Accessibility is important for users who use screen readers or rely on keyboard-only functionality to ensure they have an equivalent experience to sighted mouse users.

This page contains guidelines we should follow.

Quick summary

Since no ARIA is better than bad ARIA, review the following recommendations before using aria-*, role, and tabindex. Use semantic HTML, which typically has accessibility semantics baked in, but always be sure to test with relevant combinations of screen readers and browsers.

In WebAIM’s accessibility analysis of the top million home pages, they found that “ARIA correlated to higher detectable errors”. It is likely that misuse of ARIA is a big cause of increased errors, so when in doubt don’t use aria-*, role, and tabindex, and stick with semantic HTML.

Provide accessible names to screen readers

To provide markup with accessible names, ensure every:

  • input has an associated label.
  • button and a have child text, or aria-label when text isn’t present. For example, an icon button with no visible text.
  • img has an alt attribute.
  • fieldset has legend as its first child.
  • figure has figcaption as its first child.
  • table has caption as its first child.

If the label, child text, or child element is not visually desired, use .gl-sr-only to hide the element from everything but screen readers.

Ensure the accessible name is descriptive enough to be understood in isolation.

// bad
<a href="url">page</a>

// good
<button>Submit review</button>
<a href="url">GitLab's accessibility page</a>


In general, avoid using role. Use semantic HTML elements that implicitly have a role instead.

Bad Good
<div role="button"> <button>
<div role="img"> <img>
<div role="link"> <a>
<div role="header"> <h1> to <h6>
<div role="textbox"> <input> or <textarea>
<div role="article"> <article>
<div role="list"> <ol> or <ul>
<div role="listitem"> <li>
<div role="table"> <table>
<div role="rowgroup"> <thead>, <tbody>, or <tfoot>
<div role="row"> <tr>
<div role="columnheader"> <th>
<div role="cell"> <td>

Support keyboard-only use

Keyboard users rely on focus outlines to understand where they are on the page. Therefore, if an element is interactive you must ensure:

  • It can receive keyboard focus.
  • It has a visible focus state.

Use semantic HTML, such as a and button, which provides these behaviours by default.

See the Pajamas Keyboard-only page for more detail.


Prefer no tabindex to using tabindex, since:

  • Using semantic HTML such as button implicitly provides tabindex="0"
  • Tabbing order should match the visual reading order and positive tabindexs interfere with this

Avoid using tabindex="0" to make an element interactive

Use interactive elements instead of divs and spans. For example:

  • If the element should be clickable, use a button
  • If the element should be text editable, use an input or textarea

Once the markup is semantically complete, use CSS to update it to its desired visual state.

// bad
<div role="button" tabindex="0" @click="expand">Expand</div>

// good
<button @click="expand">Expand</button>

Do not use tabindex="0" on interactive elements

Interactive elements are already tab accessible so adding tabindex is redundant.

// bad
<a href="help" tabindex="0">Help</a>
<button tabindex="0">Submit</button>

// good
<a href="help">Help</a>

Do not use tabindex="0" on elements for screen readers to read

Screen readers can read text that is not tab accessible. The use of tabindex="0" is unnecessary and can cause problems, as screen reader users then expect to be able to interact with it.

// bad
<span tabindex="0" :aria-label="message">{{ message }}</span>

// good
<p>{{ message }}</p>

Do not use a positive tabindex

Always avoid using tabindex="1" or greater.

Hiding elements

Use the following table to hide elements from users, when appropriate.

Hide from sighted users Hide from screen readers Hide from both sighted and screen reader users
.gl-sr-only aria-hidden="true" display: none, visibility: hidden, or hidden attribute

Hide decorative images from screen readers

To reduce noise for screen reader users, hide decorative images using alt="". If the image is not an img element, such as an inline SVG, you can hide it by adding both role="img" and alt="".

gl-icon components automatically hide their icons from screen readers so aria-hidden="true" is unnecessary when using gl-icon.

// good - decorative images hidden from screen readers
<img src="decorative.jpg" alt="">
<svg role="img" alt="">
<gl-icon name="epic"/>

When should ARIA be used

No ARIA is required when using semantic HTML because it incorporates accessibility.

However, there are some UI patterns and widgets that do not have semantic HTML equivalents. Building such widgets require ARIA to make them understandable to screen readers. Proper research and testing should be done to ensure compliance with ARIA.

Ideally, these widgets would exist only in GitLab UI. Use of ARIA would then only occur in GitLab UI and not GitLab.


Viewing the browser accessibility tree

Browser extensions

We have two options for Web accessibility testing: