ARIA labels

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Overview

Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) labels can be used when native labels aren't possible or don't provide enough context. For example, ARIA labels can be used to name landmarks and connect error messages to form fields. Before using ARIA labels, it's important to understand the different attributes and how to use them properly.

Note:
ARIA labels will override built-in labeling, including text content.

ARIA labeling attributes

There are three related ARIA attributes for labeling:

  • Use aria-label to directly apply a label to the current element.
  • Use aria-labelledby to label an element using the text of one or more elements.
  • Use aria-describedby to provide a description using the text of one or more elements but not label the element.

aria-label

Use aria-label when there is no visible label.

<button aria-label="close">X</button>
<nav aria-label="main">

aria-labelledby

Use aria-labelledby to point to a new label located in another element. It should reference the unique id of the element containing the label.

<aside aria-labelledby="facts">
<h2 id="facts">Some really neat facts</h2>

In this example, the <aside>, a complementary landmark, has the label, or accessible name, Some really neat facts.

aria-describedby

Use aria-describedby to add a description that can be announced by assistive technology. As with aria-labelledby, it should reference the unique id of the element containing the description.

<label for="name">Name (required)</label>
<input type="text" id="name" aria-describedby="error">
<span id="error">Name is required. Please enter your response.</span>

Multiple id references

More than one id can be referenced by aria-labelledby or aria-describedby, including the id on the element itself.

<span class="visually-hidden" id="context">plus context</span>
<a href="#" id="self" aria-labelledby="self context">Link text</a>

In this example, the accessible name of the link is Link text plus context, while the visible link text is Link text.

These concepts can be used for any element that can be labeled using ARIA labels, including tables and table cells, landmarks, and form fields.

When to use ARIA labels

ARIA labels are best supported for landmarks and interactive elements like widgets and form controls. Their support on links is inconsistent, depending on the combination of browser and assistive technology. So when should you use an ARIA label?

In terms of ARIA labels, there are two types of objects:

  • Alerts, dialogs, landmarks, and similar items are named only with ARIA labels.
  • Buttons, form controls, links, tables, images, and other items have built-in naming through content (for example, link text) or another naming feature (for example, a form <label>).

For the first type of object, the answer is simple: Use ARIA labels.

For the second type, the first rule of ARIA provides guidance: if you can name the object using a built-in method, you should.

But sometimes the built-in name is insufficient, and ARIA labels can provide needed context for assistive technologies. Before adding an ARIA label, consider these questions:

  • Should the built-in name be improved instead? If an ARIA label would help people using assistive technology understand the object, would that same information help people not using assistive technology?
  • Instead of changing the name, is a description necessary to provide more information, such as needed formatting on a form field?
  • Will the name need to be translated into other languages? Browser support for translating aria-label is currently limited to Chrome when using the Google Translate API. (Translation should not be an issue for aria-labelledby because it refers to text content.)

As a best practice, the accessible name should match or start with the visible content. This helps people using assistive technologies like voice control to identify the object.

This is document axgb in the Knowledge Base.
Last modified on 2020-03-16 16:02:58.

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