Guide to Guideline 3.1 Level 3 Success Criterion 1

3.1 L3 SC1

Key terms and important concepts

Text content

[WCAG definition of text goes here]


A process or technique for achieving a result


Ready for use or service; usable

NOTE: The baseline impact analysis for guidelines and SC recommended that the phrase "is available]" be used in this and a number of other SC as a way to describe a "functional outcome." I am concerned that the phrase is vague and subject to intentional misinterpretation—e.g., a mechanism is available but we didn’t implement it." To aboid this, we may want to consider changing "mechanism is available" to somethinglike "mechanism has been implemented" or "is available to the user."

Intent of this success criterion

The intent of this success criterion is to ensure that definitions are available for all words in the text of the delivery unit.

Technology-Independent techniques for Guideline 3.1 L3 SC1

Using a dictionary search form

Provide a form that searches an online dictionary in the language of the content.

Cascading dictionaries

Provide a "dictionary cascade" to search a list of dictionaries and glossaries in a specified order. This technique associates a list of dictionaries with a delivery unit so that users can find definitions for all words in the text. The "cascade" should list the dictionaries in the order most likely to bring up the right definition.

Technology-Specific Techniques for Guideline 3.1 L3 SC1

HTML Techniques

Advisory techniques: going beyond Guideline 3.1 L3 SC1

Benefits: How Guideline 3.1 L3 SC1 helps people with disabilities

This success criterion helps users with limited memory or other limitations that make it difficult to understand the meaning of words.

People may suffer impaired memory for many reasons, including:

Examples of Guideline 3.1 L3 SC1

Example 1: A dictionary search form.

A Web site includes a search form provided by an online dictionary service. Users enter a word or phrase, and the form returns a list of definitions from the dictionary or dictionaries that it searched.

Example 2: A medical Web site.

A medical website provides information for both doctors and patients. The site includes a set of cascading dictionaries. A very specialized medical dictionary is first, followed by a second medical dictionary for the general public. The cascade also includes a list of abbreviations that are unique to the site, and finally there is a standard dictionary as well.

The standard dictionary at the end of the list provides definitions for most words in the text. The specialized medical dictionary yields definitions of unusual medical terms. Definitions for words that appear in more than one dictionary are listed in the order of the cascade. The meaning of abbreviations is provided by the list of abbreviations.

Example 3: A Web site about technology for people with disabilities.

A Web site describes operating system features that help people who can use only one hand. The site includes the term "StickyKeys." A user asks for a definition. The only definition the dictionary cascade can find is in the Web site’s own glossary.

Related resources

[Note: The inclusion of a product or vendor name in the list below does not constitute an endorsement by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group or the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium. This list is provided simply for convenience.]