From HTML to ARIA Tabs, A Travelog

Tabs – a 3-step journey from HTML to ARIA

This article is an accompanyment to Danger! Testing Accessibility with real people

Here we take you through the steps of constructing the examples used in that article, paying particular attention to how we transform the functional html tabs with no screen reader semantics to a full-fledged tab implementation. We will make scenic stops along the way where we explain the importance of what we are adding. Photo opportunities are optional.

The basic Tabs without ARIA example is an online version of the halfway point of this journey, (after step 2), whilst tabs with ARIA example is the destination.

For a better understanding of ARIA, what it is and how to use it, we recommend giving The Accessibility Tree: A Training Guide for Advanced Web Development a spin. Then consult the ARIA authoring practices guide for advice on how to implement specific widgets, which has a very good entry for tabs.

Our goal is to make tabs on the web behave like tabs on the desktop. We’ll use some good old fashioned HTML as the basis, then enhance it as we go. In this exercise we create a tabbed form where a user provides contact information )home, work, or other). We don’t want to overload the user with unnecessary form fields, so we let them first choose the type of contact information they wish to provide so we can present only the form fields relevant to that information.

Step 1: The basic HTML

Here is the basic HTML code for our tabs example. (the CSS code is left out but is available in either of the online examples.

Note, due to formatting differences, section elements are used instead of div elements as seen within the live examples. Please use the live examples by saving them locally to run the code, since this will prevent any special character markup from clogging the works.


<h2>My preferred contact information</h2>
<ul id="tabs">
        <li><a id="homeTab" href="#home" class="tab selected">Home</a></li>
        <li><a id="workTab" href="#work" class="tab">Work</a></li>
        <li><a id="otherTab" href="#other" class="tab">Other</a></li>

<section id="home" class="tabcontent">
        <h3>Home contact information</h3>
        <p>Lots of input fields that do not matter for the purposes of demonstrating tabs.</p>

<section id="work" class="tabcontent hidden">
        <h3>Work contact information</h3>
        <p>Lots of input fields that do not matter for the purposes of demonstrating tabs.</p>

<section id="other" class="tabcontent hidden">
        <h3>Other Contact Information</h3>
        <p>Lots of input fields that do not matter for the purposes of demonstrating tabs.</p>


Note how we use CSS

  • To make links visually look like tabs.
  • To visually indicate which tab is selected
  • To display tabpanel content
  • To hide inactive tabs.

The only CSS understood by assistive technologies is the hidden class.

Step 2: Add the desired keyboard functionality.

To all intents and purposes, ARIA is a screen reader only technology (though some speech recognition tools have limited support). People rely on the keyboard for many different reasons though, so getting the keyboard interaction in place is a fundamental next step.

Like tabs on the desktop, it should be possible to move focus onto the currently selected tab, cycle through the available tabs using the arrow keys, select one, then move focus from the selected tab to the panel of content that is currently displayed.

We use the tabindex attribute to handle keyboard focus. The currently selected tab has a tabindex of 0, making it focusable. The rest of the tabs have tabindex -1. If the html base element for a tab is natively focusable (such as a link( we don’t need to set tabindex=”0″ on the currently selected tab.

When the arrow key is pressed, we:

  • Make the newly selected tab focusable (adding tabindex of 0 or removing tabindex=”-1″ if the element is natively focusable.
  • Take the old tab out of focus order (by adding tabindex of -1).

This method is known as roving tab index and ensures that only the active tab is in the focus order.

Important notes on tab selection.

According to the ARIA 1.1 authoring practices guide, (that we’re working on at W3C), a tab may be selected when an arrow key moves focus to it or when the space and enter keys are pressed with focus on the tab. The difference depends on the interface and the way the content is rendered.

In either case, to ensure accessibility across devices and with various assistive technologies, onclick must be used as the trigger to select a tab, and not onfocus or any other key event. For example when an arrow key is used to select a tab, it should trigger the onclick handler for the tab that is to be selected. This ensures that a tab cannot be opened accidentally on touch screen devices, where onfocus is triggered automatically, and prevents the tabs from becoming unusable because a key press is required on a device that has no keyboard.

Moving focus to the start of a tabpanel as soon as a tab is selected is not something everyone will find helpful, especially if you decide not to implement the keyboard handling we mention above. What if someone selects the wrong tab, or decides the tab wasn’t the one they wanted? You’ve made an assumption about what that person wanted to do, and with rare exceptions we’re not fond of people making those sort of assumptions on our behalf.

