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  • Writer's pictureBrent Payne

Enhancing Web Accessibility: Specifying Language with the Lang Attribute

The Importance of the lang Attribute

Specifying the language of your web content using the lang attribute is crucial for accessibility. It ensures that screen readers and other assistive technologies can accurately interpret and pronounce content for users with visual impairments or those who rely on such technologies to navigate the web.


How to Implement

  • Primary Language: Always include a lang attribute in your HTML document's <html> tag to indicate the primary language, such as <html lang="en"> for English.

  • Language Changes: If the content changes language mid-document, use the lang attribute on elements surrounding the changed language content, e.g., <span lang="es">Spanish content</span>.

  • Directionality: For languages written right-to-left, like Arabic or Hebrew, include a dir attribute alongside lang, e.g., <p lang="ar" dir="rtl">.

Why It Matters

  • Improved User Experience: Correctly specifying a page's language ensures that content is accessible and comprehensible for all users, regardless of their native language or any disabilities.

  • Compliance: Adhering to web accessibility standards (WCAG) by using the lang attribute helps meet legal and ethical guidelines for inclusivity.

  • Better SEO: Proper language tags can also improve search engine optimization by helping search engines understand the content's language.

Quick Tips

  • Use lang="en-US" for American English or lang="fr-CA" for Canadian French to specify dialects.

  • Verify the language code is valid and correctly spelled.

  • For multilingual content, ensure the lang attribute reflects the content's current language.

Resources and Learning

  • Deque University: Offers extensive courses on web accessibility, including language specification.

  • WCAG Guidelines: Detailed information on web content accessibility guidelines.

  • GitHub Contribution: Contribute to the axe-core project on GitHub for advancing accessibility tools.

Ensuring your website's language is accurately specified with the lang attribute not only aids in accessibility but also enhances the overall user experience, making your content more inclusive and reachable to a wider audience.

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