Techniques for WCAG 2.0

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ARIA21: Using Aria-Invalid to Indicate An Error Field

Important Information about Techniques

See Understanding Techniques for WCAG Success Criteria for important information about the usage of these informative techniques and how they relate to the normative WCAG 2.0 success criteria. The Applicability section explains the scope of the technique, and the presence of techniques for a specific technology does not imply that the technology can be used in all situations to create content that meets WCAG 2.0.


HTML with Accessible Rich Internet Applications.

This technique relates to:


This technique demonstrates how aria-invalid may be employed to specifically identify fields that have failed validation. Its use is most suitable when:

Note: One of the above two situations may be true for a field which has programmatically associated label and / or instructions that conveys data format, a data range, or the required property.

While it is always preferable to programmatically associate specific error description with the failed field, the page's design or the framework employed may sometimes constrain the author's ability to do so. In these cases, authors may programmatically set aria-invalid to "true" on the fields that have failed validation. This is interpretable mainly by assistive technologies (like screen readers / screen magnifiers) employed by users who are vision impaired. When a field has aria-invalid set to “true”, VoiceOver in Safari announces “invalid data” when the field gets focus; JAWS and NVDA notify the error as an “invalid entry”.

This ARIA attribute has to be set / turned on programmatically. It should not be set to “true” before input validation is performed or the form is submitted. Setting aria-invalid to “false” is the same as not placing the attribute for the form control at all. Quite understandably, nothing is conveyed by assistive technology to users in this case.

When visible text is used to programmatically identify a failed field and / or convey how the error can be corrected, setting aria-invalid to "true" is not required from a strict compliance standpoint but may still provide helpful information for users.


Example 1: Using aria-invalid on required fields

The aria-invalid attribute is used on required fields that have no input. A message above the form conveys that form submission has failed due to this.

A portion of the jQuery code and the HTML form markup follow:

		if ($('#first').val() === '') {
			$('#first').attr("aria-invalid", "true");
		if ($('#last').val() === '') {
			$('#last').attr("aria-invalid", "true");
		if ($('#email').val() === '') {
			$('#email').attr("aria-invalid", "true");
<style type="text/css">
label.failed {
	border: red thin solid;
<form name="signup" id="signup" method="post" action="#">
    <label for="first">First Name (required)</label><br>
    <input type="text" name="first" id="first">
    <label for="last">Last Name (required)</label><br>
    <input type="text" name="last" id="last">
    <label for="email">Email (required)</label><br>
    <input type="text" name="email" id="email">
    <input type="submit" name="button" id="button" value="Submit">

Live example.

Example 2: Identifying errors in data format

Aria-invalid and aria-describedby are used together to indicate an error when the personal identification number (PIN), email address, or start date are not in the expected format. The error message is associated with the field using aria-describedby, and aria-invalid makes it easier to programmatically find fields with errors.

Below is the rendered HTML code for the email address field in Example 1: When an invalid email address is entered by the user such as "" (instead of, the HTML code is:

<div class="control">
<p><label for="email">Email address: [*]</label> 
<input type="text" name="email" id="email" class="error" aria-invalid="true" aria-describedBy="err_1" /></p> 
<span class="errtext" id="err_1">Error: Incorrect data</span></div>

And when no data is entered in the email field, the HTML code is:

<div class="control">
<p><label for="email">Email address: [*]</label> 
<input type="text" name="email" id="email" class="error" aria-invalid="true" aria-describedBy="err_2" /></p>
<span class="errtext" id="err_2">
 Error: Input data missing</span>

jQuery code: jQuery is used to add aria-invalid or aria-describedby attributes as well as the class attribute and append the error text. This is the code that inserts aria-invalid and class="error" but does not associate the error text "incorrect data" with the control programmatically:

$(errFld).attr("aria-invalid", "true").attr("class", "error");
// Suffix error text: 
$(errFld).parent().append('<span class="errtext">Error: Incorrect data</span>');

CSS Code:

input.error {
   border: red thin solid;}
span.errtext {
	margin-bottom: 1em; 	padding: .25em 1.4em .25em .25em;
	border: red thin solid; 	background-color: #EEEEFF;
	background-repeat:no-repeat; 	background-position:right;	

Live example.


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For each form control that relies on aria-invalid to convey a validation failure:

  1. Check that aria-invalid is not set to true when a validation failure does not exist.

  2. Check that aria-invalid is set to true when a validation failure does exist.

  3. Check that the programmatically associated labels / programmatically associated instructional text for the field provide enough information to understand the error.

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.