Make your icons awesome for all of your users

Icons are symbols that can convey a ton of information and really help people comprehend directions, signs, and interfaces. It's important that we create and use them so that they can reach the largest amount of people possible.

About Icon Fonts & Accessibility

Modern versions of assistive technology, like screen readers, will read CSS generated content (how Fork Awesome icons are rendered), as well as specific Unicode characters. When reading our default markup for rendering icons, assisistive technology may have the following problems.

  • The assistive technology may not find any content to read out to a user
  • The assistive technology may read the unicode equivalent, which could not match up to what the icon means in context, or worse is just plain confusing

Manually make your icons accessible

When using icons in your UI, there are manual techniques and ways to help assistive technology either ignore or better understand Fork Awesome.

Icons used for pure decoration or visual styling

If you're using an icon to add some extra decoration or branding, it does not need to be announced to users as they are navigating your site or app aurally. Additionally, if you're using an icon to visually re-emphasize or add styling to content already present in your HTML, it does not need to be repeated to an assistive technology-using user. You can make sure this is not read by adding the aria-hidden="true" to your Fork Awesome markup.

<i class="fa fa-fighter-jet" aria-hidden="true"></i>
an icon being used as pure decoration
<h1 class="logo">
  <i class="fa fa-pied-piper" aria-hidden="true"></i>
  Pied Piper, A Middle-Out Compression Solution Making Data Storage Problems Smaller
an icon being used as a logo
<a href=""><i class="fa fa-github" aria-hidden="true"></i> View this project's code on Github</a>
an icon being used in front of link text

Icons with semantic or interactive purpose

If you're using an icon to convey meaning (rather than only as a decorative element), ensure that this meaning is also conveyed to assistive technologies. This goes for content you're abbreviating via icons as well as interactive controls (buttons, form elements, toggles, etc.). There are a few techniques to accomplish this:

If an icon is not an interactive element

The simplest way to provide a text alternative is to use the aria-hidden="true" attribute on the icon and to include the text with an additional element, such as a <span>, with appropriate CSS to visually hide the element while keeping it accessible to assistive technologies. In addition, you can add a title attribute on the icon to provide a tooltip for sighted mouse users.

    <i class="fa fa-car" aria-hidden="true" title="Time to destination by car"></i>
    <span class="sr-only">Time to destination by car:</span>
  <dd>4 minutes</dd>

    <i class="fa fa-bicycle" aria-hidden="true" title="Time to destination by bike"></i>
    <span class="sr-only">Time to destination by bike:</span>
  <dd>12 minutes</dd>
an icon being used to communicate travel methods
<i class="fa fa-hourglass" aria-hidden="true" title="60 minutes remain in your exam"></i>
<span class="sr-only">60 minutes remain in your exam</span>

<i class="fa fa-hourglass-half" aria-hidden="true" title="30 minutes remain in your exam"></i>
<span class="sr-only">30 minutes remain in your exam</span>

<i class="fa fa-hourglass-end" aria-hidden="true" title="0 minutes remain in your exam"></i>
<span class="sr-only">0 minutes remain in your exam</span>
an icon being used to denote time remaining

If an icon represents an interactive element

In the case of focusable interactive elements, there are various options to include an alternative text or label to the element, without the need for any visually hidden <span> or similar. For instance, simply adding the aria-label attribute with a text description to the interactive element itself will be sufficient to provide an accessible alternative name for the element. If you need to provide a visual tooltip on mouseover/focus, we recommend additionally using the title attribute or a custom tooltip solution.

<a href="path/to/shopping/cart" aria-label="View 3 items in your shopping cart">
  <i class="fa fa-shopping-cart" aria-hidden="true"></i>
an icon being used to communicate shopping cart state
<a href="#navigation-main" aria-label="Skip to main navigation">
  <i class="fa fa-bars" aria-hidden="true"></i>
an icon being used as a link to a navigation menu
<a class="btn btn-danger" href="path/to/settings" aria-label="Delete">
  <i class="fa fa-trash-o" aria-hidden="true" title="Delete this item?"></i>
an icon being used as a delete button's symbol with a title attribute to provide a native mouse tooltip

While the scenarios and techniques here help avoid some serious issues and confusion, they are not exhaustive. There are many complex contexts and use cases when it comes to accessibility, such as users with low vision who need a high color contrast ratio to see UI. There are some great tools and resources to learn from and work on these issues out there. Here are a few reads we recommend.

We'll continue to work on these under the larger topic of accessibility, but in the meantime, let us know if any bugs or issues.