ARIA: main role

The main landmark role is used to indicate the primary content of a document. The main content area consists of content that is directly related to or expands upon the central topic of a document, or the main function of an application.

<div id="main" role="main">
  <h1>Avocados</h1>
  <!-- main section content -->
</div>

This is the main section of a document that discusses avocados. Subsections of this document could discuss their history, the different types, regions where they grow, etc.

Description

The main role is a navigational landmark role identifying the main content of a document. Landmarks can be used by assistive technology such as screen readers to quickly identify and navigate to large sections of the document.

By classifying and labeling sections of a page, structural information conveyed visually through layout can be represented programmatically. Screen readers use landmark roles to provide keyboard navigation to important sections of a page. For those navigating via landmark roles, the main role is an alternative for "skip to main content" links.

There should only be one main landmark role per document.

The <main> element has a role of main. Developers should use semantic HTML -- in this case <main> -- over using ARIA.

Associated ARIA roles, states, and properties

aria-owns

The aria-owns attribute establishes relationships in the accessibility layer that aren't present in the DOM. Documents and applications can be nested in the DOM, which may lead to having more than one main element as DOM descendants. If this is the case, include aria-owns to identify the relationship of the main to its document or application ancestor.

aria-label or aria-labeledby

Providing an accessible name can with aria-labelledby if a visible header is present, otherwise with aria-label, can be helpful for orienting assistive technology users, especially in single-page applications where main content changes happen without generating a page load event.

Example

<body>
  <!-- primary navigation -->

  <div role="main">
    <h1>The The First Indochina War</h1>
    <!-- article content -->
  </div>

 <!-- sidebar and footer -->
</body>

Accessibility concerns

Use only one main role per document

The main landmark role should only be used once per document.

If a document contains two main roles, say updating page content when triggered by JavaScript, the inactive main role's presence should be removed from assistive technology via techniques such as toggling the hidden attribute.

<main>
  <h1>Active `main` element</h1>
  <!-- content -->
</main>

<main hidden>
  <h1>Hidden `main` element</h1>
  <!-- content -->
</main>

It is also helpful to include an accessible name to help orient assistive technology users, especially in single-page applications where main content changes happen without generating a page load event. This can be added with aria-labeledby if there is an appropriate name in the content, or aria-label if not.

Best practices

Prefer HTML

Using the <main> element will automatically communicate a section has a role of main. If at all possible, prefer using it instead.

Skip navigation

Skip navigation, also known as "skipnav", is a technique that allows an assistive technology user to quickly bypass large sections of repeated content (main navigation, info banners, etc.). This allows the user to access the main content of the page faster.

Adding an id attribute to the element with a declaration of role="main" allows it to be a target of a skip navigation link users.

<body>
  <a href="#main-content">Skip to main content</a>

  <!-- navigation and header content -->

  <div id="main-content" role="main">
    <!-- main page content -->
  </div>
</body>

Which is the equivalent of:

<body>
  <a href="#main-content">Skip to main content</a>

  <!-- navigation and header content -->

  <main id="main-content">
    <!-- main page content -->
  </main>
</body>

Specifications

Specification Status
Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) 1.1
The definition of 'ARIA Navigation Role' in that specification.
Recommendation
WAI-ARIA Authoring Practices 1.2
The definition of 'Navigation Landmark Role' in that specification.
Working Draft

See also