Techniques for WCAG 2.0

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ARIA11: Using ARIA landmarks to identify regions of a page


Technologies that support Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA).

This technique relates to:

User Agent and Assistive Technology Support Notes

See User Agent Support Notes for ARIA11.


The purpose of this technique is to provide programmatic access to sections of a web page. Landmark roles (or "landmarks") programmatically identify sections of a page. Landmarks help assistive technology (AT) users orient themselves to a page and help them navigate easily to various sections of a page.

They also provide an easy way for users of assistive technology to skip over blocks of content that are repeated on multiple pages and notify them of programmatic structure of a page. For instance, if there is a common navigation menu found on every page, landmark roles (or "landmarks") can be used to skip over it and navigate from section to section. This will save assistive technology users and keyboard users the trouble and time of tabbing through a large amount of content to find what they are really after, much like a traditional "skip links" mechanism. (Refer to User Agent Notes above for specifics of AT support). A blind user who may be familiar with a news site's menu, and is only interested in getting to the top story could easily navigate to the "main" landmark, and bypass dozens of menu links. In another circumstance, a user who is blind may want to quickly find a navigation menu, and can do so by jumping to the navigation landmark.

Landmarks also can help sighted keyboard-only users navigate to sections of a page using a browser plugin.

Landmarks are inserted into the page using the role attribute on an element that marks the section. The value of the attribute is the name of the landmark. These role values are listed below:

There are cases when a particular landmark role could be used more than once on a page, such as on primary and secondary navigation menus. In these cases, identical roles should be disambiguated from each other using a valid technique for labelling regions (see examples below).

Landmarks should supplement native semantic markup such as HTML headings, lists and other structural markup. Landmarks are interpretable by WAI-ARIA-aware assistive technologies and are not exposed by browsers directly to users.

It is a best practice to include ALL content on the page in landmarks, so that screen reader users who rely on them to navigate from section to section do not lose track of content.


Example 1: Simple landmarks

The following example shows how landmarks might be added to an HTML4 or XHTML 1.0 document:

<div id="header" role="banner">A banner image and introductory title</div>
<div id="sitelookup" role="search">....</div>
<div id="nav" role="navigation">...a list of links here ... </div>
<div id="content" role="main"> ... Ottawa is the capital of Canada ...</div>
<div id="rightsideadvert" role="complementary"> advertisement here...</div>
<div id="footer" role="contentinfo">(c)The Freedom Company, 123 Freedom Way, Helpville, USA</div>

Example 2: Multiple landmarks of the same type and aria-labelledby

The following example shows a best practice of how landmarks might be added to an HTML4 or XHTML 1.0 document in situations where there are more than two of the same type of landmark on the same page. For instance, if a navigation role is used multiple times on a Web page, each instance may have a unique label specified using aria-labelledby:

<div id="leftnav" role="navigaton" aria-labelledby="leftnavheading">
<h2 id="leftnavheading">Institutional Links</h2>
<ul><li>...a list of links here ...</li> </ul></div>
<div id="rightnav" role="navigation" aria-labelledby="rightnavheading">
<h2 id="rightnavheading">Related topics</h2>
<ul><li>...a list of links here ...</li></ul></div>

Example 3: Multiple landmarks of the same type and aria-label

The following example shows a best practice of how landmarks might be added to an HTML4 or XHTML 1.0 document in situations where there are more than two of the same type of landmark on the same page, and there is no existing text on the page that can be referenced as the label.

<div id="leftnav" role="navigaton" aria-label="Primary">
<ul><li>...a list of links here ...</li></ul> </div>
<div id="rightnav" role="navigation" aria-label="Secondary">
<ul><li>...a list of links here ...</li> </ul></div>

Example 4: Search form

The following example shows a search form with a "search" landmark. The search role typically goes on the form field or a div surrounding the search form.

<form role="search">
<label for="s6">search</label><input id="s6" type="text" size="20">


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  1. Examine each element with a landmark role.

  2. Examine whether the landmark role attribute is applied to the section of the page that corresponds with that role. (i.e., the "navigation" role is applied to a navigation section, the "main" role is applied to where the main content begins.)

Expected Results

If this is a sufficient technique for a success criterion, failing this test procedure does not necessarily mean that the success criterion has not been satisfied in some other way, only that this technique has not been successfully implemented and can not be used to claim conformance.

Techniques are Informative

Techniques are informative—that means they are not required. The basis for determining conformance to WCAG 2.0 is the success criteria from the WCAG 2.0 standard—not the techniques. For important information about techniques, please see the Understanding Techniques for WCAG Success Criteria section of Understanding WCAG 2.0.