Understanding WCAG 2.0

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Understanding SC 3.1.6

3.1.6 Pronunciation: A mechanism is available for identifying specific pronunciation of words where meaning of the words, in context, is ambiguous without knowing the pronunciation. (Level AAA)

Intent of this Success Criterion

The intent of this Success Criterion is to help people who are blind, people who have low vision, and people with reading disabilities to understand content in cases where meaning depends on pronunciation. Often words or characters have different meanings, each with its own pronunciation. The meaning of such words or characters can usually be determined from the context of the sentence. However, for more complex or ambiguous sentences, or for some languages, the meaning of the word cannot be easily determined or determined at all without knowing the pronunciation. When the sentence is read aloud and the screen reader reads the word using the wrong pronunciation, it can be even more difficult to understand than when read visually. When words are ambiguous or indeterminate unless the pronunciation is known, then providing some means of determining the pronunciation is needed.

For example, in the English language heteronyms are words that are spelled the same but have different pronunciations and meanings, such as the words desert (abandon) and desert (arid region). If the proper pronunciation can be determined from the context of the sentence, then nothing is required. If it cannot then some mechanism for determining the proper pronunciation would be required. Additionally, in some languages certain characters can be pronounced in different ways. In Japanese, for example, there are characters like Han characters(Kanji) that have multiple pronunciations. Screen readers may speak the characters incorrectly without the information on pronunciation. When read incorrectly, the content will not make sense to users.

Specific Benefits of Success Criterion 3.1.6:

This Success Criterion may help people who:

  • have difficulty decoding words

  • have difficulty using context to aid understanding

  • use technologies that read the words aloud

Examples of Success Criterion 3.1.6

Note: For Japanese, the ruby element is used for showing the "reading" rather than "pronunciation."

Related Resources

Resources are for information purposes only, no endorsement implied.

(none currently documented)

Techniques and Failures for Success Criterion 3.1.6 - Pronunciation

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. The techniques listed only satisfy the Success Criterion if all of the WCAG 2.0 conformance requirements have been met.

Sufficient Techniques

  1. G120: Providing the pronunciation immediately following the word

  2. G121: Linking to pronunciations

  3. G62: Providing a glossary that includes pronunciation information for words that have a unique pronunciation in the content and have meaning that depends on pronunciation

  4. G163: Using standard diacritical marks that can be turned off

  5. H62: Using the ruby element (HTML) (XHTML 1.1)

Additional Techniques (Advisory) for 3.1.6

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.

  • Providing pronunciations in a sound file, so that users can listen to the pronunciations of the word (future link)

  • Providing a mechanism for finding pronunciations for all foreign words in text content (future link)

  • Providing a mechanism to determine the pronunciations of each word or phrase in text content (future link)

Common Failures for SC 3.1.6

The following are common mistakes that are considered failures of Success Criterion 3.1.6 by the WCAG Working Group.

(No failures currently documented)

Key Terms


process or technique for achieving a result

Note 1: The mechanism may be explicitly provided in the content, or may be relied upon to be provided by either the platform or by user agents, including assistive technologies.

Note 2: The mechanism needs to meet all success criteria for the conformance level claimed.