Accessible Forms

Forms elements need to be accessible to both screen readers and keyboard-only users.

Screen reader users and keyboard only users typically navigate through a form using the TAB key, on the keyboard, to jump from form control to form control.

Forms Checklist and Overview


  • Notify users when form elements are required to complete.

  • Create a logical structure and tab order within forms.

  • Ensure that form related instructions do not rely solely on sensory characteristics of components such as shape, color, size, visual location, orientation, or sound.

  • Ensure that the purpose of a form input collecting information about the user can be programmatically determined, so that user agents can extract and present that information to the user without having them type in the info (autocomplete).

  • Ensure that form related alert and error messaging do not only rely on color to convey the information.

  • Ensure that keyboard only users and screen reader users who rely on using a keyboard are able to navigate, complete and submit forms.

  • Ensure that content does not "trap" keyboard focus within subsections of content on a Web page. For example when navigating to and away from a calendar widget/component.

  • Provide users with adequate time to complete and submit forms.

  • Provide sighted keyboard only users with a keyboard focus indicator to let them know which form element has keyboard focus. The keyboard focus indicator needs to provide adequate color contrast between foreground and background.

  • Ensure that entering data or selecting a form control has predictable effects.

  • Ensure that form components that have the same functionality within a set of web pages are identified consistently.

  • Provide users with a mechanism to initiate a change in form behavior and form submissions.

  • Make users aware of important changes in content that are not given focus, such as inline error messages.

  • Provide role, state and value information in connection with form elements in order to make functionality accessible to assistive technology.

Please see our in-depth forms guide for accessible markup and acceptance criteria.


Accessible Form Elements, Acceptance Criteria and Markup

Associate Labels Explicitly with Their Form Controls

The <label> element is used to associate a text label to a form control. This allows a screen reader to read the associated label text when the user navigates to the form control.

  • All form controls need to include an “id” that associates the form control with the respective form label. 

  • The “id” attribute needs to match the “for” attribute in the form label.


<label for=”name” class="control-label">Name</label> <input placeholder="" id="name" formtype="c02" name="name" type="text">


Group Lists of Form Controls When There are Multiple Options to Select From

  • Group the list of options with a “fieldset” 

  • Use a “legend” to describe the list of form control options.

  • Use checkboxes instead of radio buttons when more than one option can be selected

  • User should be able to select text labels

Please see example below.

<fieldset> <legend>Name</legend> <input id=”equityapplicant” type="checkbox" name="authorization" value="equityapplicant"> <label for="equityapplicant"> I am an Equity Applicant </label><br/> <input id=”equityincubator” type="checkbox" name="authorization" value="equityincubator"> <label for="equityincubator"> My business is an Equity Incubator</label><br/> <input id=”signedaffidavit” type="checkbox" name="authorization" value="signedaffidavit"> <label for=”signedaffidavit”> I registered my business with the Office of Cannabis and have signed an affidavit</label><br/> <input id=”temporarypermit” type="checkbox" name="authorization" value=”temporarypermit”> <label for=”temporarypermit”>I have a temporary cannabis permit</label><br/> </fieldset>

Add a Title Attribute to Form Controls with No Labels


The preferred way is to include a form label with each form controls. However, if this is not possible use the title attribute to label form controls when the visual design cannot accommodate the label (for example, if there is no text on the screen that can be identified as a label) or where it might be confusing to display a label. User agents, including assistive technology, can speak the title attribute.

<input class="form-control" title=”Search Regulations” placeholder="Search regulations" name="q" type="text">

Notify Screen Reader Users When Form Elements Are Required to Complete

Include the word ‘required’ or aria-required=”true' in the form element to indicate mandatory form fields for screen reader users. 

Providing HTML5 Required Attribute

If this attribute is used on any form field, it is identified as required by assistive technologies.


  • Note: adding the required attribute to the input will trigger the browser's built-in validation features, and will prevent form submission if the field is empty. If you are using some other form of error prevention, you may want to suppress the browser's built-in validation by using the novalidate attribute.

Providing Aria-Required Attribute

Similar to the “required” attribute in HTML5, WAI-ARIA introduced the “aria-required” attribute. If this attribute is used on a form control it will be exposed as required by assistive technologies.

No validation or "enforcement" mechanism comes along with this attribute, and it has no visual impact.


Let Screen Reader Users Know When Radio Button Form Controls are Mandatory/Required to Complete

Add the aria-required attribute in combination with the radiogroup role in the fieldset tag.

This works with a group of radio buttons, but not with a group of checkboxes.



Let Screen Reader Users Know When a Group of Checkboxes are Mandatory/Required to Complete

Add an invisible required label that will be announced by the screen reader. A sighted user will not see this text.


Let Screen Reader Users Know When Standalone/Single Checkboxes are Mandatory/Required

You can make standalone/single checkboxes required by using the aria-required="true" and required attributes.

Then add the role=”checkbox” to the single checkbox.


Place Important Form Instructions and Text in a Logical Reading Order for Screen Reader Users and Associate Them with Specific Fields Using ARIA

If you place the form instructions above the form control screen reader users will be provided with critical information before the form control receives keyboard focus.

Also, screen reader users sometimes navigate forms using the Tab key to jump from form control to form control in which case they would skip the form instructions. 

To cover this scenario you can use the “aria-describedby” attribute to associate the form instructions with the form control.


Accessible Autocomplete Forms

Screen-reader Interactions

  • When the form field gains focus: 

    •  Tell screen reader users that the input field is an auto-suggest.

    •  Tell screen reader users they can select from the suggestion list or type their own input.

    • Tell screen reader users the number of suggestions that are available

  • Allow screen reader users to scroll through the list of suggestions by using the arrow keys.

  • When suggestions are arrowed through they are spoken aloud.

Add role=”combobox” to the <input> field to tell screen reader users that the input field is an auto-suggest.

  • Default text is “Edit Combo”

Add aria-autocomplete=”both” to the <input> field to tell screen reader users they can select from the suggestion list or type their own input. 

  • This is the default text: “To set the value use the arrow keys or type the value”

  • You can customize this text by using the aria-describedby="initInstr"

  • Screen reader users can’t use the arrow keys until the autocomplete starts. 

  • You may want to use a more customized message such as “When autocomplete results are available use up and down arrows to review and enter to select.”

Add aria-live=”assertive” to announce the number of results available. The content of the <div>, which isn’t visible on screen, updates every time the list length changes.

Add aria-owns to the <input> field to link the suggestion list to the input field.

Add role=“listbox“ to the suggestion list <div> to tell screen reader users it contains a list of selectable items.

Add aria-activedescendant to the <input> element and populate it with the id of the currently highlighted list item. The aria-activedescendant value changes as the user presses the Up and Down arrows.

Add role=“option“ to each suggestion item, along with a unique id. That id is used by the aria-activedescendant attribute of the <input> element, whose value changes as users move through the list items with the arrow keys.

Add aria-expanded=”true” to indicate that the popup list is displayed.

Code Example

Here is an example of what the code would look like

Declaring Form Controls as Invalid

Wait to declare form controls as invalid until the form control has lost focus, or there has been an adequate delay in key presses (maybe a few seconds).

Example Default State:

<form novalidate>

<label for="name"> Name:</label>

<input id="name" required aria-invalid="false">


Example Invalid Error Message State:

<form novalidate>

<label for="name">  Name:</label>

<input id="name" required aria-describedby="name_msg" aria-invalid="true">

<span id="name_msg">Please enter your name.</span>


Code Example:

Error and Alert Messaging Within Forms

Please see Alert and Error Message Guidelines in connection with forms.

As a Keyboard Only User I Should be Able to Interact with a Calendar Widget

As a keyboard only user I should be able to use the tab key to access the calendar widget as well as navigate through the months and years.

I should also be able to use the arrow keys to navigate between dates. 

Here is an example of a fully accessible calendar widget. 

See Code Example Here:  

As a Keyboard Only and Screen Reader User I Should be Able to Delete Selected Items within a Multiselect Combobox Dropdown Menu

As a keyboard only and screen reader user,  I should be able to use the shift+tab keys to tab backwards to a button/label and then press the spacebar (or enter key) to remove/delete that item.

Here I’m referring to the buttons that appear once you have made a selection.

Within this article

there is a codepen multiselect combobox example that places the selected buttons above the form control.

This example allows me to use the shift+tab keys to navigate back to all buttons and use the spacebar or enter key to delete them, not just the last button. 

In this example the screen reader will also make an announcement to press the spacebar to delete an item. 

Avoid Using Dashes in Placholder Tags in Form Controls

As a screen reader user I should NOT be provided with dashes in a placeholder tag to enter for example a phone number.

For example when entering phone number.

When the form control receives keyboard focus the screen reader will announce the dashes as follows “underline underline underline underline underline underline type of text”.

Incorrect Way:

<input value="" spellcheck="true" inputmode="decimal" lang="en" class="form-control" type="text" name="data[phoneNumber]" required="" id="input-ebt1nqd" ref="input" placeholder="___-___-____" aria-invalid="false">


Correct Way:

<input value="" spellcheck="true" inputmode="decimal" lang="en" class="form-control" type="text" name="data[phoneNumber]" required="" id="input-ebt1nqd" ref="input" aria-invalid="false">