Understanding WCAG 2.0

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Consistent Identification:
Understanding SC 3.2.4

3.2.4 Consistent Identification: Components that have the same functionality within a set of Web pages are identified consistently. (Level AA)

Intent of this Success Criterion

The intent of this Success Criterion is to ensure consistent identification of functional components that appear repeatedly within a set of Web pages. A strategy that people who use screen readers use when operating a Web site is to rely heavily on their familiarity with functions that may appear on different Web pages. If identical functions have different labels on different Web pages, the site will be considerably more difficult to use. It may also be confusing and increase the cognitive load for people with cognitive limitations. Therefore, consistent labeling will help.

This consistency extends to the text alternatives. If icons or other non-text items have the same functionality, then their text alternatives should be consistent as well.

Specific Benefits of Success Criterion 3.2.4:

  • People who learn functionality on one page on a site can find the desired functions on other pages if they are present.

  • When non-text content is used in a consistent way to identify components with the same functionality, people with difficulty reading text or detecting text alternatives can interact with the Web without depending on text alternatives.

  • People who depend on text alternatives can have a more predictable experience. They can also search for the component if it has a consistent label on different pages.

Examples of Success Criterion 3.2.4

Related Resources

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Techniques and Failures for Success Criterion 3.2.4 - Consistent Identification

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. Any techniques used only satisfy the Success Criterion if all of the WCAG 2.0 conformance requirementshave been met.[end change]

Sufficient Techniques

  1. G197: Using labels, names, and text alternatives consistently for content that has the same functionality AND following the sufficient techniques for Success Criterion 1.1.1 and sufficient techniques for Success Criterion 4.1.2 for providing labels, names, and text alternatives.

Note 1: Text alternatives that are "consistent" are not always "identical." For instance, you may have an graphical arrow at the bottom of a Web page that links to the next Web page. The text alternative may say "Go to page 4." Naturally, it would not be appropriate to repeat this exact text alternative on the next Web page. It would be more appropriate to say "Go to page 5". Although these text alternatives would not be identical, they would be consistent, and therefore would satisfy this Success Criterion.

Note 2: A single non-text-content-item may be used to serve different functions. In such cases, different text alternatives are necessary and should be used. Examples can be commonly found with the use of icons such as check marks, cross marks, and traffic signs. Their functions can be different depending on the context of the Web page. A check mark icon may function as "approved", "completed", or "included", to name a few, depending on the situation. Using "check mark" as text alternative across all Web pages does not help users understand the function of the icon. Different text alternatives can be used when the same non-text content serves multiple functions.

Additional Techniques (Advisory) for 3.2.4

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.

  • Ensuring that the text alternative conveys the function of the component and what will happen when the user activates it (future link)

  • Using the same non-text content for a given function whenever possible (future link)

Common Failures for SC 3.2.4

The following are common mistakes that are considered failures of Success Criterion 3.2.4 by the WCAG Working Group.

Key Terms

Web page

a non-embedded resource obtained from a single URI using HTTP plus any other resources that are used in the rendering or intended to be rendered together with it by a user agent

Note 1: Although any "other resources" would be rendered together with the primary resource, they would not necessarily be rendered simultaneously with each other.

Note 2: For the purposes of conformance with these guidelines, a resource must be "non-embedded" within the scope of conformance to be considered a Web page.

Example 1: A Web resource including all embedded images and media.

Example 2: A Web mail program built using Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX). The program lives entirely at http://example.com/mail, but includes an inbox, a contacts area and a calendar. Links or buttons are provided that cause the inbox, contacts, or calendar to display, but do not change the URI of the page as a whole.

Example 3: A customizable portal site, where users can choose content to display from a set of different content modules.

Example 4: When you enter "http://shopping.example.com/" in your browser, you enter a movie-like interactive shopping environment where you visually move around in a store dragging products off of the shelves around you and into a visual shopping cart in front of you. Clicking on a product causes it to be demonstrated with a specification sheet floating alongside. This might be a single-page Web site or just one page within a Web site.

same functionality

same result when used

Example: A submit "search" button on one Web page and a "find" button on another Web page may both have a field to enter a term and list topics in the Web site related to the term submitted. In this case, they would have the same functionality but would not be labeled consistently.