Understanding Success Criterion 2.5.3: Label in Name

Success Criterion 2.5.3 Label in Name (Level A): For user interface components with labels that include text or images of text, the name contains the text that is presented visually.

A best practice is to have the text of the label at the start of the name.

Intent

The intent of this Success Criterion is to ensure that the words which visually label a component are also the words associated with the component programmatically. This helps ensure that people with disabilities can rely on visible labels as a means to interact with the components.

Most controls are accompanied by a visible text label. Those same controls have a programmatic name, also known as the Accessible Name. Users typically have a much better experience if the words and characters in the visible label of a control match or are contained within the accessible name. When these match, speech-input users (i.e., users of speech recognition applications) can navigate by speaking the visible text labels of components, such as menus, links, and buttons, that appear on the screen. Sighted users who use text-to-speech (e.g., screen readers) will also have a better experience if the text they hear matches the text they see on the screen.

Note that where a visible text label does not exist for a component, this Success Criterion does not apply to that component.

Where text labels exist and are properly linked to the user interface components through established authoring practices, the label and name will normally match. When they don't match, speech-input users who attempt to use the visible text label as a means of navigation or selection (e.g., "move to Password") will be unsuccessful. The speech-based navigation fails because the visible label spoken by the users does not match (or is not part of) the accessible name that is enabled as a speech-input command. In addition, when the accessible name is different from the visible label, it may function as a hidden command that can be accidentally activated by speech-input users.

Mismatches between visible labels and programmatic names for controls are even more of an issue for speech-input and text-to-speech users who also have cognitive challenges. Mismatches create an extra cognitive load for speech-input users, who must remember to say a speech command that is different from the visible label they see on a control. It also creates extra cognitive load for a text-to-speech user to absorb and understand speech output that does not match the visible label.

In order for the label text and accessible name to be matched, it is first necessary to determine which text on the screen should be considered a label for any given control. There are often multiple text strings in a user interface that may be relevant to a control. However, there are reasons why it is best to conservatively interpret the label as being only the text in close proximity.

Conventionally the label for user interface components is the adjacent text string. The typical positioning for left to right languages is:

The rationale for some of these conventions is explained in G162: Positioning labels to maximize predictability of relationships.

It is important to bias towards treating only the adjacent text as a label because liberal interpretations of what constitutes a text label can jeopardize the value of this Success Criterion (SC) by lessening predictability. Isolating the label to the single string in close proximity to the component makes it easier for developers, testers, and end users to identify the label targeted for evaluation in this SC. Predictable interpretation of labeling allows users of speech recognition technologies to interact with the element via its conventionally positioned label, and allows users of screen reading technologies to enjoy consistency between the nearby visible label and the announced name of the component.

Note that placeholder text within an input field is not considered an appropriate means of providing a label. The HTML5 specification states The placeholder attribute should not be used as an alternative to a <label>. However, it is worth noting that "label" in that HTML5 statement is in code brackets and links to the label element. For the purposes of this Label in Name Success Criterion, "label" is not used in such a programmatic sense but is simply referring to a text string in close visual proximity to a component. As such, in the absence of any other nearby text string (as described in the preceding list), if an input contains placeholder text, such text may be a candidate for Label in Name. This is supported both through the accessible name calculation (discussed later) and from the practical sense that where a visible label is not otherwise provided, it is likely that a speech-input user may attempt to use the placeholder text value as a means of interacting with the input.

For the purposes of this SC, text should not be considered a visible label if it is used in a symbolic manner, rather than directly expressing something in human language as per the definition of text in WCAG. For example, 1.4.5 Images of Text describes considerations for "symbolic text characters." In the images of text example "B", "I", and "ABC" appear on icons in a text editor, where they are meant to symbolize the functions for Bold, Italics, and Spelling, respectively. In such a case, the accessible name should be the function the button serves (e.g., "Spell check" or "Check spelling"), not the visible symbolic characters. A similar text editor is shown in Figure 1.

Icons for transforming text, including heading, bold, italic, quote, code, and link, along with icons for ordered and unordered lists and other controls
Figure 1. A detail of the rich text editor in Github, showing a variety of unlabeled icons, including icons resembling text characters.

Likewise, where an author has used a greater-than symbol (">") to mimic the appearance of the right-facing arrow, the text does not convey something in human language. It is a symbol, in this scenario likely meant to mimic the icons used for a "Play" button or a "Next" arrow.

The use of punctuation and capitalization in labels may also be considered optional for the same reason. For example, the colon conventionally added at the end of input labels does not express something in human language, and capitals on the first letter of each word in a label do not normally alter the words' meaning. This is particularly relevant in the context of this SC, since it is primarily aimed at users of speech recognition; capitals and most punctuation are frequently ignored when a user speaks a label as a means of interacting with a control.

