Understanding WCAG 2.0

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Change on Request:
Understanding SC 3.2.5

3.2.5 Change on Request: Changes of context are initiated only by user request or a mechanism is available to turn off such changes. (Level AAA)

Intent of this Success Criterion

The intent of this Success Criterion is to encourage design of Web content that gives users full control of changes of context. This Success Criterion aims to eliminate potential confusion that may be caused by unexpected changes of context such as automatic launching of new windows, automatic submission of forms after selecting an item from a list, etcetera. Such unexpected changes of context may cause difficulties for people with motor impairments, people with low vision, people who are blind, and people with certain cognitive limitations.

Some types of change of context are not disruptive to some users, or actively benefit some users. For example, single-switch users rely on context changes that are animated by the system, and the preferences of low-vision users may vary depending on how much of the content they can see at once and how much of the session structure they can retain in working memory. Some types of content, such as slide shows, require the ability to change context in order to provide the intended user experience. Content that initiates changes of context automatically only when user preferences allow can conform to this Success Criterion.

Note: Clicking on a link is an example of an action that is "initiated only by user request."

Specific Benefits of Success Criterion 3.2.5:

  • Individuals who are unable to detect changes of context or may not realize that the context has changed are less likely to become disoriented while navigating a site. For example:

    • individuals who are blind or have low vision may have difficulty knowing when a visual context change has occurred, such as a new window popping up. In this case, warning users of context changes in advance minimizes confusion when the user discovers that the back button no longer behaves as expected.

  • Some individuals with low vision, with reading and intellectual disabilities, and who have difficulty interpreting visual cues may benefit from additional cues in order to detect changes of context.

  • People with certain cognitive limitations do not get confused if automatic redirects are performed by the Web server instead of the browser.

Examples of Success Criterion 3.2.5

Related Resources

Resources are for information purposes only, no endorsement implied.

Techniques and Failures for Success Criterion 3.2.5 - Change on Request

Each numbered item in this section represents a technique or combination of techniques that the WCAG Working Group deems sufficient for meeting this Success Criterion. The techniques listed only satisfy the Success Criterion if all of the WCAG 2.0 conformance requirements have been met.

Sufficient Techniques

Instructions: Select the situation below that matches your content. Each situation includes techniques or combinations of techniques that are known and documented to be sufficient for that situation.

Situation A: If the Web page allows automatic updates:

  1. G76: Providing a mechanism to request an update of the content instead of updating automatically

Situation B: If automatic redirects are possible:

  1. SVR1: Implementing automatic redirects on the server side instead of on the client side (SERVER)

  2. G110: Using an instant client-side redirect using one of the following techniques:

Situation C: If the Web page uses pop-up windows:

  1. Including pop-up windows using one of the following techniques:

Situation D: If using an onchange event on a select element:

  1. SCR19: Using an onchange event on a select element without causing a change of context (Scripting)

Additional Techniques (Advisory) for 3.2.5

Although not required for conformance, the following additional techniques should be considered in order to make content more accessible. Not all techniques can be used or would be effective in all situations.

  • Opening new windows by providing normal hyperlinks without the target attribute (future link), because many user agents allow users to open links in another window or tab.

  • Opening new windows only when best from an accessibility perspective (future link)

Key Terms

changes of context

major changes in the content of the Web page that, if made without user awareness, can disorient users who are not able to view the entire page simultaneously

Changes in context include changes of:

  1. user agent;

  2. viewport;

  3. focus;

  4. content that changes the meaning of the Web page.

Note: A change of content is not always a change of context. Changes in content, such as an expanding outline, dynamic menu, or a tab control do not necessarily change the context, unless they also change one of the above (e.g. focus).

Example: Opening a new window, moving focus to a different component, going to a new page (including anything that would look to a user as if they had moved to a new page) or significantly re-arranging the content of a page are examples of changes of context.


process or technique for achieving a result

Note 1: The mechanism may be explicitly provided in the content, or may be relied upon to be provided by either the platform or by user agents, including assistive technologies.

Note 2: The mechanism needs to meet all success criteria for the conformance level claimed.