Understanding Success Criterion 3.2.6: Consistent Help

Success Criterion 3.2.6 Consistent Help (Level A): If a web page contains any of the following help mechanisms, and those mechanisms are repeated on multiple web pages within a set of web pages, they occur in the same relative order to other page content, unless a change is initiated by the user:

Access to help mechanisms may be provided directly on the page, or may be provided via a direct link to a different page containing the information.

For this Success Criterion, the same relative order can be thought of as how the content is ordered when the page is serialized. The visual position of a help mechanism is likely to be consistent across pages for the same page variation (e.g., CSS break-point). The user can initiate a change, such as changing the page's zoom or orientation, which may trigger a different page variation. This criterion is concerned with relative order across pages displayed in the same page variation (e.g., same zoom level and orientation).

Status

This understanding document is part of the draft WCAG 2.2 content. It may change or be removed before the final WCAG 2.2 is published.

Intent

The intent of this Success Criterion is to ensure users can find help for completing tasks on a Web site, when it is available. This is distinct from interface-level help, such as contextual help, features like spell checkers, and instructional text in a form.

Locating the help mechanism in a consistent location across pages makes it easier for users to find it. For example, when a mechanism or link is located in the header of one Web page, it will be easier to find if it is in the header of other pages. The help mechanism, such as a contact phone number, may be provided directly on the page but it may also be a direct link to a different contact page. Regardless of which approach is used, the mechanism must be located in the same relative order on each page within the set of pages.

When testing this Success Criterion, it is the help item which is relative to the rest of the content. When testing a page, other content that is present across the set of web pages and is before the help item should be before the help item on this page. Items which are after the help item on other pages should be after the help item on this page.

The location in a smaller viewport may be different than in a larger viewport but it is best if the mechanism or link is consistent across a set of web pages. A consistent location, both visually and programmatically, is the most usable.

When having problems completing a task on a Web site (or part of a Web site, what we call a set of Web pages), people with some types of disabilities may not be able to work through the issue without further help. Issues could include difficulty: completing a form, or finding a document or page which provides information required to complete a task.

Without help, some users may abandon the task. They may also fail to correctly complete a task, or they may require assistance from people who do not necessarily keep private information secure.

It is not the intent of this Success Criterion to require authors to provide help / access to help. The Criterion only requires that when one of the listed forms of help is available across multiple pages that it be in a consistent location. It does not require authors to provide help information on PDFs or other static documents that may be available for viewing/download from the Web pages. It is also not the intent to require contact information if:

It is also not the intent of this Success Criterion to require a human be available at all times. If the human contact is not available during certain hours or certain days, information should be provided so the user can tell when it will be available.

Benefits

Self help methods beyond the site, such as using internet search to find the contact information for an organization, can be too difficult. Further, the user’s disability may make it more difficult to find the help available (such as a “contact us” link, phone number, or support page) if the information is not present within a few interactions (e.g., displayed in the header, or via a menu). In addition, for some users with disabilities, struggling to complete a task on a site may cause additional cognitive challenges when searching for help within the site.

When a user is quickly able to find help, they are able to complete the task even if they encounter challenges.

Typical help mechanisms include:

The order of the types of help listed in the Success Criterion does not imply priority.

The human contact details enable users to connect with the organization or the part of the organization that can assist with the content. For example, an online jobs / recruitment portal may provide a contact method for the team that supports the recruitment portal and not a catch-all for the entire company. Each layer of contact added prolongs the time before the user will receive help.

The human contact mechanism enables a person to express what they are looking for using their own words. For some with cognitive disabilities, this may be the best way for them to find an answer to their problem.

For pages for which no human support is available, it is best if a self-help option says that no human support is available. Self-help options can go beyond allowing the user to search within the site. Contextual help is still recommended (See Success Criterion 3.3.5 for more information) but a self-help option provides a single location that makes it easier for people with cognitive disabilities to understand what help is available without having to hunt for it. While some people may easily be able to identify that no support would be available for a particular type of Web site, this may not be apparent to some users with disabilities.

