Safari 4 and Accessibility

This past week, Apple released Safari 4.0 beta. With touted speed enhancements that put it ahead of the competition, the beta reportedly has even pushed Safari’s market share over the 10% hump.

As touched on in “The iPhone and Accessibility“, Apple openly demonstrates a commitment to accessibility in its products. How much they succeed will always be open for debate, but it’s certain that they treat the subject seriously.

Even though alphabetizing has more to do with it than anything else, front and center on their 150 Features page for Safari 4 is Accessibility.

New to Safari 4, according to Apple, is support of Accessible Rich Internet Applications, or ARIA. On the heels of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 becoming a Recommendation this past December, just last week WAI-ARIA was published as a Last Call Working Draft. WAI-ARIA takes web accessibility considerations to the next level, helping establish guidelines for dynamic content using more advanced technologies like Ajax and JavaScript. ARIA opens the door for utilizing such coding to interact with assistive technologies.

Also improved with Safari’s new beta are greater Zoom features — combining keyboard commands, Multi-Touch, and a Zoom button that can easily be added to the toolbar. The user can zoom in and out while text and imagery scale accordingly and keep the layout intact.

These, paired with Apple’s already-integrated VoiceOver screen reading feature, keyboard shortcuts, and the ability to create or download custom stylesheets for desired viewing states, make Safari 4.0 — while certainly not a perfect accessibility experience just yet — appear to be progressing respectably.

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