidate Recommendation (CR): Significant features are mostly locked and feedback is requested in how to implement the standard.
  3. Proposed Recommendation (PR): The specification has been submitted to the W3C Advisory Council for approval. Changes at this point are rare.
  4. W3C Recommendation (REC): The specification is final and endorsed by the W3C. This is what the general public considers a final standard.

If this is confusing, then bear this in mind: CSS 2.1 is a Candidate Recommendation. CSS 2 is a full W3C Recommendation, but the 2.1 revision is still at the second step (see this tongue-in-cheek coverage).

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