This rule checks that elements marked as decorative either are not included in the accessibility tree, or have a presentational role.
This rule applies to any element which is marked as decorative.
There are no assumptions.
Implementation of the Presentational Roles Conflict Resolution differs slightly from one user agent to the other. Hence, some elements might be exposed by one user agent and not by another, and consequently might create accessibility issues only for some users. Nevertheless, triggering the conflict is a bad practice.
Elements are normally marked as decorative to convey the intention of the author that they are pure decoration and thus shouldn’t be exposed to assistive technologies. On the other hand, elements that are focusable are important to know for anybody and should be exposed to assistive technologies; and elements that are defining any global ARIA attribute indicate an intention to communicate something to the assistive technologies (through the
aria-* attribute). When an element is both marked as decorative and either focusable or defining a global ARIA attribute, a conflict arises between these two intentions. The conflict is resolved by exposing the element.
Whenever such a conflict occurs, this indicates at the very least mismatching intentions. Such a conflict should be avoided.
When these conflicts arise on decorative non-text content, this is also a failure of Success Criterion 1.1.1: Non-text Content because decorative non-text content must be implemented in a way that allows assistive technologies to ignore it. When these conflicts arise on text content, or on content which is not decorative, this is not a failure of WCAG. Therefore this rule is not mapping to any specific WCAG Success Criterion, and is not an accessibility requirement for WCAG.
Accessibility Requirements Mapping
This rule is not required for conformance.
The following aspects are required in using this rule.
Passed Example 1
<img src="/test-assets/shared/w3c-logo.png" alt="" />
Passed Example 2
<img src="/test-assets/shared/w3c-logo.png" alt="" aria-hidden="true" />
Passed Example 3
<img src="/test-assets/shared/w3c-logo.png" alt="" hidden />
Passed Example 4
<nav role="presentation"> <a href="https://act-rules.github.io/" aria-label="ACT rules">ACT rules</a> </nav>
Passed Example 5
img element is marked as decorative through its
role attribute and has a semantic role of
presentation because own attributes are not required to be exposed and thus do not trigger the presentational roles conflict resolution.
<img src="/test-assets/shared/w3c-logo.png" role="presentation" alt="W3C logo" />
Passed Example 6
<svg role="none"> <circle cx="50" cy="50" r="40" fill="yellow"></circle> </svg>
Failed Example 1
<nav role="presentation" aria-label="global"> <a href="https://act-rules.github.io/" aria-label="ACT rules">ACT rules</a> </nav>
Failed Example 2
img element is marked as decorative through its empty
alt attribute but has a non-empty
aria-labelledby attribute causing it to be included in the accessibility tree with its implicit role of
<img src="/test-assets/shared/w3c-logo.png" alt="" aria-labelledby="label" /> <span hidden id="label">W3C logo</span>
Failed Example 3
svg element is marked as decorative through its
role attribute but has a non-empty
aria-label attribute causing it to be included in the accessibility tree with its implicit role of
<svg role="none" aria-label="Yellow circle"> <circle cx="50" cy="50" r="40" fill="yellow"></circle> </svg>
Inapplicable Example 1
img element is not marked as decorative.
<img src="/test-assets/shared/w3c-logo.png" aria-label="W3C logo" />
Explicit Semantic Role
The explicit semantic role of an element is determined by its role attribute (if any).
The role attribute takes a list of tokens. The explicit semantic role is the first valid role in this list. The valid roles are all non-abstract roles from WAI-ARIA Specifications. If the element has no role attribute, or if it has one with no valid role, then this element has no explicit semantic role.
Other roles may be added as they become available. Not all roles will be supported in all assistive technologies. Testers are encouraged to adjust which roles are allowed according to the accessibility support base line. For the purposes of executing test cases in all rules, it should be assumed that all roles are supported by assistive technologies so that none of the roles fail due to lack of accessibility support.
An element is focusable if one or both of the following are true:
- the element is part of sequential focus navigation; or
- the element has a tabindex value that is not null.
Exception: Elements that lose focus during a period of up to 1 second after gaining focus, without the user interacting with the page the element is on, are not considered focusable.
- The 1 second time span is an arbitrary limit which is not included in WCAG. Given that scripts can manage the focus state of elements, testing the focusability of an element consistently would be impractical without a time limit.
