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Understanding SC 3.3.5

3.3.5 Help: Context-sensitive help is available. (Level AAA)

Intent of this Success Criterion

The intent of this success criterion is to help users avoid making mistakes. Some users with disabilities may be more likely to make mistakes than users without disabilities. Using context-sensitive help, users find out how to perform an operation without losing track of what they are doing.

[begin change]

Context-sensitive help only needs to be provided when the label is not sufficient to describe all functionality. The existence of context-sensitive help should be obvious to the user and they should be able to obtain it whenever they require it. [begin delete]In most cases, context-sensitive help should not be placed in the form itself, but should instead be available to users when they request it (e.g. by linking to a separate help file).[end delete]

[end change]

The content author may provide the help text, or the user agent may provide the help text based on technology-specific, programmatically determined information.

Specific Benefits of Success Criterion 3.3.5:

  • Assistance for text input helps individuals with writing disabilities and people with reading and intellectual disabilities who often have difficulty writing text in forms or other places that need text input.

  • Additionally, these kinds of assistance help people who are aging and have the same difficulty in text input and/or mouse operation.

Examples of Success Criterion 3.3.5

Related Resources

Resources are for information purposes only, no endorsement implied.

(none currently documented)

Techniques and Failures for Success Criterion 3.3.5 [Help]

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

Instructions: Select the situation below that matches your content. Each situation includes numbered techniques (or combinations of techniques) that the Working Group deems to be sufficient for that situation.

Situation A: If a form requires text input:
  1. G71: Providing a help link on every Web page

  2. Using scripts to provide context-sensitive bubble help (future link)

  3. Providing help by an assistant in the Web page (future link)

  4. Providing spell checking and suggestions for text input if applicable to the language (future link)

  5. Using the title attribute to provide context-sensitive help

  6. Providing instructions at the top of a form (future link)

Situation B: If a form requires text input in an expected data format:
  1. G89: Providing expected data format and example

  2. Providing instructions at the top of a form (future link)

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.


The following are common mistakes that are considered failures of Success Criterion 3.3.5 by the WCAG Working Group.

(No failures currently documented)

Key Terms

context-sensitive help

help text that provides information related to the function currently being performed