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Understanding SC 4.1.1

4.1.1 Parsing: Content implemented using markup languages has elements with complete start and end tags except as allowed by their specifications, [begin delete]and [end delete]the elements are nested according to their specifications[begin add], and any IDs are unique [1928] [end add]. (Level A)

Note: Start and end tags that are missing a critical character in their formation, such as a closing angle bracket or a mismatched attribute value quotation mark are not complete.

Intent of this Success Criterion

The intent of this success criterion is to ensure that user agents, including assistive technologies, can accurately interpret and parse content. If the content cannot be parsed into a data structure, then different user agents may present it differently or be completely unable to parse it. Some user agents use "repair techniques" to render poorly coded content.

Since repair techniques vary among user agents, authors cannot assume that content will be accurately parsed into a data structure or that it will be rendered correctly by specialized user agents, including assistive technologies, unless the content us created according to the rules defined in the formal grammar for that technology. In markup languages, errors in element and attribute syntax and failure to provide properly nested start/end tags lead to errors that prevent user agents from parsing the content reliably. Therefore, the success criterion requires that the content can be parsed using only the rules of the formal grammar

Specific Benefits of Success Criterion 4.1.1:

  • Ensuring that Web pages have complete start and end tags and are nested according to specification helps ensure that assistive technologies can parse the content accurately and without crashing.

Examples of Success Criterion 4.1.1

Related Resources

Resources are for information purposes only, no endorsement implied.

(none currently documented)

Techniques and Failures for Success Criterion 4.1.1 [Parsing]

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. G134: Validating Web pages

  2. Fully conforming to specifications (future link)

  3. Ensuring that Web pages can be parsed by using one of the following techniques:

Additional Techniques (Advisory)

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.

(none currently documented)


The following are common mistakes that are considered failures of Success Criterion 4.1.1 by the WCAG Working Group.