Techniques for WCAG 2.0

Skip to Content (Press Enter)


C15: Using CSS to change the presentation of a user interface component when it receives focus

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.



This technique relates to:

User Agent and Assistive Technology Support Notes

See User Agent Support Notes for C15.


The objective of this technique is to demonstrate how visual appearance may be enhanced via style sheets to provide visual feedback when an interactive element has focus or when a user hovers over it using a pointing device. Highlighting the element that has focus or is hovered over can provide information such as the fact that the element is interactive or the scope of the interactive element.

Providing visual feedback may be possible through more than one mode. Usually, it is attained through using a mouse to hover over the element or a keyboard to tab to the element.


Example 1: Link elements

In this example, mouse and keyboard focus indicators have been applied to the link elements. CSS has been used to apply a background color when the link elements receive focus.

Here is the content to be displayed:

Example Code:

<ul id="mainnav">
  <li class="page_item">Home</li>
  <li class="page_item"><a href="/services">Services</a></li>
  <li class="page_item"><a href="/projects">Projects</a></li>
  <li class="page_item"><a href="/demos">Demos</a></li>
  <li class="page_item"><a href="/about-us">About us</a></li>
  <li class="page_item"><a href="/contact-us">Contact us</a></li>
  <li class="page_item"><a href="/links">Links</a></li>

Here is the CSS that changes the background color for the above elements when they receive mouse or keyboard focus:

Example Code:

#mainnav a:hover, #mainnav a:active, #mainnav a:focus {
  background-color: #DCFFFF;

Example 2: Highlighting elements that receive focus

In this example, the :focus pseudo-class is used to change the style applied to input fields when they receive focus by changing the background color.

Example Code:

    <style type="text/css">
      input.text:focus {
        background-color: #7FFF00; 
        color: #000;
      input[type=checkbox]:focus + label, input[type=radio]:focus + label {
        background-color: #FF6; 
        color: #000; 
    <form method="post" action="form.php">
      <p><label for="fname">Name: </label>
        <input class="text" type="text" name="fname" id="fname" />
        <input type="radio" name="sex" value="male" id="sm" /> <label for="sm">Male</label><br />
        <input type="radio" name="sex" value="female" id="sf" /> <label for="sf">Female</label>


Working example of this code: Example of highlighting elements that receive focus.


Resources are for information purposes only, no endorsement implied.



For each element able to attain focus:

  1. Using a mouse, hover over the element.

  2. Check that the background or border changes color.

  3. Move the mouse away from the object before attempting keyboard focus.

  4. Using a keyboard, tab to the element.

  5. Check that the background or border changes color.

  6. Check that the background or border changes in color are removed when the element loses focus.

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.