This week I converted a site from XHTML 1 to HTML5, and as part of this I moved the ARIA landmark role attributes from generic div elements to various new elements. And I got to wondering whether this could have unforeseen consequences.

I know from feedback that the ARIA landmark roles have proved useful for some users of this site, so it would be a bad move if this stopped working because their screen readers didn’t recognise the role attributes on “unknown” elements.

<div role="banner"> vs <header role="banner">

I guess what this boils down to, are there any user agents that (a) support the role attribute and (b) use the DOM as generated by a browser engine that fails to recognise HTML5 elements?

Firefox 2 and Internet Explorer won’t style HTML5 elements (though IE will after applying a little JavaScript magic) but styling isn’t the same as recognised at a basic level.

This seems like an edge case, as most of the reports I’ve found whilst searching have indicated that HTML5+ARIA is a good thing and works, but most of the reports don’t specify versions of user agents used. Does anyone have any links to first hand research into this issue?

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