While it is certainly not an error to include the colon and capitalization in the accessible name, a computed name of "First name" should not be considered a failure of "First Name:".

Likewise, "Next…" visibly shown on a button could have "Next" as the accessible name. When in doubt, where a meaningful visible label exists, match the string exactly for the accessible name.

Mathematical expressions are an exception to the previous subsection about symbolic characters. Math symbols can be used as labels; for example "11×3=33" and "A>B" convey meaning. The label should not be overwritten in the accessible name, and substitutions of words where a formula is used should be avoided since there are multiple ways to express the same equation. For example, making the name "eleven multipled by three is equivalent to thirty-three" might mean a user who said "eleven times three equals thirty-three" may not match. It is best to leave the formulas as used in the label and count on the user's familiarity with their speech software to achieve a match. Further, converting a mathematical formula label into an accessible name that is a spelled-out equivalent may create issues for translation. The name should match the label's formula text. Note that a consideration for authors is to use the proper symbol in the formula. For instance 11x3 (with a lower or upper case letter X), 11*3 (with the asterisk symbol), and 11×3 (with the &times; symbol) are all easy for sighted users to interpret as meaning the same formula, but may not all be matched to "11 times 3" by the speech recognition software. The proper operator symbol (in this case the times symbol) should be used.

It is important to understand how the accessible name is derived. The Accessible Name and Description Computation 1.1 and the HTML Accessibility API Mappings 1.0 describe how the accessible name is computed, including which attributes are considered in its calculation, and in what order of preference. If a component has multiple possible attribute values that could be used for its accessible name, only the most preferred of those values will be computed. None of the other, less preferred values will be part of the name. For the most part, existing established programmatic relationships between labels and controls are reinforced by the specification.

Other text displayed on the screen that is correctly coded to meet 1.3.1: Info and Relationships is not normally factored into the calculation for the accessible name of a UI component without author intervention (via ARIA labeling techniques). The most common of these are:

Such textual information may constitute part of the component's description. So from both a programmatic viewpoint, and from the conservative tactic of only considering a label to be "adjacent text," neither headings, instructions, nor group 'labels' should normally be considered labels for the purpose of this Success Criterion.

It is important to note that the specification allows authors to override the name calculated through native semantics. Both aria-label and aria-labelledby take precedence in the name calculation, overriding the visible text as the accessible name even when the visible text label is programmatically associated with the control. For this reason, when a visible label already exists, aria-label should be avoided or used carefully, and aria-labelledby should be used as a supplement with care.

Finally, aria-describedby is not included in the Accessible Name computation (instead it is part of the Accessible Description computation). By convention, text associated with a control through aria-describedby is announced immediately after the accessible name by screen readers. Therefore, the context of headings, instructions, and group labels can be provided through the accessible description to assist users of screen readers without affecting the experience of those who navigate using speech recognition software.

Benefits

Examples

Related Resources

Resources are for information purposes only, no endorsement implied.

Techniques

Each numbered item in this section represents a technique or combination of techniques that the WCAG Working Group deems sufficient for meeting this Success Criterion. However, it is not necessary to use these particular techniques. For information on using other techniques, see Understanding Techniques for WCAG Success Criteria, particularly the "Other Techniques" section.

Sufficient Techniques

Advisory Techniques

Although not required for conformance, the following additional techniques should be considered in order to make content more accessible. Not all techniques can be used or would be effective in all situations.

  • @@ If an icon has no accompanying text, consider using its hover text as its accessible name

Failures

The following are common mistakes that are considered failures of this Success Criterion by the WCAG Working Group.

Key Terms

image of text

text that has been rendered in a non-text form (e.g., an image) in order to achieve a particular visual effect

Note

This does not include text that is part of a picture that contains significant other visual content.

A person's name on a nametag in a photograph.

label

text or other component with a text alternative that is presented to a user to identify a component within Web content

Note

A label is presented to all users whereas the name may be hidden and only exposed by assistive technology. In many (but not all) cases the name and the label are the same.

Note

The term label is not limited to the label element in HTML.

name

text by which software can identify a component within Web content to the user

Note

The name may be hidden and only exposed by assistive technology, whereas a label is presented to all users. In many (but not all) cases, the label and the name are the same.

Note

This is unrelated to the name attribute in HTML.

text

sequence of characters that can be programmatically determined, where the sequence is expressing something in human language

user interface component

a part of the content that is perceived by users as a single control for a distinct function

Note

Multiple user interface components may be implemented as a single programmatic element. Components here is not tied to programming techniques, but rather to what the user perceives as separate controls.

Note

User interface components include form elements and links as well as components generated by scripts.

Note

What is meant by "component" or "user interface component" here is also sometimes called "user interface element".

An applet has a "control" that can be used to move through content by line or page or random access. Since each of these would need to have a name and be settable independently, they would each be a "user interface component."