Techniques for WCAG 2.0

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H85: Using OPTGROUP to group OPTION elements inside a SELECT


HTML and XHTML pages that collect user input.

This technique relates to:

User Agent and Assistive Technology Support Notes

The optgroup element is not widely supported by many screen readers including JAWS 11 and below or Window-Eyes 6 and below.

The label attribute for option and optgroup is supported inconsistently across user agents and is not widely supported by screen readers including JAWS 11 and below and Window-Eyes 6 and below.


The objective of this technique is to group items in a selection list. A selection list is a set of allowed values for a form control such as a multi-select list or a combo box. Often, selection lists have groups of related options. Those groups should be semantically identified, rather than simply delimiting the groups with "dummy" list entries. This allows user agents to collapse the options by group to support quicker skimming of the options, and to indicate in what group an option of interest is located. It also helps to visually break up long lists so that users can more easily locate the option(s) they are interested in.

In HTML, the select element is used to create both multi-select lists and combo boxes. The various allowed options are each indicated with option elements. To group options together, use the optgroup element, with the related option elements inside that element. Label the group with the "label" attribute so users will know what to expect inside the group.

The optgroup element should be directly inside the select element, and the option elements directly inside the optgroup. It is possible for a select element to contain both single option elements and optgroup groups, though authors should consider if this is in fact the desired intent when using this. It is not possible to nest the optgroup element, so only one level of grouping can be done within a select.

If grouping information is essential to understanding the list, authors may define option labels that can be understood even when the screen reader does not present the grouping information provided by optgroup.


Example 1

The following combo box collects data about favorite foods. Grouping by type allows users to select their preference more quickly.

Example Code:

<form action="" method="post">
    <label for="food">What is your favorite food?</label>
    <select id="food" name="food">
      <optgroup label="Fruits">
        <option value="1">Apples</option>
        <option value="3">Bananas</option>
        <option value="4">Peaches</option>
        <option value="5">...</option>
      <optgroup label="Vegetables">
        <option value="2">Carrots</option>
        <option value="6">Cucumbers</option>
       <option value="7">...</option>
     <optgroup label="Baked Goods">
       <option value="8">Apple Pie</option>
       <option value="9">Chocolate Cake</option>
       <option value="10">...</option>

Example 2

The following example shows how a multi-select box can make use of the optrgroup element.

Example Code:

<form action="" method="post">
    <label for="related_techniques"><strong>Related Techniques:</strong></label>
    <select name="related_techniques" id="related_techniques" multiple="multiple" size="10">
  <optgroup label="General Techniques">
    <option value="G1">G1: Adding a link at the top of each page ... </option>
    <option value="G4">G4: Allowing the content to be paused and restarted ... </option>
    <option value="G5">G5: Allowing users to complete an activity without any time... </option>
    <option value="G8">G8: Creating an extended audio description for the ... </option>
    <option value="G9">G9: Creating captions for live synchronized media... </option>
    <option value="G10">G10: Creating components using a technology that ... </option>
  <optgroup label="HTML Techniques">
    <option value="H2">H2: Combining adjacent image and text links for the same ... </option>
    <option value="H4">H4: Creating a logical tab order through links, form ... </option>
    <option value="H24">H24: Providing text alternatives for the area ... </option>
  <optgroup label="CSS Techniques">
    <option value="C6">C6: Positioning content based on structural markup... </option>
    <option value="C7">C7: Using CSS to hide a portion of the link text... </option>
  <optgroup label="SMIL Techniques">
    <option value="SM1">SM1: Adding extended audio description in SMIL 1.0... </option>
    <option value="SM2">SM2: Adding extended audio description in SMIL 2.0... </option>
    <option value="SM6">SM6: Providing audio description in SMIL 1.0... </option>
  <optgroup label="ARIA Techniques">
    <option value="ARIA1">ARIA1: Using WAI-ARIA describedby... </option>
    <option value="ARIA2">ARIA2: Identifying required fields with the "required"... </option>
    <option value="ARIA3">ARIA3: Identifying valid range information with "valuemin" ... </option>
  <optgroup label="Common Failures">
    <option value="F1">F1: Failure of SC 1.3.2 due to changing the meaning of content by... </option>
    <option value="F2">F2: Failure of SC 1.3.1 due to using changes in text presentation... </option>
    <option value="F3">F3: Failure of SC 1.1.1 due to using CSS to include images  ... </option>
    <option value="F4">F4: Failure of SC 2.2.2 due to using text-decoration:blink ...</option>


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  1. Check the set of options within a selection list to see if there are groups of related options.

  2. If there are groups of related options, they should be grouped with optgroup.

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.