Understanding WCAG 2.0

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Labels or Instructions:
Understanding SC 3.3.2

3.3.2 Labels or Instructions: Labels or instructions are provided when content requires user input. (Level A)

Intent of this Success Criterion

The intent of this success criterion is to have content authors place instructions or labels that identify the controls in a form so that users know what input data is expected. Instructions or labels may also specify data formats for fields especially if they are out of the customary formats or if there are specific rules for correct input. Content authors may also choose to make such instructions available to users only when the individual control has focus especially when instructions are long and verbose.

The intent of this Success Criterion is not to clutter the page with unnecessary information but to provide important cues and instructions that will benefit people with disabilities. Too much information or instruction can be just as much of a hindrance as too little. The goal is to make certain that enough information is provided for the user to accomplish the task without undue confusion or navigation.

Note: When labels are provided for input objects, the input object's relationship to the label (or to redundant text serving as the label) must be programmatically determinable or available in text per Understanding Success Criterion 1.3.1 Info and Relationships.

Specific Benefits of Success Criterion 3.3.2:

  • When label elements are associated with input elements the label is spoken by screen readers when the field receives focus and users with impaired motor control are helped by a larger clickable area for the control, since clicking on the label or the control will activate the control.

  • Field labels located in close proximity to the associated field assist users of screen magnifiers because the field and label are more likely to visible within the magnified area of the page.

  • Providing examples of expected data formats help users with cognitive, language and learning disabilities to enter information correctly.

  • Clearly identifying required fields prevents a keyboard only user from submitting an incomplete form and having to navigate the redisplayed form to find the uncompleted field and provide the missing information.

Examples of Success Criterion 3.3.2

Related Resources

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(none currently documented)

Techniques and Failures for Success Criterion 3.3.2 - Labels or Instructions

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. [begin change]However, it is not necessary to use these particular techniques. For information on using other techniques, see Understanding Techniques for WCAG Success Criteria, particularly the "Other Techniques" section.[end change]

Sufficient Techniques

  1. G131: Providing descriptive labels AND one of the following:

  2. H44: Using label elements to associate text labels with form controls (HTML)

  3. FLASH32: Using auto labeling to associate text labels with form controls (Flash)

  4. FLASH29: Setting the label property for form components (Flash)

  5. FLASH25: Labeling a form control by setting its accessible name (Flash)

  6. PDF10: Providing labels for interactive form controls in PDF documents (PDF)

  7. SL26: Using LabeledBy to Associate Labels and Targets in Silverlight (Silverlight)

  8. H71: Providing a description for groups of form controls using fieldset and legend elements (HTML)

  9. FLASH8: Adding a group name to the accessible name of a form control (Flash)

  10. H65: Using the title attribute to identify form controls when the label element cannot be used (HTML)

  11. SL8: Displaying HelpText in Silverlight User Interfaces (Silverlight)

  12. G167: Using an adjacent button to label the purpose of a field

Note: The techniques at the end of the above list should be considered "last resort" and only used when the other techniques cannot be applied to the page. The earlier techniques are preferred because they increase accessibility to a wider user group.

Additional Techniques (Advisory) for 3.3.2

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.

Common Failures for SC 3.3.2

The following are common mistakes that are considered failures of Success Criterion 3.3.2 by the WCAG Working Group.

Key Terms


text or other component with a text alternative that is presented to a user to identify a component within Web content

Note 1: A label is presented to all users whereas the name may be hidden and only exposed by assistive technology. In many (but not all) cases the name and the label are the same.

Note 2: The term label is not limited to the label element in HTML.