Does WAI-ARIA even work with WebXR?

Roland Dubois and Thomas Logan look at the camera with puzzled expressions as they ponder WebXR

Roland Dubois and I recently started weekly meetings where we are working collaboratively to investigate and advance the state of accessibility in Web XR experiences.

How many of the well-established and heavily used accessibility features on web-browsers can be translated into the immersive web ecosystem?

We have begun our project focusing on Roland’s aframe-gui component, a graphical user interface (GUI) component library for A-Frame. We applied the Accessible Rich Internet Application API  to his GUI component library with the goal of exploring how current assistive technologies respond and perform on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. We will start a dialogue with the primary manufacturers (Microsoft, Google, Mozilla, and Apple) to understand what can be done to ensure better access to XR for people with disabilities.

The immersive web is a medium extension of the open web and therefore should continue leading in inclusive and accessible technology.

Our first project was exploring the simplest of components in any UI framework. We implemented an example of a button and a link.

We recommend using a button role inside of WebVR to indicate that someone can click the item.

In this example, we can use our voice to issue commands with Android / Chrome / Voice Access. This demonstration shows that the interface can be controlled with the user’s voice only.

In this example, the screen reader announces the name and role of the interface element with macOS / Safari / VoiceOver. This demonstration shows the interface can be navigated and controlled with the keyboard only.

Accessibility Specific Code Additions:

  1. Setting the role attribute. Explored setting both role="button" and role="link on the interactive element
  2. Add an aria-label. For example the first link has  aria-label="Change Color"
  3. Adding tabindex="0" to get the element to receive focus
  4. Adding onfocus andonblur handlers to display a visual red focus rectangle when the GUI element receives keyboard focus
  5. Adding onkeyup handler to listen for ENTER and SPACE so that the component can be controlled from the keyboard.
Platform Tool Notes
iOS / Chrome VoiceOver Neither the aria-label or the role attribute is announced
iOS / Safari Voice Control Neither the button or the link is detected as an interactive element for the voice parser
Android / Chrome TalkBack Neither the aria-label or the role attribute is announced
Android / Chrome Voice Access Able to control both role="link" and role="button"
macOS / Safari VoiceOver Both the aria-label and the role attribute are announced and the control can be interacted with.
macOS / Firefox VoiceOver Both the aria-label and the role attribute are announced and the control can be interacted with.
macOS / Safari Voice Control Neither the button or the link is detected as an interactive element for the voice parse
Windows / Chrome NVDA Both the aria-label and the role attribute are announced and the control can be interacted with.
Windows / Chrome Speech Recognition Neither the button or the link is detected as an interactive element for the voice parse

This is our first post in a series of ongoing experiments. While we currently focus on desktop and mobile/touch devices, we are planning to explore immersive web browsers on VR and AR headsets.

Please share with us your thoughts and feedback, we are looking forward to incorporating your thoughts on inclusive and accessible use cases.

References:

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