About that first rule of ARIA

As you may know, the first rule of ARIA is to avoid using it when you can use a native HTML element or attribute that already has the desired behaviour and semantics built-in.

That means that this …

<div role="button">Submit</div>

… is terrible and this …

<button type="submit">Submit</button>

… is how it should be done.

Now have a look at the following implementation of an accessible icon only button (the actual SVG used for the icon was left out for brevity).

<button type="button" class="icon-button">
  <svg aria-hidden="true"></svg>
  <span class="visually-hidden">Open menu</span>

This is not a bad button. The SVG icon is hidden from assistive technology (AT) using the aria-hidden="true" attribute. A span is used to add a meaningful label for AT. It is then hidden from view using the visual hiding technique du jour.

But now have a look at this implementation.

<button type="button" class="icon-button" aria-label="Open menu">
  <svg aria-hidden="true"></svg>

Again, the SVG icon is hidden from AT and the <button> was given an aria-label attribute with a meaningful value that will be picked up by AT.

Much more elegant and not actually in violation of that famous first rule of ARIA.