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Alvaro Montoro
Alvaro Montoro

Posted on • Originally published at alvaromontoro.com

No ARIA > Bad ARIA

There is an all-in-one article including every part from this series (if you want prefer to read it all at once instead of "by installments")

Before all accessibility experts start crying foul and cursing my name, let me clarify something: No ARIA is better than bad ARIA. ARIA is not supported by all browsers/screen readers, and it should be a last resort. The way to go should be using semantic HTML when possible.

Unfortunately, using semantic HTML is not always possible and not enough to cover all the cases needed for a good experience. For example, there are widgets and patterns (e.g., tab panels again) that cannot be done using semantic elements and, in those cases, ARIA is a must.

The myth/misconception of "No ARIA > Bad ARIA" is that it leaves out an important part of the equation: where does "Good ARIA" go? And the answer is actually quite simple:

Good ARIA > No ARIA > Bad ARIA
 

We can all agree that bad ARIA is bad. But no ARIA isn't ideal either: the solution to providing a bad experience (bad ARIA) should not be providing a subpar experience (no ARIA). There should be a good experience too!

If a kid is learning to ride a bike and struggles and falls, we don't tell them, "stop! don't ever ride a bike!" Instead, we teach them. We encourage them to keep learning and trying... until they can do it by themselves.

A little kid pushes a bicycle with the help of an adult

Sorry, Timmy. You fell once. No point on trying again. (picture: Tatiana Syrikova)
 

"No ARIA > bad ARIA" perpetuates a false dichotomy. There's good ARIA, too. And we can learn ARIA, practice ARIA, improve ARIA... We won't be good at the beginning, but we will get better and provide a better experience with time and practice than with no ARIA.

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