Chatbots can work more effectively for everyone, and particularly for people with cognitive disabilities if they:

Examples

Techniques

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. However, it is not necessary to use these particular techniques. For information on using other techniques, see Understanding Techniques for WCAG Success Criteria, particularly the "Other Techniques" section.

Sufficient Techniques

  1. G220: Provide a contact-us link in a consistent location

Failures

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

  • Inconsistent Help Location

Key Terms

assistive technology

hardware and/or software that acts as a user agent, or along with a mainstream user agent, to provide functionality to meet the requirements of users with disabilities that go beyond those offered by mainstream user agents

Note

functionality provided by assistive technology includes alternative presentations (e.g., as synthesized speech or magnified content), alternative input methods (e.g., voice), additional navigation or orientation mechanisms, and content transformations (e.g., to make tables more accessible).

Note

Assistive technologies often communicate data and messages with mainstream user agents by using and monitoring APIs.

Note

The distinction between mainstream user agents and assistive technologies is not absolute. Many mainstream user agents provide some features to assist individuals with disabilities. The basic difference is that mainstream user agents target broad and diverse audiences that usually include people with and without disabilities. Assistive technologies target narrowly defined populations of users with specific disabilities. The assistance provided by an assistive technology is more specific and appropriate to the needs of its target users. The mainstream user agent may provide important functionality to assistive technologies like retrieving Web content from program objects or parsing markup into identifiable bundles.

Assistive technologies that are important in the context of this document include the following:

  • screen magnifiers, and other visual reading assistants, which are used by people with visual, perceptual and physical print disabilities to change text font, size, spacing, color, synchronization with speech, etc. in order to improve the visual readability of rendered text and images;
  • screen readers, which are used by people who are blind to read textual information through synthesized speech or braille;
  • text-to-speech software, which is used by some people with cognitive, language, and learning disabilities to convert text into synthetic speech;
  • speech recognition software, which may be used by people who have some physical disabilities;
  • alternative keyboards, which are used by people with certain physical disabilities to simulate the keyboard (including alternate keyboards that use head pointers, single switches, sip/puff and other special input devices.);
  • alternative pointing devices, which are used by people with certain physical disabilities to simulate mouse pointing and button activations.
set of web pages

collection of web pages that share a common purpose and that are created by the same author, group or organization

Examples include a publication which is split across multiple Web pages, where each page contains one chapter or other significant section of the work. The publication is logically a single contiguous unit, and contains navigation features that enable access to the full set of pages.

Note

Different language versions would be considered different sets of Web pages.

user agent

any software that retrieves and presents Web content for users

Web browsers, media players, plug-ins, and other programs — including assistive technologies — that help in retrieving, rendering, and interacting with Web content.

web page

a non-embedded resource obtained from a single URI using HTTP plus any other resources that are used in the rendering or intended to be rendered together with it by a user agent

Note

Although any "other resources" would be rendered together with the primary resource, they would not necessarily be rendered simultaneously with each other.

Note

For the purposes of conformance with these guidelines, a resource must be "non-embedded" within the scope of conformance to be considered a Web page.

A Web resource including all embedded images and media.

A Web mail program built using Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX). The program lives entirely at http://example.com/mail, but includes an inbox, a contacts area and a calendar. Links or buttons are provided that cause the inbox, contacts, or calendar to display, but do not change the URI of the page as a whole.

A customizable portal site, where users can choose content to display from a set of different content modules.

When you enter "http://shopping.example.com/" in your browser, you enter a movie-like interactive shopping environment where you visually move around in a store dragging products off of the shelves around you and into a visual shopping cart in front of you. Clicking on a product causes it to be demonstrated with a specification sheet floating alongside. This might be a single-page Web site or just one page within a Web site.