You can view the JQuery code that handles the keyboard interaction on the “Tabs with ARIA” example page linked to above.

Yes, but what about the ARIA?

Once the basic interaction has been tested with mouse, keyboard and touch, it’s time to add some ARIA to enhance the experience for screen reader users.

Step 3: Add required ARIA roles.

Now let us add the required ARIA roles to our content.

  1. Add role=”tablist” to the <ul> container that holds all the tabs. This tells assistive technologies that a set of tabs is coming up and allows them to respond in the way most beneficial to the user. Screen readers, for instance can switch from browse mode into interactive or forms mode, which passes the keyboard events directly to the webpage instead of intercepting them.
  2. Add role=”tab” to each of the <a> elements that represent those tabs. This is what tells the screen reader to forget the HTML consists of a list of links, and instead tell the user it’s a set of tabs. Make sure to always add role=”tab” on the element that has the onclick Javascript event.
  3. Add role=”presentation” to each of the <li> elements. We need to use the <li> elements so the underlying HTML structure is usable on older devices (that don’t support ARIA), but the presentation role is what stops screen readers that do support ARIA from announcing the list items and enables them to calculate and announce the number of tabs in the tablist along with the relative position of the selected tab (e.g. “tab 2 of 3” for the work tab in our example.
  4. Add role=”tabpanel” to the <section> containers. This enables the screen reader to announce the beginning and the end of the visible tabpanel content.


<h2>My preferred contact information</h2>
<ul id="tabs" role=”tablist”>
        <li role=”presentation”><a id="homeTab" href="#home" class="tab selected" role=”tab”>Home</a></li>
        <li role=”presentation”><a id="workTab" href="#work" class="tab" tabindex="-1" role=”tab”>Work</a></li>
        <li role=”presentation”><a id="otherTab" href="#other" class="tab" tabindex="-1" role=”tab”>Other</a></li>

<section id="home" class="tabcontent" role=”tabpanel”>
        <h3>Home contact information</h3>
        <p>Lots of input fields that do not matter for the purposes of demonstrating tabs.</p>

<section id="work" class="tabcontent hidden" role=”tabpanel”>
        <h3>Work contact information</h3>
        <p>Lots of input fields that do not matter for the purposes of demonstrating tabs.</p>

<section id="other" class="tabcontent hidden" role=”tabpanel”>
        <h3>Other Contact Information</h3>
        <p>Lots of input fields that do not matter for the purposes of demonstrating tabs.</p>


Step 4 (final step): Adding the ARIA attributes.

Finally, let’s add theARIA attributes that provide important context info for screen readers:

  1. Add the aria-controls attribute to each tab element. Its value is the id of the tabpanel whose display state is controlled by the tab. This attribute provides a programmatic context between the tab and its associated tabpanel. This programmatic context is important, and has already been turned into a keyboard shortcut (JawsKey-alt-m) using Jaws and Firefox. We expect more user agents to implement similar functionality.
  2. Add the attribute aria-labelledby to each tabpanel element. Its value is the ID of the tab that controls it. This is the reverse of the relationship explained in the above step and could also be used by assistive technologies, e.g. to provide a keyboard shortcut from the tabpanel to its associated tab.
  3. Add aria-selected=”true” to the currently selected tab and aria-selected=”false” to tabs that are not selected. Note how we used a CSS class to do the same visually? This is important, because screen reader user can see which tab is selected without switching to forms mode. Most screen readers automatically switch to forms or application mode when screen reader focus hits a tablist (to pass the keyboard keys directly to the page) , but advanced screen reader users often choose to override this behaviour.
  4. (optional) add aria-orientation to the tablist to indicate the direction (vertical or horizontal) of the visual tab layout. This can also indicate which set of arrow keys (up down, or left/right) to use for selecting tabs. Keep in mind that if the associated tabpanel has a lot of content, sighted keyboard only users may want to use the arrow keys up and down to scroll the page, so a horizontal set of tabs with right/left arrow keys might provide a better experience for that user group.


