A very interesting breakdown of why accessibility auditors often see ARIA labels as red flags, deftly explained (as ever) by Eric. (I also must admit that the interactive-only aspect of ARIA labels had gone over my head 😬)
When I encounter too much, or mis-applied aria-label it makes me take notice. This code smell puts me on alert to investigate things more thoroughly, as it most likely indicates accessibility issues.
On the big misconception about ARIA labels:
First off, aria-label is intended to only be used on interactive elements, and not non-interactive ones.
On the best path forward:
If it is important enough to need words, it is important enough to use text content.
On ARIA and styles (I'm still not sure I 100% understand this; is the implication that ARIA is somehow a stylesheet?):
aria-label content will not show up if styles fail to load