Techniques for WCAG 2.0

Skip to Content (Press Enter)


F59: Failure of Success Criterion 4.1.2 due to using script to make div or span a user interface control in HTML without providing a role for the control



This failure relates to:


This failure demonstrates how using generic HTML elements to create user interface controls can make the controls inaccessible to assistive technology. Assistive technologies rely on knowledge of the role and current state of a component in order to provide that information to the user. Many HTML elements have well defined roles, such as links, buttons, text fields, etc. Generic elements such as div and span do not have any predefined roles. When these generic elements are used to create user interface controls in HTML the assistive technology may not have the necessary information to describe and interact with the control.

The W3C Candidate Recommendation "Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) 1.0" describes mechanisms to provide the necessary role and state information to create fully accessible user interface controls.


Failure Example 1

The following example fails because it creates a checkbox using a span and an image.

  <span  onclick="toggleCheckbox('chkbox')"> 
  <img src="unchecked.gif"  id="chkbox" alt=""> Include Signature 

Here is the scripting code which changes the image source when the span is clicked with the mouse.

  var CHECKED = "check.gif"; 
  var UNCHECKED = "unchecked.gif"; 
  function toggleCheckbox(imgId) { 
  var theImg = document.getElementById(imgId); 
  if ( theImg.src.lastIndexOf(CHECKED)!= -1 ) { 
  theImg.src = UNCHECKED; 
  // additional code to implement unchecked action 
  else { 
  theImg.src = CHECKED; 
  // additional code to implement checked action 

A checkbox created in this manner will not work with assistive technology since there is no information that identifies it as a checkbox. In addition, this example is also not operable from the keyboard and would fail guideline 2.1.


Resources are for information purposes only, no endorsement implied.



  1. Examine the parsed source code for elements which have event handlers assigned within the mark-up or via scripting (indicating that the element is a user interface control).

  2. Check if the role of the control is already defined natively in the mark-up language.

  3. Check if another valid method, such as the assignment of a fitting WAI-ARIA role, has been used to define the role of the control.

Expected Results

If check #2 AND check #3 are false, the failure condition applies.

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.