- The tabindex value of an element is the value of the tabindex attribute parsed using the rules for parsing integers. For the tabindex value to be different from null, it needs to be parsed without errors.
Implicit Semantic Role
The implicit semantic role of an element is a pre-defined value given by the host language which depends on the element and its ancestors.
Included in the accessibility tree
Elements included in the accessibility tree of platform specific accessibility APIs are exposed to assistive technologies. This allows users of assistive technology to access the elements in a way that meets the requirements of the individual user.
The general rules for when elements are included in the accessibility tree are defined in the core accessibility API mappings. For native markup languages, such as HTML and SVG, additional rules for when elements are included in the accessibility tree can be found in the HTML accessibility API mappings (working draft) and the SVG accessibility API mappings (working draft).
For more details, see examples of included in the accessibility tree.
Programmatically hidden elements are removed from the accessibility tree. However, some browsers will leave focusable elements with an
aria-hidden attribute set to
true in the accessibility tree. Because they are hidden, these elements are considered not included in the accessibility tree. This may cause confusion for users of assistive technologies because they may still be able to interact with these focusable elements using sequential keyboard navigation, even though the element should not be included in the accessibility tree.
Marked as decorative
An element is marked as decorative if one or more of the following conditions is true:
- it has an explicit role of
- it is an
imgelement with an
altattribute whose value is the empty string (
alt=""), and with no explicit role.
Elements are marked as decorative as a way to convey the intention of the author that they are pure decoration. It is different from the element actually being pure decoration as authors may make mistakes. It is different from the element being effectively ignored by assistive technologies as rules such as presentational roles conflict resolution may overwrite this intention.
Elements can also be ignored by assistive technologies if they are programmatically hidden. This is different from marking the element as decorative and does not convey the same intention. Notably, being programmatically hidden may change as users interact with the page (showing and hiding elements) while being marked as decorative should stay the same through all states of the page.
- Inapplicable: No part of the test subject matches the applicability
- Passed: A test target meets all expectations
- Failed: A test target does not meet all expectations
Note: A rule has one
failed outcome for every test target. When there are no test targets the rule has one
inapplicable outcome. This means that each test subject will have one or more outcomes.
Note: Implementations using the EARL10-Schema can express the outcome with the outcome property. In addition to
inapplicable, EARL 1.0 also defined an
incomplete outcome. While this cannot be the outcome of an ACT Rule when applied in its entirety, it often happens that rules are only partially evaluated. For example, when applicability was automated, but the expectations have to be evaluated manually. Such “interim” results can be expressed with the
An HTML element is programmatically hidden if either it has a computed CSS property
visibility whose value is not
visible; or at least one of the following is true for any of its inclusive ancestors in the flat tree:
- has a computed CSS property
- has an
aria-hiddenattribute set to
Note: Contrary to the other conditions, the
visibility CSS property may be reverted by descendants.
Note: The HTML standard suggests setting the CSS
display property to
none for elements with the
hidden attribute. While not required by HTML, all modern browsers follow this suggestion. Because of this the
hidden attribute is not used in this definition. In browsers that use this suggestion, overriding the CSS
display property can reveal elements with the
The semantic role of an element is determined by the first of these cases that applies:
- Conflict If the element is marked as decorative, but the element is included in the accessibility tree; or would be included in the accessibility tree when it is not programmatically hidden, then its semantic role is its implicit role.
- Explicit If the element has an explicit role, then its semantic role is its explicit role.
- Implicit The semantic role of the element is its implicit role.
This definition can be used in expressions such as “semantic
button” meaning any element with a semantic role of
The WAI ARIA Specifications group both the WAI ARIA W3C Recommendation and ARIA modules, namely:
- Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) 1.2
- WAI-ARIA Graphics Module 1.0
- Digital Publishing WAI-ARIA Module 1.0
Note: depending on the type of content being evaluated, part of the specifications might be irrelevant and should be ignored.
Latest version, 31 August 2023
- Update to reference ARIA 1.2
Previous version, 23 June 2022
- Account for focus redirects in "focusable" definition
- Let hidden attribute be handled by display:none in "programmatically hidden" definition
- Previous version, 28 January 2022
This section is not part of the official rule. It is populated dynamically and not accounted for in the change history or the last modified date.