Sunday March 18, 2007
Why Screen Readers Don’t Support Aural CSS
By Colin Lieberman
In theory, aural style sheets are cool; lots of us have been excited about them for a long time. But screen readers don’t support them, so they’re useless.
In a recent email conversation with some good folks at Freedom Scientific (the makers of JAWS for Windows), I learned why: we (web developers) probably couldn’t apply them well.
Users of screen readers have specific needs, and those of us with a demo version of JAWS we run in 40–minute chunks to test our work don’t really understand what it is to use a screen reader for every interaction with a computer.
This reasoning is fair.
There may be support for aural style sheets in the future, but as a user configurable option (which likely would not be the default for the same reasons given above).
This discussion came about in part because a lot of people are getting excited about the future of HTML, so the current state of standards and implementation is something we need to take stock of.
Freedom Scientific say they’re in touch with the Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI–ARIA) effort. That’s great, but I have some concerns, not the least of which that ARIA seems to be entrenched in XHTML. Take live regions for example: they’re really neat, but rely on XML name spaces. Life needn’t be this complicated — let’s just implement those attributes in HTML.
In a perfect world, the HTML working group will have a good read of the ARIA documents, and bring those ideas into the future of markup.