<form> elements should have a visible label

Rule Description

Form input elements may be given a title using the title or aria-describedby attributes (but not both). These attributes are used to provide additional information such as a hint.

The Algorithm, in Simple Terms

Ensures that every <input> that requires a label is has a label other than the title or aria-describedby attributes.

Why this is Important

The title and aria-describedby attributes are used to provide additional information such as a hint. Hints are exposed to accessibility APIs differently than labels and as such, this can cause problems with assistive technologies.

When form inputs such as text entry fields, radio buttons, check boxes, and select menus are used without labels other than the title and aria-describedby attributes, the attribute values are interpreted and read by screen readers as advisory information only, and are not sufficient to create a true label that can be programmatically determined from the code to convey the purpose of the input form element.

Compliance Data & Impact

User Impact: Serious
Disabilities Affected:
  • Blindness
  • Deafblindness
  • Mobility/Dexterity
Severity: Serious
Issue Type:
  • Deque Best Practice
WCAG Success Criteria:
  • 3.3.2 Labels or Instructions
Section 508 Guidelines:
  • Not applicable

How to Fix the Problem

Provide every form control a label using aria-label, aria-labelledby<label> or explicit <label>.

Using aria-label and aria-labelledby

Most of the time it is best to use standard form labels using the <label> tag. The <label> tag is by far the most useful and most widely-supported method of labeling form elements, especially among older browsers and older screen readers. There are, however, certain circumstances that require more flexible methods of labeling objects. One limitation of the <label> tag is that it can be associated with only one form element. If circumstances require a more complex labeling structure, the <label> tag is insufficient. This is where aria-label and aria-labelledby come in.

The aria-label attribute allows you to add a label directly to pretty much any HTML element, including form elements, paragraphs, tables, and more.

Example: aria-label

The label is applied directly to the element, and is completely invisible, which is a huge disadvantage for all sighted users, but screen readers will read the label.

 <input type="text" aria-label="Search">

Note: This method should NOT be used unless there is a compelling reason to use it. The regular <label> is always preferable whenever possible.

The aria-labelledby attribute allows you to refer to a text label elsewhere on the web page. Multiple objects can refer to the same text label using aria-labelledby, making this method quite useful for complex labeling situations.

Example: aria-labelledby

Note: As with aria-label, this method should NOT be used unless there is a compelling reason to use it. This example is overly-simplistic, just to show aria-labelledby works on a technical level. Using aria-labelledby in such a straightforward circumstance is inappropriate. A more standard <label> tag would be better.

<p id="search">Search</p>
<input type="text" aria-labelledby="search">


Explicit Labels

Create an explicit association by giving the label element a for attribute with the same value as the form control's id attribute. This provides a one-to-one mapping between the label and the element. This is the best approach for labeling as it is supported by all modern browsers and all major assistive technologies for all form elements.

Example: Explicit Label

Explicit labels make the association unambiguous for assistive technologies.

<label for="fname">First Name:</label> <input type="text" name="fname" id="fname"><br>
<label for="lname">Last Name:</label> <input type="text" name="lname" id="lname">

Implicit Labels

Even though we recommend creating explicit labels, create an implicit association by putting the form control inside the label element. This approach has inconsistent support among assistive technologies. For instance, when this approach is used on a text input, JAWS will read the label as intended, but when this approach is used in a select menu, it won't be read.

Example: Implicit Label

Implicit labels allowable, but are not as broadly applicable or as reliable as explicit labels.

<label>First Name: <input type="text" name="fname"></label><br>
<label>Last Name: <input type="text" name="lname"></label>

Related Deque University Course Pages

Additional Information

Relevant Technologies:
  • HTML 4
  • HTML5
Relevant Custom Widget Type(s):
  • Checkbox/Checkbox Group (ARIA)
  • Radio Button/Radio Group (ARIA)
  • Textbox (ARIA)
Test Reliability: Automated testing is possible, with high accuracy
Rule ID: label-title-only