Accessibility API Mapping Specifications

  • 25 July 2020

One of the most exciting areas of web accessibility continues to be the development and standardization of APIs that bridge the many gaps between web browsers and assistive technologies, such as screen readers, and do so in a cross-platform, operating-system neutral way.

The primary accessibility API specification is the Core Accessibility API Mappings 1.1, which became a W3C Recommendation in December 2017. A feature-complete Core Accessibility API Mappings 1.2 Working Draft also exists, and hopefully will soon be out of its public-comment period.

The Core Mappings specification is part of the WAI-ARIA suite, and it specifically

defines support that applies across multiple content technologies, including general keyboard navigation support and mapping of general-purpose roles, states, and properties provided in Web content via WAI-ARIA.

The important thing to note about the specification is that it is aimed primarily at the creators of user agents: that is, browser makers like Mozilla Firefox.

But even with that audience in mind, as a web developer I find it very useful to look at not only the core accessibility mappings, but at the language-specific API mappings. Those currently include two specifications that have reached W3C Recommendation status:

Another two specifications that extend the Core Accecssibility API Mappings are in various stages of working draft status, including:

Familiarity with these specifications is a real enhancement not just to web development, but for improving one’s understanding of tools like Mozilla Firefox’s Accessibility Inspector. I’m using that tool more and more in my research and development work, and I also plan to make it a part of my web-development fundamentals class this fall.