Understanding WCAG 2.0

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Labels or Instructions:
Understanding SC 3.3.2

3.3.2 Labels or Instructions: Labels or instructions are provided when content requires user input. (Level A)

Intent of this Success Criterion

The intent of this Success Criterion is to help users avoid making mistakes when their input is required. To help avoid mistakes it is good user interface design to provide simple instructions and cues for entering information. Some users with disabilities may be more likely to make mistakes than users without disabilities or recovery from mistakes may be more difficult, making mistake avoidance an important strategy for users with disabilities. People with disabilities rely on well documented forms and procedures to interact with a page. Blind users need to know exactly what information should be entered into form fields and what the available choices are. Simple instructions visually connected to form controls can assist users with cognitive disabilities or those accessing a page using a screen magnifier.

The intent of this Success Criterion is not to clutter the page with unnecessary information but to provide important cues and instructions that will benefit people with disabilities. Too much information or instruction can be just as much of a hindrance as too little. The goal is to make certain that enough information is provided for the user to accomplish the task without undue confusion or navigation.

Note: If labels are provided, the label relationship to the object labeled must be programmatically determined or described in text per Understanding Success Criterion 1.3.1 Info and Relationships.

Specific Benefits of Success Criterion 3.3.2:

  • Label elements associated with input elements insure that information about the input field is spoken by screen readers when the field receives focus.

  • Field labels located in close proximity to the associated field assist users of screen magnifiers because the field and label are more likely to visible within the magnified area of the page.

  • Providing examples of expected data formats help users with cognitive, language and learning disabilities to enter information correctly.

  • Clearly identifying required fields prevents a keyboard only user from submitting an incomplete form and having to navigate the redisplayed form to find the uncompleted field and provide the missing information.

Examples of Success Criterion 3.3.2

Related Resources

Resources are for information purposes only, no endorsement implied.

(none currently documented)

Techniques and Failures for Success Criterion 3.3.2 - Labels or Instructions

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, whether published by the WCAG group or not, can be sufficient if a) they satisfy the Success Criterion and b) all of the WCAG 2.0 conformance requirements have been met.[end change]

Sufficient Techniques

  1. G131: Providing descriptive labels AND one of the following:

  2. H44: Using label elements to associate text labels with form controls (HTML)

  3. FLASH32: Using auto labeling to associate text labels with form controls (Flash)

  4. FLASH29: Setting the label property for form components (Flash)

  5. FLASH25: Labeling a form control by setting its accessible name (Flash)

  6. PDF10: Providing labels for interactive form controls in PDF documents (PDF)

  7. SL26: Using LabeledBy to Associate Labels and Targets in Silverlight (Silverlight)

  8. H71: Providing a description for groups of form controls using fieldset and legend elements (HTML)

  9. FLASH8: Adding a group name to the accessible name of a form control (Flash)

  10. H65: Using the title attribute to identify form controls when the label element cannot be used (HTML)

  11. SL8: Displaying HelpText in Silverlight User Interfaces (Silverlight)

  12. G167: Using an adjacent button to label the purpose of a field

Note: The techniques at the end of the above list should be considered "last resort" and only used when the other techniques cannot be applied to the page. The earlier techniques are preferred because they increase accessibility to a wider user group.

Additional Techniques (Advisory) for 3.3.2

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.

Common Failures for SC 3.3.2

The following are common mistakes that are considered failures of Success Criterion 3.3.2 by the WCAG Working Group.

Key Terms


text or other component with a text alternative that is presented to a user to identify a component within Web content

Note 1: A label is presented to all users whereas the name may be hidden and only exposed by assistive technology. In many (but not all) cases the name and the label are the same.

Note 2: The term label is not limited to the label element in HTML.