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Technique ARIA12:Using role=heading to identify headings

Applicability

Technologies that support Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA).

This technique relates to 1.3.1: Info and Relationships (Sufficient).

Description

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. The role="heading" property must be paired with the aria-level property to define the heading level.

When possible, use native heading markup. For example, it is preferable to use an h1 element, rather than using <div role="heading" aria-level="1">. Native HTML elements have implicit styling and features that won't necessarily be replicated with ARIA equivalents. For instance, heading elements will have specific styling adjustments made when viewing a page in a browser's Reader Mode. Whereas a <div role="heading" aria-level="1"> will not be styled as a heading, because the underlying element is a div. ARIA only modifies the way an element is exposed to assistive technology, it does nothing to change the implicit style or functionality of the element it is applied to.

Examples

Example 1: Simple headings

This example demonstrates how to implement headings using role="heading" and aria-level.

<div role="heading" aria-level="2">Global News Items</div>
... a list of global news with editorial comment....
   
<div role="heading" aria-level="3">Politics</div>
... a list of global political news stories ...

Example 2: Additional heading levels

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

<h5>Fruit Trees</h5>
<h6>Apples</h6>
<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>

Other sources

No endorsement implied.

Tests

Procedure

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

Expected Results

  • #2 and #3 are true.
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