<h2>My preferred contact information</h2>
<ul role="tablist" id="tabs">
<li role="presentation"><a role="tab" aria-selected="true" aria-controls="home" id="homeTab" href="#home" class="tab selected">Home</a></li>
<li role="presentation"><a role="tab" aria-selected="false" aria-controls="work" id="workTab" href="#work" class="tab" tabindex="-1">Work</a></li>
<li role="presentation"><a role="tab" aria-selected="false" aria-controls="other" id="otherTab" href="#other" class="tab" tabindex="-1">Other</a></li>

<section role="tabpanel" aria-labelledby="homeTab" id="home" class="tabcontent">
<h3>Home contact information</h3>
<p>Lots of input fields that do not matter for the purposes of demonstrating tabs.</p>

<section role="tabpanel" aria-labelledby="workTab" id="work" class="tabcontent hidden">
<h3>Work contact information</h3>
<p>Lots of input fields that do not matter for the purposes of demonstrating tabs.</p>

<section role="tabpanel" aria-labelledby="otherTab" id="other" class="tabcontent hidden">
<h3>Other Contact Information</h3>
<p>Lots of input fields that do not matter for the purposes of demonstrating tabs.</p>


And we have arrived at our destination, “tab widget city”. A couple of years ago we would have said that the place is a bit of a mess, with inconsistent implementation and assistive technology support making it unreliable and confusing for the user. Today we can confidently say it is a more accessible place with the ARIA markup. But there is still room for improvements, both in terms of the authoring consistency and how assistive technologies take advantage of that markup.

Accessibility requires a lot of players to do their part but without the necessary semantic information that ARIA provides we never give user agents a chance to create a better world for those who need to access web content in an alternative and creative fashion.

Also, don’t forget that you can use Visual ARIA to visually display ARIA usage during development to aid in this process.

Co-authors: Birkir Gunnarsson from Deque Systems, Bryan Garaventa from SSB BART Group, Lèonie Watson from The Paciello Group (TPG), and Matt King from Facebook.


Reflections in Jagged Chrome

Running my thumb along the edge, the points sharp by touch;
my thoughts turn inward, wisps of memory for the soul to dredge;
the splintering of reality at dusk.


Stark mountains there, torn metal thrusting into the sky;
forever tracing the shadows edge;
awry, an epoch dwelling on the terminator between light and dark.


Jagged peaks still sharp enough to cut;
blood trickling down to streams and rivers,
pooling in valleys in times of flood.


Reflections there, from the past,
liquid in metal refracted in light,
glare from a thousand suns beating down;
smear of a billion stars in the ink of night;
haunting beauty of a smile, now lost forever in time;
bone white shard of a sickle moon shredding clouds in flight;
the softness in her eyes, gazing back into mine.



(Bryan Garaventa, 2016)

The Wanderer

He was only a nomad, as many attest,
so not to worry whence fell the blow
that broke his quest and struck him low.

Nothing was found in the aftermath,
though many searched the misty paths
hoping to uncover the slightest hint
that one existed with such a craft.

This farce began when long ago
a yearly fair was thence decreed
by the ruler of that wooded realm,
ensconced within his armored keep.

The people though, ever oblivious
to the rigidity of their plight,
beheld this event with the complaisant fervor
that appeasements oft incite.

Beneath the shadowy arches of leafy boughs
hung paper lanterns, haphazardly strewn,
twisting in the winds from leaden clouds;
casting light in dazzling hues.

Groups paraded to and fro,
shallow dandies oft to crow
and strut betwixt the silhouettes
of dancers with their limbs aglow.

Trade was brisk throughout the night,
lovers paid lovers led in tow,
masquerades to cover up
the darkness in their soul.

Swirling sparks were cast in flight,
tempting angels spun and rolled,
a greasy magician yet to swindle
a piece or two of gold.

Amidst the sounds of desperate laughter,
pipes and drums and flutes were merged
into an ever roaring tidal surge
of merriment unmastered.

Within a clearing, tucked away,
a bonfire snapped, cracked, and swayed,
bathing all in lurid light
as the drunkards drank their pay away.

No one noticed his arrival,
a bent old man, gnarled with time,
quietly intent on the glowing embers;
torments reflected within his mind.

As a pebble causes ripples in a pond to spread,
time first stretched, then slowed, then stopped,
as everyone became enthralled
by the pall of utter dread.

The old man stood, stooped with age,
demonically lit by the burning coals,
observing his captive host as sage
condemner of their souls.

“See for thyself what thou hath wrought,” whispered he,
and all that were bound throughout the land, heard his words,
trembling at the fear now stirring
within their hearts, like restless birds.

The bonfire danced merrily,
straining at its bonds in glee,
popping and crackling joyfully
as its captors could not flee.

All those present within the wood
were frozen thus, a terrible jest;
their deceits; designs; desires laid bare
to all; naked to the rest.

Frigid winds began to blow,
mournfully howling betwixt the trees;
storm clouds scudded across the sky;
rumbling thunder shook the leaves.

