Techniques for WCAG 2.0

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H69: Providing heading elements at the beginning of each section of content



This technique relates to:

User Agent and Assistive Technology Support Notes

See User Agent Support Notes for H69.


The objective of this technique is to use section headings to convey the structure of the content. Heading markup can be used:

Headings are designed to convey logical hierarchy. Skipping levels in the sequence of headings may create the impression that the structure of the document has not been properly thought through or that specific headings have been chosen for their visual rendering rather than their meaning. Authors are encouraged to nest headings hierarchically. When headings are nested hierarchically, the most important information is given the highest logical level, and subsections are given subsequent logical levels.(i.e., h2 is a subsection of h1).

Since headings indicate the start of important sections of content, it is possible for users with assistive technology to jump directly to the appropriate heading and begin reading the content. This significantly speeds interaction for users who would otherwise access the content slowly. Headings create chunks of information that can be found easily by people with disabilities, such as a blind person using a screen reader, or a person with a cognitive disability who uses assistive technology that delineates groups of information, or someone with a communication disability or illiteracy, who uses a screen reader to assist them in their reading.

Note: All of our techniques assume that people needing special user agents (including AT or special plug-ins) will get and be using that type user agent (eg screen reader, or plug-in that allows keyboard navigation of properly marked up content, etc).


Example 1

This example organizes the sections of a search page by marking each section heading using h2 elements.

Example Code:

<h1>Search Technical Periodicals</h1>
 <form action="search.php">
  <p><label for="searchInput">Enter search topic: </label>
  <input type="text" size="30" id="searchInput">
  <input type="submit" value="Go"></p>
 <h2>Available Periodicals</h2>
 <div class="jlinks">
  <a href="">Professional Coder</a> |
  <a href="">Algorithms</a> |
  <a href="">Journal of Software Engineering</a>
 <h2>Search Results</h2>
 ... search results are returned in this section ...   

Example 2: Headings show the overall organization of the content

In this example, heading markup is used to make the navigation and main content sections perceivable.

Example Code:

<!-- Logo, banner graphic, search form, etc.  -->
      <li><a href="about.htm">About us</a></li>
      <li><a href="contact.htm">Contact us</a></li>
  <h2>All about headings</h2>
   <!-- Text, images, other material making up the main content... --> 

Example 3: Headings show the organization of material within the main content

Note that in HTML 4.01 and XHTML 1.x, heading elements only mark the beginning of sections. Because there is no markup to associate a heading element with the section content explicitly, users will assume that the heading applies to all following content until the next heading element is encountered.

Example Code:

 <html xmlns="">
    <title>Cooking techniques</title>  
    <h1>Cooking techniques</h1>     
      ... some text here ...     
    <h2>Cooking with oil</h2> 
        ... text of the section ...     
    <h2>Cooking with butter</h2>       
        ... text of the section ...     


Resources are for information purposes only, no endorsement implied.



For all content which is divided into separate sections,

  1. Check that each section starts with a heading.

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.