Website Accessibility: Learning the Languages

Learning the Languages

Two engineers working on JAVA code with Pearl Logo and image says: Website Accessibility: Learning the LanguagesWhen making websites accessible for assistive readers such as NVDA or JAWS, it is very helpful to know or at least understand computer languages.  Websites use a language that the machine understands. A developer or programmer can tell the machine what they would like it to do. Communicating instructions in an understandable way is imperative. Listed below is a breakdown of different types of computer languages and how they assist when building an accessible website.

It is also important to note computer languages are constantly evolving.  When speaking “tech talk” it is common to hear phrases like “1st gen” or “2nd gen”, etc. This means there are improvements or updates to the language or program.

Common Languages

Let’s begin with an overview of languages commonly used to provide accessibility:

  • HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language. This is the core language of the web.  HTML defines the structure and layout of web pages.  It uses various tags and attributes to do this.  Basic HTML is primarily static.  This means content created with it usually does not change.  A business slogan is an example.  The most current version of HTML is HTML5.1 with .2 coming soon. HTML5.2 is in the development phase to enhance specific types of structural information.
  • XML means Extensible Mark-up Language. W3C developed XML but it differs from HTML.  XML allows customization via tags defined by the programmer and the transfer of data between various applications by using custom tags.
  • In the context of website accessibility, it is important to mention “Accessible Rich Internet Applications” or ARIA. It works well with HTML and HTML5 because it assists with dynamic and interactive content like “click here” or other call to action buttons.  ARIA makes those interactions accessible, so the screen reader user knows what to do.
  • Javascript is another language that works well with HTML and XML.  Javascript and JAVA are two different languages.  People often confuse them.  JavaScript makes it possible to communicate with HTML or HTML5, create animations, calculations, validate forms, and other tasks. JAVA creates items such as applets (a program executed inside another program). Tasks  that you may accomplish with JAVA include interacting with the end-user, reading from files, creating other task-based programs and much more.

In Closing

When discussing accessibility HTML,  XML, ARIA and JavaScript are very important because they provide standardized procedures.  It is possible to hear other terms, but these are the most common and are procedure-oriented. When providing for accessibility, information is grouped into parts, and then broken down further into smaller parts. These parts are considered procedures. Separate parts that all work together to achieve the goal of accessibility!

For additional information please contact us via our site or email the author directly, Dee Moradi at