Watching carefully, the old man waited,
wondering if he would be displaced
before the enlightenment he began
could willfully be embraced.

While a distant rumble began to grow,
a cloud of dust was seen to drift
ever nearer through the wood,
as horseman pounded across the rift.

Smiling sadly, the old man turned
to face the one as yet beguiled,
unable to fathom how one forsook
so many souls, however vile.

Long ago, before this fated confrontation,
the king suspected that a spirit dwelt
deep within his wooded realm,
never seen, though often felt.

So the king, shrewd and cunning,
devised a plan that would in time
unite the hatred of his people
by implying foul design.

He thus contrived a yearly fair;
whereby his subjects must attend
to sing and dance and set the snare
for the entrapment near the fen.

Nevertheless, year after year,
no sign of the being haunting the man
was ever found, inciting fear
and anger throughout the land.

Now though, finally,
he would have the one who plagued his nights,
chipping away at his sanity
with imaginary frights.

The king and his soldiers surrounded the spirit,
weapons to hand as they started to ride
in for the kill, poised to spear it
through the heart inside.

Before the king could slay his foe,
the old man looked to the sky in wroth,
to storming clouds through flakes of snow;
raising his blazing staff aloft.

“See for thyself what thou hath wrought!”,
the old man screamed in the rising wind,
as a bolt of lightning was thence unleashed,
blinding all as it struck him.

When sight returned to the petrified throng,
none could recall who had come
to free them from the siren song
that disillusion won.

So the king returned to his armored keep,
unsatisfied, yet again,
forever obsessing on what he had and lost;
failing to comprehend.

His people resumed their torpid lives,
unable to fathom how close they had been
to the freeing of their minds,
though all felt the ache of loss within.

He was only a nomad, as many attest,
so not to worry whence fell the blow
that broke his quest and struck him low.

(Bryan Garaventa, 2013)

Why Guns are Fun in American Society

With all of the recent publicity about escalating gun violence in the United States, and proposals for and against legislation to moderate this, I’ve been thinking about the attraction that people have for guns, and why it is that legislation alone will never work to solve this problem. 


I grew up with guns. My dad and uncles had them, and mostly they were used for hunting when we lived in northern California. When I was little, I used to play with toy pistol cap guns that would make a popping sound when the tape was rolled into them [1]. During the summers, my cousins and I would shoot each other with water pistols, some shaped like Uzi submachine guns that would repeat fire when the trigger was held down, and you could even add red food coloring so that it looked like blood! When I was ten, I wanted nothing more than my very own BB gun, just like the kid in The Christmas Story [2], which I finally got when I was ten. I was also given a BB gun pistol with chrome plating, which looked just like a real gun like in the movies, which was fascinating; it was totally impractical and completely useless for anything, but it looked real, and that was all that mattered to me. I could pretend to shoot bad guys with it, just like I saw in the movies. When I was thirteen, I was given a 20 gage shotgun, which I learned how to disassemble clean and use, and this is the gun that I used to shoot myself in the head when I was fourteen. 


Guns were first introduced in the Americas when European conquistadors and settlers arrived to populate them, which were used for hunting, protection, and to kill the natives [3]. Guns have been an intrinsic part of American civilization ever since. They were needed to win the American Revolution [4]. They were needed to populate the western migration of settlers into the lesser populated regions of America [5]; protecting homesteads from natural predators and to maintain some semblance of order for communities as well as hunting for food. They were needed for Americans to kill each other during the Civil War [6]. They were needed during the Wild West for law enforcement [7]. In the early 1900’s, Thompson submachine guns could conveniently be purchased by mail order or from the local hardware or sporting goods store [8], then law enforcement needed guns to protect themselves from criminals who owned Thompson submachine guns. And so on, throughout American history. 


There is a part of human nature that has always been violent, but as part of modern civilization, we should be able to overcome this. So why is the problem only getting worse? It’s not just the easy availability of guns, but a combination of many factors. 


One large factor is the entertainment industry. 


As early as the beginning of the 1900’s, there has been a cultural fascination with American criminal folk heroes, including the Sundance Kid [9], Billy the Kid [10], and Bonnie and Clyde [11], plus violent counterparts such as Doc Holliday [12] and Wyatt Earp [13]; which many movies have been made to depict. The role of the Mafia has equally been glorified in American entertainment as well [14], including such movies as The Godfather and shows such as The Sopranos. The same is true for the depiction of inner city gang violence in American culture [15]. 


