This Wiki page is edited by participants of the WCAG Working Group. It does not necessarily represent consensus and it may have incorrect information or information that is not supported by other Working Group participants, WAI, or W3C. It may also have some very useful information.

Using role="heading" to identify headings

(Redirected from Using role=heading)
Jump to: navigation, search


  • 4th Nov, Ready for TF review.
  • WG survey 14 Jan 2013, returned to TF
    • Add use cases:
      • where retrofitting a site where can't change dom because of scripts that depend on existing hierarchy
      • h7 equivalent (AT supported)

User Agent Notes [To be published separately]

  • Jaws 13 and higher supports this technique.
  • NVDA 2012.3 supports this technique.


This technique applies to HTML with WAI-ARIA.

This technique relates to Success Criterion (SC) 1.3.1. (Info and relationships):


The purpose of this technique is to provide a way for Assistive Technologies (AT) to identify a piece of content as a heading. Applying role="heading" to an element causes an AT (like a screen reader) to treat it as though it were a heading.

If there are more than one heading one the page and the heading hierarchy is defined through the visual presentation, the aria-level attribute should be used to indicate the hierarchical level of the heading.

When possible, it is better to use native heading mark-up directly. For example, it is preferable to use <h1> rather than using <div role="heading" aria-level="1">. However, the use of the heading role, instead of heading mark-up, may be necessary, for example, when retrofitting a legacy site where scripts depend on the existing element hierarchy.

The use of the heading role and nesting levels is discussed in WAI-ARIA 1.0 Authoring Practices.


Example 1

This example demonstrates how to implement simple headings using role="heading".

<div role="heading">System Settings</div>
... a list of system settings, with explanations ....

<div role="heading">User Settings</div>
... a list of user settings, with explanations ...

Example 2

This example demonstrates how to implement a level 7 heading using role="heading" and the aria-level attribute. Since HTML only supports headings through level 6, there is no native element to provide these semantics.

<h5>Fruit Trees</h5>
<p>Apples grow on trees in areas known as orchards...</p>
<div role="heading" aria-level="7">Jonagold/div>
<p>Jonagold is a cross between the Golden Delicious and Jonathan varieties...</p>


Related Techniques

  • H42: Using h1-h6 to identify headings
  • H69: Providing heading elements at the beginning of each section of content
  • G141: Organizing a page using headings
  • F2: Failure of Success Criterion 1.3.1 due to using changes in text presentation to convey information without using the appropriate markup or text



  1. Examine each element with the attribute role="heading".
  2. Determine whether the content of the element is appropriate as a heading.
  3. If the element has an aria-level attribute, determine whether the value is the appropriate hierarchical level.

Expected results

  • Check #2 and #3 is true.