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A11y Dialog

a11y-dialog is a lightweight (1.2Kb) yet flexible script to create accessible dialog windows. It has no dependency, a JavaScript API, a DOM API and event handling.


This repository is a fork from accessible-modal-dialog ↗ by Greg Kraus. We at Edenspiekermann are big fans of the original version, although we discovered we could improve it and make it even better. On top of that, the original script depends on jQuery, which happened to be a problem for us.

The original repository being apparently unmaintained, we decided to fork it and release our own version of the accessible modal dialog. All credits to the original author.

You can try the live demo ↗.


npm install a11y-dialog --save
bower install espi-a11y-dialog

Or you could also copy/paste the script in your project directly, but you will be disconnected from this repository, making it hard for your to get updates.


You will find a concrete demo in the example folder of this repository, but basically here is the gist:

Expected DOM structure

Here is the basic markup, which can be enhanced. Pay extra attention to the comments.

  Main container related notes:
  - It can have a different id than `main`, however you will have to pass it as a second argument to the A11yDialog instance. See further down.
<div id="main">
    Here lives the main content of the page.
  Dialog container related notes:
  - It is not the actual dialog window, just the container with which the script interacts.
  - It has to have the `aria-hidden="true"` attribute (if omitted, the script
  will add it on instantiation anyway).
  - It can have a different id than `my-accessible-dialog`, but it needs an `id`
<div id="my-accessible-dialog" aria-hidden="true">
    Overlay related notes:
    - It has to have the `tabindex="-1"` attribute.
    - It doesn’t have to have the `data-a11y-dialog-hide` attribute, however this is recommended. It hides the dialog when clicking outside of it.
  <div tabindex="-1" data-a11y-dialog-hide></div>
    Dialog window content related notes:
    - It is the actual visual dialog element.
    - It has to have the `role="dialog"` attribute.
    - It doesn’t have to have the `aria-labelledby` attribute however this is recommended. It should match the `id` of the dialog title.
    - It doesn’t have to have a direct child with the `role="document"`, however this is recommended.
  <div role="dialog" aria-labelledby="dialog-title">
    <div role="document">
        Dialog title related notes:
        - It should have a different content than `Dialog Title`.
        - It can have a different id than `dialog-title`.
        - It does not have to have the `tabindex="0"` attribute however it is recommended so the dialog doesn’t jump directly to a field, displaying keyboard on mobiles.
      <h1 id="dialog-title" tabindex="0">Dialog Title</h1>
        Here lives the main content of the dialog.
        Closing button related notes:
        - It does have to have the `type="button"` attribute.
        - It does have to have the `data-a11y-dialog-hide` attribute.
        - It does have to have an aria-label attribute if you use an icon as content.
      <button type="button" data-a11y-dialog-hide aria-label="Close this dialog window">

Styling layer

You will have to implement some styles for the dialog to “work” (visually speaking). The script itself does not take care of any styling whatsoever, not even the display property. It basically mostly toggles the aria-hidden attribute on the dialog itself and its counterpart containers. You can use this to show and hide the dialog:

.dialog[aria-hidden='true'] {
  display: none;

JavaScript instantiation

// Get the dialog element (with the accessor method you want) 
const el = document.getElementById('my-accessible-dialog');
// Instantiate a new A11yDialog module 
const dialog = new A11yDialog(el);

As recommended in the HTML section of this documentation, the dialog element is supposed to be on the same level as your content container(s). Therefore, the script will toggle the aria-hidden attribute of the siblings of the dialog element as a default. You can change this behaviour by passing a NodeList, an Element or a selector as second argument to the A11yDialog constructor:

const dialog = new A11yDialog(el, containers);


The DOM API relies on data-* attributes. They all live under the data-a11y-dialog-* namespace for consistency, clarity and robustness. Two attributes are recognised:

  • data-a11y-dialog-show: the id of the dialog element is expected as a value
  • data-a11y-dialog-hide: the id of the dialog element is expected as a value; if omitted, the closest parent dialog element (if any) will be the target

The following button will open the dialog with the my-accessible-dialog id when interacted with.

<button type="button" data-a11y-dialog-show="my-accessible-dialog">Open the dialog</button>

The following button will close the dialog in which it lives when interacted with.

<button type="button" data-a11y-dialog-hide aria-label="Close the dialog">&times;</button>

The following button will close the dialog with the my-accessible-dialog id when interacted with. Given that the only focusable elements when the dialog is open are the focusable children of the dialog itself, it seems rather unlikely that you will ever need this but in case you do, well you can.

<button type="button" data-a11y-dialog-hide="my-accessible-dialog" aria-label="Close the dialog">&times;</button>


Regarding the JS API, it simply consists on show() and hide() methods on the dialog instance.

// Show the dialog;
// Hide the dialog 

For advanced usages, there are create() and destroy() methods. These are responsible for attaching click event listeners to dialog openers and closers. Note that the create() method is automatically called on instantiation so there is no need to call it again directly.

// Unbind click listeners from dialog openers and closers and remove all bound 
// custom event listeners registered with `.on()` 
// Bind click listeners to dialog openers and closers 

If necessary, the create() method also accepts the targets containers (the one toggled along with the dialog element) in the same form as the second argument from the constructor. If omitted, the one given to the constructor (or default) will be used.


When shown, hidden and destroyed, the instance will emit certain events. It is possible to subscribe to these with the on() method which will receive the dialog DOM element and the trigger DOM element (if any).

dialog.on('show', function (dialogEl, triggerEl) {
  // Do something when dialog gets shown 
dialog.on('hide', function (dialogEl, triggerEl) {
  // Do something when dialog gets hidden 
dialog.on('destroy', function (dialogEl) {
  // Do something when dialog gets destroyed 
dialog.on('create', function (dialogEl) {
  // Do something when dialog gets created 
  // Note: because the initial `create()` call is made from the constructor, it 
  // is not possible to react to this particular one (as registering will be 
  // done after instantiation) 

You can unregister these handlers with the off() method.

dialog.on('show', doSomething);
// …'show', doSomething);

Tests & deployment

Mocha and expect.js are used to run browser tests.

npm test

The example page is deployed through GitHub Pages.

npm run deploy

Supported browsers

  • Chrome
  • Firefox
  • Safari
  • Opera 11.60+
  • Internet Explorer 9+