WAI – ARIA Landmark navigation extension

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Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of W3C, a few years ago, introduced landmark roles (also known as landmarks”) for easy navigation of web page. An introduction to ARIA landmark roles:

The purpose of this technique is to provide programmatic access to sections of a web page. Landmark roles (or “landmarks”) programmatically identify sections of a page. Landmarks help assistive technology (AT) users orient themselves to a page and help them navigate easily to various sections of a page.

They also provide an easy way for users of assistive technology to skip over blocks of content that are repeated on multiple pages and notify them of programmatic structure of a page. For instance, if there is a common navigation menu found on every page, landmark roles (or “landmarks”) can be used to skip over it and navigate from section to section. This will save assistive technology users and keyboard users the trouble and time of tabbing through a large amount of content to find what they are really after, much like a traditional “skip links” mechanism. (Refer to User Agent Notes above for specifics of AT support). A blind user who may be familiar with a news site’s menu, and is only interested in getting to the top story could easily navigate to the “main” landmark, and bypass dozens of menu links. In another circumstance, a user who is blind may want to quickly find a navigation menu, and can do so by jumping to the navigation landmark.

If you are a screen reader user, it’s rather easy to use landmarks using keyboard commands provided by screen reader. But what if you are not a screen reader user? Recent post by Matthew Atkinson of The Paciello Group titled Improving access to landmark navigation has introduced a browser extension that works greatly for non-screen reader users to benefit from landmarks on any web page and browse the page in an easy way. I have installed on Firefox and experience is pretty smooth. All user needs to do is load a web page of choice and click on Landmark navigation extension; displays list of available landmarks as shown in below image.

Screenshot of landmarks showing on ServeOM Inclusion Home page
Screenshot of ServeOM Inclusion home page showing available landmarks using Landmark Navigation extension on Firefox
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Download and install the landmark navigation extension for Firefox, Chrome and/or Opera to tryout yourself.

Wish to know what are the ARIA landmark roles? Read Landmark roles section on WAI-ARIA spec