This is true for the music industry as well, which started to become more prevalent in the 1990’s with the popularity of some edge Rap performers pushing the envelope. One such was the release of Cop Killer by Ice-T [16]. Additionally, the use of violent and misogynistic lyrics in popular Rap and Hip-Hop songs since the early 2000’s have been tied to a rise in physical abuse since that time [17]. 


This is also true for the video game industry, where violence and crime against people in some games earns points and rewards. In a recent study, it was proven that children and young adults who play violent video games have much more difficulty exercising self-control [18], including such popular games as Grand Theft Auto, where it was possible to steal cars, have sex with a prostitute then kill her afterwards to get their money back, and kill police officers to gain additional points. In 2013, Guinness World Records announced: “Guinness World Records can today confirm that the launch of Grand Theft Auto V has broken six new world records including the Highest revenue generated by an entertainment product in 24 hours and the Fastest entertainment property to gross $1 billion.” [19]. 


A second large factor is the growth of narcissism in American society. 


In a recent FAQ regarding The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement [20], it states: 


“We know that narcissism has increased over time among individuals based on several datasets. College students now endorse more narcissistic traits than college students did in the 1980s and 1990s; in one large sample the change seemed to be accelerating after 2002. An Internet sample of the general population also showed higher narcissism scores among younger people than older people. Perhaps most disturbing, a 2005 study using a large, randomly selected sample of Americans found that nearly 1 out of 10 people in their twenties had experienced NPD – the more severe, clinical-level form of the trait. Only 1 out of 30 people over 64 had experienced NPD in their lifetime – even though they had lived 40 more years than the people in their twenties and thus had that much more time to experience the disorder. This suggests a large increase in NPD over time.” 


“The Narcissism Epidemic covers a broad range of cultural symptoms, including increases in materialism, entitlement, public violence and aggression, self-promotion, and the desire for uniqueness.” 


In an article published in 2010 by Psychology Today, titled Shocker: Empathy Dropped 40% in College Students Since 2000 [21], it states: 


“College students who hit campus after 2000 have empathy levels that are 40% lower than those who came before them, according to a stunning new study presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science by University of Michigan researchers. It includes data from over 14,000 students.” 


“Worse, much of the time that used to be spent playing outdoors is now spent in front of screens. Television, obviously cannot teach empathy. Even nonviolent kids’ TV, research finds, is filled with indirect aggression and linked to increased real-world bullying.” 


A third large factor is dark propaganda in American society. 


The concept of propaganda has existed within all societies for as long as societies have existed. In The Story of Propaganda by the American Historical Association [22], it states: 


“In peacetime the promotional activities of democratic governments usually consist of making the citizens aware of the services offered by a given department and of developing popular support for the policies with which the department is concerned. The purpose is to make these services “come alive” to the everyday citizen, and in the long run official information and promotion tend to make the average man more conscious of his citizenship. If the public is interested in the work done in its name and in its behalf, intelligent public criticism of governmental services can be stimulated.” 


The dark side of propaganda however, can corrupt the minds of a society. In an article titled Enemy Propaganda by the American Historical Association [23], it states: 


“Hitler is the arch propagandist of our time. These are examples of his strategy in attempting to mold the opinions and attitudes of his intended victims to his own purposes. Division, doubt, and fear are the weapons he uses within one nation and among Allied countries arrayed against him. His purpose is summed up in his own phrase-to sow “mental confusion, contradiction. of feeling, indecision, panic.” ” 


This tactic is alive and well in America, and with the ever present availability of online news resources and social media, dark propaganda can easily be spread to millions instantly. 


In a recent article titled Beware of the online war of propaganda by USC News [24], it states: 


“As more people get news from social media, the spread of misinformation is a risk.” 


“The growing popularity of social media raises all sorts of questions about online security. According to a recent Twitter SEC filing, approximately 8.5 percent of all users on Twitter are bots – fake accounts used to produce automated posts. While some of these accounts have commercial purposes, others are influence bots used to generate opinions about a certain topic.” 


This concept is important, as noted in an article titled Media’s Use of Propaganda to Persuade People’s Attitude, Beliefs and Behaviors by Stanford University [25], where it states: 


“As a result of our increasing sophistication and to build our civilization, we have created and environment so complex, so fast-paced, and information-laden, that we must increasingly deal with it in the fashion of the animals we long ago transcended. Thus, from the case studies on how the media uses propaganda, we can understand that the media does more than presentation facts and information. The media has the ability to exploit persuasive tactics to the specific definition of propaganda: the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person. Indeed, as we have shown, this does not have to be the “in your face,” World War II propaganda. Instead, the presentation is subtle and unaware to the untrained eye, so that even slight difference in the presentation can help change contextual understanding.” 


