Active <area> elements must have alternate text

Rule ID: area-alt
Ruleset: axe-core 4.8
User Impact: Critical
Guidelines: WCAG 2.1 (A), WCAG 2.0 (A), , Section 508, Trusted Tester,

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Compliance Data & Impact

User Impact


Disabilities Affected

  • Blind
  • Deafblind
  • Mobility


  • WCAG 2.1 (A)
  • WCAG 2.0 (A)
  • Section 508
  • Trusted Tester

WCAG Success Criteria [WCAG 2.1 (A)]

  • 2.4.4: MUST: Link Purpose (In Context)
  • 4.1.2: MUST: Name, Role, Value

WCAG Success Criteria [WCAG 2.0 (A)]

  • 2.4.4: MUST: Link Purpose (In Context)
  • 4.1.2: MUST: Name, Role, Value
  • 2.4.4: MUST: Link Purpose (In Context)
  • 4.1.2: MUST: Name, Role, Value

Section 508 Guidelines

  • 1194.22: MUST: Web based intranet and Internet Information & Applications
  • 1194.22 (a): MUST: A text equivalent for every non-text element shall be provided (e.g., via "alt", "longdesc", or in element content)

Trusted Tester Guidelines

  • 6.A: MUST: The purpose of each link or button can be determined from any combination of the link/button text, accessible name, accessible description, and/or programmatically determined link/button context.
  • Not specified, or not applicable
  • Not specified, or not applicable

How to Fix the Problem

Ensure each clickable <area> within an image map has an alt, aria-label or aria-labelledby attribute value that describes the purpose of the link.

<img> elements with usemap attribute values identify image maps that use a set of <map> tags enclosing clickable hotspots defined by area attribute values. An additional alt attribute is required to define alternate text for each area:

<img src="images/solar_system.jpg" alt="Solar System" width="472" height="800" usemap="#Map"/>
<map name="Map">
    <area shape="rect" coords="115,158,276,192" href="" alt="Mercury">
    <area shape="rect" coords="115,193,276,234" href="" alt="Venus">
    <!-- Remaining hotspots in image map... -->

Bad Example

Don't use server-side image maps that rely on mouse click coordinates. These maps are not keyboard accessible, and do not provide text alternatives to the actionable areas of the image map.

<a href="/maps/"><img src="/images/navbar.gif" ismap></a>

Why it Matters

Screen readers have no way of translating images into words. It is important that all images, including image maps, have alt text values.

Screen readers typically announce the filename of the image if alternative text is missing. Filenames do not adequately describe images and are not helpful to screen reader users.

Rule Description

An image map is a single image with many clickable areas. Like all images, an image map must have alternate text for each of the different clickable areas, as well as for the larger image itself, since screen readers have no way of translating graphics into text.

The Algorithm (in simple terms)

Ensures area elements of image maps have alternate text.


Other Resources

You may also want to check out these other resources.

Refer to the complete list of axe 4.8 rules.

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