Techniques for WCAG 2.0

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H65: Using the title attribute to identify form controls when the label element cannot be used


HTML and XHTML form controls that are not identified using value, alt, or element content

This technique relates to:

User Agent and Assistive Technology Support Notes


The objective of this technique is to use the title attribute to label form controls when the visual design cannot accommodate the label (for example, if there is no text on the screen that can be identified as a label) or where it might be confusing to display a label. User agents, including assistive technology, can speak the title attribute.


Example 1: A pulldown menu that limits the scope of a search

A search form uses a pulldown menu to limit the scope of the search. The pulldown menu is immediately adjacent to the text field used to enter the search term. The relationship between the search field and the pulldown menu is clear to users who can see the visual design, which does not have room for a visible label. The title attribute is used to identify the select menu. The title attribute can be spoken by screen readers or displayed as a tool tip for people using screen magnifiers.

Example Code:

<label for="searchTerm">Search for:</label>
<input id="searchTerm" type="text" size="30" value="" name="searchTerm">
<select title="Search in" id="scope">

Example 2: Input fields for a phone number

A Web page contains controls for entering a phone number in the United States, with three fields for area code, exchange, and last four digits.

Example Code:

<fieldset><legend>Phone number</legend>
<input id="areaCode" name="areaCode" title="Area Code" 
type="text" size="3" value="" >
<input id="exchange" name="exchange" title="First three digits of phone number" 
type="text" size="3" value="" >
<input id="lastDigits" name="lastDigits" title="Last four digits of phone number" 
type="text" size="4" value="" >

Example 3: A Search Function

A Web page contains a text field where the user can enter search terms and a button labeled "Search" for performing the search. The title attribute is used to identify the form control and the button is positioned right after the text field so that it is clear to the user that the text field is where the search term should be entered.

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Example Code:

<input type="text" title="Type search term here"/> <input type="submit" value="Search"/>
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Example 4: A data table of form controls

A data table of form controls needs to associate each control with the column and row headers for that cell. Without a title (or off-screen LABEL) it is difficult for non-visual users to pause and interrogate for corresponding row/column header values using their assistive technology while tabbing through the form.

For example, a survey form has four column headers in first row: Question, Agree, Undecided, Disagree. Each following role contains a question and a radio button in each cell corresponding to answer choice in the three columns. The title attribute for every radio button is a concatenation of the answer choice (column header) and the text of the question (row header) with a hyphen or colon as a separator.

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  1. Identify each form control that is not associated with a label element

  2. Check that the control has a title attribute

  3. Check that the title attribute identifies the purpose of the control

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.