The spreading of false news is a prime example of this type of propaganda, the danger of which is illustrated in a recent personal account titled Fox News – Clear and Present Danger to America [26]. 


“These are people who I used to have spirited but intelligent political discussions with. That’s gone now. Those people are gone.” 


“In all other ways, they remain competent, functioning adults. My mom still works, they both are very computer-literate and active. Yet they believed that Dearborn, Michigan was under Sharia law. They believe that Planned Parenthood is selling baby parts for profit. They believe our President is a Kenyan Muslim Socialist.” 


As part of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, we enjoy freedom of speech. This is a critical asset for a democracy. However, there is a dark side to this, because many people in our society will believe anything if it sounds like news. 


This was exploited by William Randolph Hearst in the late 1800’s as noted in his biography [27]: 


“The Daily Examiner became young Hearst’s laboratory, where he gained a talent for         making fake news and faking real news in such a way as to create maximum         public shock.” 


The same tactics are being used today to spread false news to millions through the Internet. This can be observed in an article titled NASA Confirms Earth Will Experience 15 Days Of Complete Darkness in November 2015 by NewsWatch33 [28]: 


“WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEWSWATCH33) – NASA has confirmed that the Earth will experience 15 days of total darkness between November 15 and November 29, 2015. The event, according to NASA, hasn’t occurred in over 1 Million years.” 


As opposed to an article titled Earth to face a 6-day blackout, viral hoax cites NASA as saying by RT [29]: 


“The original report was   published on a satirical news site, citing NASA   administrator Charles Bolden as the source.” 


“Bolden’s emergency preparedness video was taken out of context to   add weight to the report.” 


“When viewed as a whole, however, it becomes clear that Bolden was   discussing emergency preparedness in case of an earthquake or   hurricane, in order to help US families to be ready for such   scenarios.” 


“Still, many people reacted in panic, as the story went viral on   Twitter.” 


The spreading of dark propaganda through seemingly trustworthy news sources is very dangerous for American society, because this constitutes an abuse of our freedom of speech, and spreads malcontent and divisiveness where there should be none. 


A fourth large factor is population growth and economic disparities. 


According to the Population Clock from the United States Census Bureau [30], there is a net gain of one person every thirteen seconds. With this constant population growth in mind, the division of economic disparities in the United States is literally growing wider every minute of every hour every day. 


In a recent article by Scientific American titled Economic Inequality: It’s Far Worse Than You Think [31], it states: 


“According to Pew Research, most Americans believe the economic system unfairly favors the wealthy, but 60% believe that most people can make it if they’re willing to work hard.” 


“In a candid conversation with Frank Rich last fall, Chris Rock said, “Oh, people don’t even know. If poor people knew how rich rich people are, there would be riots in the streets.” The findings of three studies, published over the last several years in Perspectives on Psychological Science, suggest that Rock is right. We have no idea how unequal our society has become.” 


“The average American believes that the richest fifth own 59% of the wealth and that the bottom 40% own 9%. The reality is strikingly different. The top 20% of US households own more than 84% of the wealth, and the bottom 40% combine for a paltry 0.3%. The Walton family, for example, has more wealth than 42% of American families combined.” 


The results of this are discussed in an article by Fortune titled Wealth inequality in the U.S. is 10 times worse than income inequality [32], where it states: 


“Furthermore, there’s reason to believe that such levels of inequality can have even worse consequences. The late historian Tony Judt addressed these effects in Ill Fares the Land, a book on the consequences of the financial crisis, writing:” 


“There has been a collapse in intergenerational mobility: in contrast to their parents and grandparents, children today in the UK as in the US have very little expectation of improving upon the condition into which they were born. The poor stay poor. Economic disadvantage for the overwhelming majority translates into ill health, missed educational opportunity, and-increasingly-the familiar symptoms of depression: alcoholism, obesity, gambling, and minor criminality.” 


“In other words, there’s evidence that rising inequality and many other intractable social problems are related. Not only is rising inequality bad for business, it’s bad for society, too.” 


A fifth large factor is the mental health of those effected by all of these factors and the impact of stress on the human psyche. 


