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

[begin change]Most screen readers[end change] provide navigation via headings and provide information about the level of the heading. The Opera browser provides a mechanism to navigate by headings. Additional plugins support navigation by headings in other user agents.


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

In some technologies, 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. [begin add]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).[end add]

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.

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In technologies that support Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), styling can be used to change the way headings look or sound. It is even possible to style headings using CSS so that they are exposed to assistive technology but are hidden from view visually. However, showing the headings visually benefits a wider set of users, including those with some cognitive disabilities.

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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

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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.

[end change]

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