ARIA’s application role

This article first appeared in issue 235 of .net magazine – the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers.

By now you’ll be familiar with ARIA landmark roles such as search, main and navigation. They identify the purpose of a section of content on a page so that people who use assistive technologies (ATs) like screen readers can access information that’s obvious to sighted people at a glance. The role of application does a bit more than act as a landmark on the page: it causes ATs to change the way they behave, so it’s important to understand the implications of using it first.

The application role tells an AT to treat the section of the page like a desktop application, rather than as a conventional web page. To understand what this means, it’s necessary to look at the way many screen readers handle web pages.

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