In an article by World of Psychology titled How Stress Affects Mental Health [33], it states: 


“Chronic stress increases the risk of developing health problems including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and a weakened immune system. Chronic stress also affects a person’s mental health. Many studies show a correlation between stress and the development of mood disorders such as anxiety disorders and depression.” 


“According to the American Psychological Association’s latest stress survey, 66 percent of people regularly experience physical symptoms of stress, and 63 percent experience psychological symptoms.” 


“Previous research has found physical differences in the brains of people with stress disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and those without. One of the main distinctions is that the ratio of the brain’s white matter to gray matter is higher in those with stress-related mental disorders compared to those without.” 


“This study shows that the oligodendrocyte cells might play a key role in long-term changes to the brain that could lead to mental health problems. The researchers also believe that the stem cells which, due to chronic stress, are becoming myelin-producing cells rather than neurons, affect cognitive function, because it is the neurons that process and transmit the electrical information necessary for learning and memory skills.” 


So to conclude, it’s not just an overabundance of guns in America that are to blame for social violence, nor is it simply the lack of sufficient legislation, but rather a combination of all of these factors that continue to negatively affect our society. 


This also includes children, as illustrated recently when an eleven year old boy in Tennessee fatally shot an eight year old girl when she refused to show him her puppy using his father’s shotgun [34]. 


We in American society are becoming desensitized to violence by constantly being bombarded by it [35]. We watch it on television and in movies, we play video games where we earn points for doing it, we listen to music that promotes it, we as children are raised with war games that emulate it using fake weapons to do it, and we as human beings are learning not to care anymore. 


Violence has always existed in all societies around the world since the beginning of humanity, which seems to indicate that this is a fundamental aspect of human nature. However, human beings also have the capacity to be compassionate and empathetic as part of a cohesive society. This is why as intelligent beings we can exercise free will and choose not to be violent. 


What needs to be addressed, are all of the factors that lead up to violence in our society. One clue to this is rather simple, happy and well-adjusted people are typically not violent. This is because they have no reason to be. 


Personally, I don’t know how many of these factors played a part in my childhood. I do know that my favorite movie that summer was The Crow [36] starring Brandon Lee, who died during production from an accidental gunshot wound on the set. It wasn’t until years later that I realized why I liked the movie so much. I’m a romantic, and the provocative darkness portrayed in the film appealed to a darkness within me that I didn’t have the experience needed to properly understand. My favorite song at that time was The Unforgiven, by Metallica [37]. So, for a variety of reasons leading up to the end of that summer in 1994, I decided to end my life.  


The presence of guns in the house made this decision much easier. Even if they were not present though, it would not have changed my decision, though the outcome would have been different. To be perfectly honest, if a person really wants to end their life, they will find a way to do so no matter what tools are available. 


At the time, it never occurred to me to harm anybody else other than myself, physically at any rate. The idea of harming innocents is totally alien to me, and I don’t understand it. At some point though, the practice of murder suicide has become popular for some twisted reason, and this is reflected in all of the mass shootings that we’ve witnessed in recent years. In the early 1990’s, this was even depicted in the music video Jeremy, by Pearl Jam [38]. 


I’ll end this here with this last thought, even though the lack of access to guns would not really make a difference for a person who truly wishes to take their own life, a lack of guns would make it much more difficult for such a person to take the lives of innocents at the same time. 


Also, the multiple factors that lead up to violence in the first place, must be addressed in our society if we are going to have any hope for the future.



1. History Of The Toy Gun
2. A Christmas Story (1983) – IMDb
3. Epic World History: Conquest of Central America
4. Revolutionary War Timeline
5. Westward Expansion – Facts & Summary –
6. A Brief Overview of the American Civil War
7. Cowboys – Facts & Summary –
8. Thompson Submachine Gun
9. Sundance Kid – Thief –
10. Billy the Kid – Criminal –
11. Bonnie and Clyde –
12. Doc Holliday – Criminal, Folk Hero –
13. Wyatt Earp – Law Enforcement –
14. Why Hollywood is married to the mob
15. Drugs, Violence and the Street: The Top 10 Gang Movies of the ’90s – SundanceTV
16. ‘Cop Killer’ controversy |
17. The Influence of Rap and Hip-Hop Music: An Analysis on Audience Perceptions of Misogynistic Lyrics – JournalQuest
18. Violent video games decrease self-control | Psychology Today
19. Confirmed: Grand Theft Auto 5 breaks 6 sales world records | Guinness World Records
20. The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement – Book
21. Shocker: Empathy Dropped 40% in College Students Since 2000 | Psychology Today
22. The Story of Propaganda
23. Enemy Propaganda
24. Beware of the online war of propaganda | USC News
25. Media’s Use of Propaganda to Persuade People’s Attitude, Beliefs and Behaviors
26. Fox News – Clear and Present Danger to America
27. William Randolph Hearst Biography – life, death, history, wife, school, mother, young, son, old, information, born
28. NASA Confirms Earth Will Experience 15 Days Of Complete Darkness in November 2015 | NewsWatch33
29. Earth to face a 6-day blackout, viral hoax cites NASA as saying – RT USA
30. Population Clock
31. Economic Inequality: It’s Far Worse Than You Think – Scientific American
32. Wealth inequality in the U.S. is 10 times worse than income inequality – Fortune
33. How Stress Affects Mental Health | World of Psychology
34. 11-year-old charged with murder in Tennessee 8-year-old’s death – CBS News
35. Desensitizing the Mind to Violence – Dave Grossman, Author
36. The Crow (1994) – IMDb
37. Metallica – The Unforgiven (Video) – YouTube

