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Aria Tablist

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Dependency-free plain JavaScript module for WCAG compliant tablists. Also great for accordions.

Try out the examples

Key design goals and features are:

  • multi and single select modes
  • horizontal and vertical modes: Adjusts arrow key usage for moving focus between tabs
  • progressive enhancement: Allows for only the tab and panel relationship to be indicated in the DOM, and adds role and aria attributes automatically as needed
  • accessibility: Follows the WCAG spec by default, with options to tweak behaviour
  • compatibility: Broad browser and device support (IE9+)
  • starting states: Can use aria-selected="true" or data-selected="true" to indicate which tab(s) should be enabled by default.
  • deletion: Can enable tab (and panel) deletion using the delete key

Installation / usage

Grab from NPM and use in a module system:

npm install aria-tablist
import AriaTablist from 'aria-tablist';
AriaTablist(document.getElementById('tablist'), options);

Or grab the minified JavaScript from unpkg:

<script src=""></script>

The module relies entirely on standard attributes: it sets the role on elements if it needs to, aria- attributes for indicating behaviour to screen readers, and relies on setting and removing hidden="hidden" to toggle element visibility. This means that you can use all of your own class names and styling, and the module won't override them.

HTML Requirements / Progressive Enhancement

When the module is called on an element, the following steps are taken:

  1. The module will search for tab elements using the tabSelector option ('[role="tab"]' by default).
  2. If none are found, all direct children will be processed.
  3. For each assumed tab, the module will check for a matching tabpanel by:
    1. Checking for an aria-controls or data-controls attribute on the tab, and searching for an element with a matching id.
    2. If the tab has an id, searching for an element with an aria-labelledby or data-labelledby attribute that matches that id.
  4. For any tabs that were processed where a matching panel was not found, if they had role="tab" set, the role attribute will be removed to prevent confusion to screen reader users.
  5. The found tabs and associated panels will then have the relevant role and aria- attributes set automatically.

This means your HTML only needs to indicate the relationship between the tabs and panels, and the module will handle the rest:

<div id="tabs">
    <div id="tab-1">Panel 1</div>
    <div id="tab-2">Panel 2</div>
    <div id="tab-3">Panel 3</div>

<div data-labelledby="tab-1">...</div>
<div data-labelledby="tab-2">...</div>
<div data-labelledby="tab-3">...</div>


So if you need to cater for users without JavaScript, or if the JavaScript fails to load for whatever reason, there won't be any applicable roles set that would confuse a screen reader user.

You can of course include all of the optimal ARIA attributes straight away if you wish, including indicating which tab should be active by default:

<div id="tabs" role="tablist" aria-label="Fruits">
    <div role="tab" tabindex="-1" aria-controls="panel-1" id="tab-1">
    <div role="tab" tabindex="0" aria-selected="true" aria-controls="panel-2" id="tab-2">
    <div role="tab" tabindex="-1" aria-controls="panel-3" id="tab-3">

<div role="tabpanel" aria-labelledby="tab-1" hidden="hidden" id="panel-1">...</div>
<div role="tabpanel" aria-labelledby="tab-2" id="panel-2">...</div>
<div role="tabpanel" aria-labelledby="tab-3" hidden="hidden" id="panel-3">...</div>


Most of the functionality is assumed from the included ARIA attributes in your HTML (see the examples). The remaining available options and their defaults are:

     * delay in milliseconds before showing tab(s) from user interaction
    delay: number = 0;

     * allow tab deletion via the keyboard - can be overridden per tab by setting `data-deletable="false"`
    deletable: boolean = false;

     * make all tabs focusable in the page's tabbing order (by setting a `tabindex` on them), instead of just 1
    focusableTabs: boolean = false;

     * make all tab panels focusable in the page's tabbing order (by setting a `tabindex` on them)
    focusablePanels: boolean = true;

     * activate a tab when it receives focus from using the arrow keys
    arrowActivation: boolean = false;

     * enable all arrow keys for moving focus, instead of horizontal or vertical arrows based on `aria-orientation` attribute
     * (left and up for previous, right and down for next)
    allArrows: boolean = false;

     * the selector to use when initially searching for tab elements;
     * if none are found, all direct children of the main element will be processed
    tabSelector: string = '[role="tab"]';

     * value to use when setting tabs or panels to be part of the page's tabbing order
    tabindex: number | string = 0;

     * callback each time a tab opens
    onOpen: (panel: HTMLElement, tab: HTMLElement) => void;

     * callback each time a tab closes
    onClose: (panel: HTMLElement, tab: HTMLElement) => void;

     * callback when a tab is deleted
    onDelete: (tab: HTMLElement) => void;

     * callback once ready
    onReady: (tablist: HTMLElement) => void;

All component options that accept a Function will have their context (this) set to include the full autocomplete API (assuming you use a normal function: () {} declaration for the callbacks instead of arrow functions).


The returned AriaTablist class instance exposes the following API (which is also available on the original element's ariaTablist property):

     * the tab elements the module currently recognises
    tabs: HTMLElement[];

     * the panel elements the module currently recognises
    panels: HTMLElement[];

     * the current options object
    options: AriaTablistOptions;

     * trigger a particular tab to open (even if disabled)
    open(index: number | HTMLElement, focusTab: boolean = true): void;

     * trigger a particular tab to close (even if disabled)
    close(index: number | HTMLElement, focusTab: boolean = false): void;

     * delete a particular tab and its corresponding panel (if deletable)
    delete(index: number | HTMLElement): void;

     * destroy the module - does not remove the elements from the DOM
    destroy(): void;


Zero dependency plain JavaScript module for WCAG compliant tablists. Also great for accordions.



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