One of the primary goals of web development is creating an engaging user experience. You’ll often do this by including interactive features and stunning visual elements on your website. However, those aspects aren’t necessarily accessible to every potential visitor, particularly those who rely on screen readers.

Fortunately, there’s a system in place to help all of your users experience the results of your hard work. Incorporating Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) in your site’s HTML takes only a little extra effort, and it can have huge payoffs. This post will introduce you to ARIA and how to use it. Let’s go!

An Introduction to ARIA: What It Is and Why You May Want to Use It

In short, ARIA is a way to specify attributes of HTML so that screen readers can accurately identify them and then relay them to visitors. It’s a key aspect of accessible web development, and helps create more accurate experiences for screen reader users.

This is because incorporating ARIA in your HTML influences the way browsers modify your web pages for screen readers. This modified content is presented in an accessibility tree, and ARIA takes on the task of translating your HTML elements into it.

For example, let’s say you have a page with a checkbox and you’ve used ARIA in your HTML. ARIA will tell the screen reader to inform the user that there is a checkbox on the page, and will indicate whether it’s checked or not. Native HTML can’t do this on its own.

Think about how frequently you use the web, not only in your work but in your day-to-day life. Now imagine if a large portion of the web was unusable for you. You would have access to fewer resources for education, employment, health care, information, communication, and even entertainment.

Using best practices for accessible web development is one way to do your part to make the internet a place of equal opportunity for all, regardless of age or ability. This is considered a basic human right by the United Nations, and is a goal worth pursuing for its own merit.

If that’s not enough to get you invested in using ARIA, though, you may also want to note that accessible development is also useful from a business perspective. It overlaps with Search Engine Optimization best practices, and increases your website’s reach. Plus, in some cases it’s required by law. In other words, there are a lot of reasons to take a few simple steps towards making your site more accessible.

How to Use ARIA in Your WordPress Site’s HTML (3 Key Practices)

We would definitely recommend that you continue educating yourself on ARIA and web accessibility beyond the scope of this post. You may especially want to consider testing your site’s current accessibility.

That said, there are really only three things you need to know to start using ARIA in your WordPress site’s HTML. Learning the practices below should provide you with a solid foundation.

1. Using ARIA With Semantic HTML

Before we discuss how to apply ARIA to your HTML, it’s important to note when it’s appropriate to use it. While native HTML alone doesn’t make for accessible web content, there are some semantic elements that either make ARIA unnecessary, or will conflict with ARIA if it’s not used correctly.

Semantic elements – such as

,

, and