38. Pearl Jam – Jeremy (Official Video) – YouTube

The Hourglass

I gazed with rapt attention at
the object borne to me alas
by fortuity or fate.

Boundless bourns, wherein constraints
of time did not pertain,
becalmed all force of will within
enchantments cast unknown therein
by lands in sandy waves.

The souls of all who passed before
the turning of this place of yore
from fertileness to waste,
whispered ever nigh across,
and through the weathered hulks of lost
kingdoms in their wake.

One last fortress remained therein
to guard this realm, beset within
by the strifes of ancient folk.
One last bastion yet unchecked
by the turning tides of fate to rest
in lonesome solitude.

The storms that swept across these lands
in days of old, where bells foretold
of prophecies to come and pass,
filled the depths of leafless gutters
and empty streets with arid sands.

Within the age portending such,
where heedless hearts began to clutch
the tempests yet unwoven,
dwelt miracles in gilded halls.
Dreams in waking, never failing
to leave their charges thus enthralled.

These raptures however, in the turning,
could not stand the ever swirling
mists of time, and fearing such,
fled to armored keeps instead;
to be forgotten, one by one,
till all had been undone.

Only the whispering sands can now be heard,
whenever stirred by the restless wind’s caress;
as only the rumble of ancient works
can still be felt, disconcerting from nighted halls,
where great machines run on and on
far beneath the earth.

Could I divine the ages hence,
and beholding fate, determine whence
that time may come again,
I would comply for peace of mind,
though galaxies may rise and fall
and twilight may descend.

(Bryan Garaventa, 2003)

From an Ember Wrought

So the ghosts of our past hold the keys to our heart,
and pay their respects with pain…
An injustice of memory perhaps,
yet what else is there to blame?

Though universally felt, the embers of love
(including the ensuing torments thereof),
may not be entirely delved;
spanning time with arches of fire, it cannot be quelled.

With just one spark; one instance of recognition
to fan desire, the soul is stripped to an aching heart.

As an ember exists amidst the flames,
so too may love have love contained:
One for what was, and will never be-
And one for what is, made radiant
by the wisdom of time and sanctity.

Would be simpler perhaps, understanding fate..,
the hammering of experience on the anvil of our lives
as the forging of our spirit takes place.

“To what end?” I ask, as I shake my head.
For what purpose do we struggle to comprehend?

(Bryan Garaventa, 2001)

Dust Motes by Starlight

I saw it fall from the mist enthralled,
a remnant cast from a lover’s call
long ago, in a  place unknown.

It glimmered, and lightly shone
in the starlight cast from a night alone
in the untold leagues of  solitude.

It might have been a letter rudely
written to a lover shrewdly
awaiting far below.

It might have been  a feather slowly
floating ever down to show me
utter grace within its form.

It might have been a piece torn
from a  gown, to lie forlorn
within the dust yet nigh among.

It might have been a spirit shunned
from paradise, and falling stunned
to lay enduring fell unrest.

It might have been a dove bereft
of life, as in falling left
the courtship of its  mate.

It might have been a prayer too late
uttered from a soul forsaken
by the powers that be above.

Or perhaps, it  might have been true love.

But who am I to lapse
into such conjecturing
as this which I amass?

And yet, even so,
it was laden with intent;
deeply falling into the mist enthralled;
shining brighter as it went,
like a star from hell to heaven.

(Bryan Garaventa, 2002)