Techniques for WCAG 2.0

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C14: Using em units for font sizes



This technique relates to:

User Agent and Assistive Technology Support Notes

See User Agent Support Notes for C14.


The objective of this technique is to specify text font size in em units so that user agents can scale content effectively. Since the em is a property of the font, it scales as the font changes size. If a font-size is specified for the body element, all other elements inherit that value, unless overridden by a more specific selector.


Example 1: Em font sizes in CSS

This example defines the font size for strong element so that its text will always be larger than the surrounding text, in whatever context it is used. Assuming that headings and paragraphs use different font sizes, the strong words in this example will each be larger than their surrounding text.

Example Code:

strong {font-size: 1.6em}


<h1>Letting the <strong>user</strong> control text size</h1>
<p>Since only the user can know what size text works for him, 
it is <strong>very</strong> important to let him configure the text size.  </p>


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  1. Check that the value of the CSS property that defines the font size is expressed in em units.

Expected Results

If this is a sufficient technique for a success criterion, failing this test procedure does not necessarily mean that the success criterion has not been satisfied in some other way, only that this technique has not been successfully implemented and can not be used to claim conformance.

Techniques are Informative

Techniques are informative—that means they are not required. The basis for determining conformance to WCAG 2.0 is the success criteria from the WCAG 2.0 standard—not the techniques. For important information about techniques, please see the Understanding Techniques for WCAG Success Criteria section of Understanding WCAG 2.0.