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Accordions contain of a number of content panels, each of wich can be expanded or collapsed vertically by the user.

Accordions help to save vertical space and prevent from visual noise. Some accordions allow only a single panel to be expanded at a time, others allow multiple.


Before you continue, please read Tablist widgets (or: tab panels, tabs) to understand why accordions simply are extended variants of tablists, providing a slightly different layout and (sometimes) expandability of multiple panels.

General requirements

The following requirements are based on well established best practices and WAI-WAI-ARIA Authoring Practices: Accordion (widget).

In addition to the tablists’ requirements, and besides many other requirements, we want to stress out explicitly the following:

  • Multiple slides can be visible (optional).

Proofs of concept

Update 2020: Due to the fact that Internet Explorer doesn’t need to be supported anymore (see Relevant combinations of screen readers and browsers), we now favor the Simple ARIA implementation.

Simple ARIA implementation

It is relatively simple to create a custom accordion implementation with ARIA:

Accordion with ARIAPreview

Implementation details

A link with an aria-expanded="true" attribute is placed around each panel’s header; its value (true/false) and the visibility of the corresponding panel is toggled using JavaScript. See Marking elements expandable using aria-expanded.

While this may feel tempting in some circumstances, there are several drawbacks:

  • It needs more JavaScript (instead of relying on browser standard behaviour).
    • The current implementation allows multiple elements to be open. If you wanted to restrict it to one element though, a lot of additional JavaScript would be needed to manage states - something that radio buttons would offer "for free".
  • This solution is less intuitive: a screen reader announcement "link X collapsed" is less expressive than "show panel X checkbox not checked" or "show panel X radio button not checked 2 of 3".
  • Missing backwards compatibility for older clients with incomplete/missing ARIA support.

Radio buttons implementation

This implementation is based on the tablists’ proof of concept, only the layout is different.

Accordion with radio buttonsPreview

Implementation details

Some interesting peculiarities:

  • Using .accordion:focus-within .control label, a style can be applied to all radio button labels upon interacting with the accordion.
    • This gives users a clue that they are interacting with a single control now (indicating to use the Arrow keys instead of Tab to navigate through accordion items).
    • If you would rather like to make each control focusable on its own, you could use a group of checkboxes instead of radio buttons. - Do not forget to make sure only one of them is checked at a time though (using some JavaScript).

Checkboxes implementation

This implementation is based on the tablists’ proof of concept, with a slightly different layout:

Multi accordion with checkboxesPreview

Implementation details

Some interesting peculiarities:

  • Checkboxes replace the radio buttons to offer multiple selection.
  • By default, only the Space key is used to toggle a checkbox (while pressing Enter submits a form).
    • To make it more intuitive for visual users (who do not know about any checkbox behind the scenes, and thinking they are interacting with a link or button), the Enter key was re-wired to also toggle the checkboxes.
  • In contrast to the radio button solution above, we omitted a visual .accordion:focus-within .control label state for the accordion items, as checkboxes are individual controls and (thereby accessed by the Tab key, as most users would expect).