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Understanding SC 3.2.6: Consistent Help (Level A)

In Brief

Make it easier to find help and support.
What to do
Put help in the same place when it is on multiple pages.
Why it's important
People who need help can find it more easily if it's in the same place.

Success Criterion (SC)

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 order relative to other page content, unless a change is initiated by the user:

  • Human contact details;
  • Human contact mechanism;
  • Self-help option;
  • A fully automated contact mechanism.


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 order relative to other page content" 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).


The intent of this Success Criterion is to ensure users can find help for completing tasks on a Web site, when it is available. When the placement of the help mechanism is kept consistent across a set of pages, users looking for help will find it easier to identify. 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, or it may also be a direct link to a 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.

If the help item is visually in a different location, but in the same serial order, that is not helpful from a user's point of view, but it would not fail this criterion.

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.

While it is recommended to consistently implement a help mechanism across a set of web pages, this criterion specifically pertains to pages that do include such a mechanism. Therefore, the absence of a help mechanism on certain pages within a set does not constitute a violation.

Limitations and Exceptions

It is not the intent of this Success Criterion to require authors to provide help or 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. PDFs and other static documents are not considered part of the "set of web pages" from which they are downloaded.

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

This Success Criterion only requires help mechanisms to be consistent within a particular set of web pages. Some complex Web sites consist of multiple different sets of web pages with different purposes. For example, a web-based spreadsheet application might have one set of pages for editing spreadsheets and a separate set of pages for marketing the application. This Success Criterion would allow the different sets of web pages to use different help mechanism locations. However, it is best if help mechanisms are located as consistently as possible even among different related sets of web pages.

This Success Criterion contains an exception when "a change is initiated by the user." This exception is intended to cover cases where a user performs an action with the intent of changing the display or layout of a page, such as changing the zoom level, orientation, or viewport size. Help mechanism locations may change in response to such a user-initiated change; as the criterion's second note clarifies, "this criterion is concerned with relative order across pages displayed in the same page variation (e.g., same zoom level and orientation)."

This exception allows the location in a smaller viewport to be different than in a larger viewport. However, 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.

This exception is not intended to treat every action that a user might initiate as a "change"; to qualify for the exception, the user must be initiating an action that would reasonably be expected to change the relative order of components within a page. For example, merely navigating between pages within a set of web pages is not a "change initiated by the user" for the purposes of this exception. Similarly, logging into or out of a page would not typically qualify, unless logging in would present the user with a distinct set of web pages.

Help Mechanisms

Typical help mechanisms include:

  • Human contact details such as a phone number, email address, hours of operation.
  • Human contact mechanism such as a messaging system, chat client, contact form, social media channel.
  • Self-help option such as an up-to-date Frequently Asked Questions, How Do I page, Support page.
  • A fully automated contact mechanism such as a chatbot.

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

Support for people with cognitive and learning disabilities

This section is not required by the Consistent Help success criterion, but provides advice related to Making Content Usable for People with Cognitive and Learning Disabilities.

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 helps 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 for many people, and particularly for people with cognitive disabilities if they:

  • recognize misspelled words,
  • provide human contact details if the chatbot is unable to provide a satisfactory response after 3 attempts, and
  • can be dismissed with a single interaction, and recalled using a link or button.

This criterion does not require that a site provide a help mechanism. However, when help is available:

  • People who may have difficulty locating help are more likely to find it and complete their task.
  • Users that experience cognitive fatigue or cognitive shut down will be able to reserve their energy for the task, instead of using it to find support.
  • Enabling users (especially those with cognitive disabilities) to find solutions while expressing their question using their own words (for example by interacting with a chatbot) increases their chances of success for completing a task.

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 consistently 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.


  • People who may have difficulty locating help are more likely to find it when it is consistently located.


  • On-line job application: Some of the application questions may be hard for new job seekers to understand even after reading the contextual help. For example, the form may request their identification number, but they may have several and not know which one to enter. Consistently located contact information will enable them to use phone or email so they can get an answer to their question.
  • Medical appointment scheduling form: When the service a patient is trying to book is not easily findable within the interface, they may need human help. A consistently located messaging option (chat client) enables them to quickly interact with a staff person that can help, without requiring them to manage a second interface.
  • Finding a specific policy or procedure: An employee who needs to complete a work task may have difficulty locating the specific policy or procedure document on their employer's Web site. A consistently located "How Do I" page may include the information that enables them to independently complete this task.

Related Resources

Resources are for information purposes only, no endorsement implied.


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


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


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).


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


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.


satisfying all the requirements of a given standard, guideline or specification


process or technique for achieving a result


The mechanism may be explicitly provided in the content, or may be relied upon to be provided by either the platform or by user agents, including assistive technologies.


The mechanism needs to meet all success criteria for the conformance level claimed.


series of user actions where each action is required in order to complete an activity

relied upon

the content would not conform if that technology is turned off or is not supported

set of web pages

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


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


mechanism for encoding instructions to be rendered, played or executed by user agents


As used in these guidelines "Web Technology" and the word "technology" (when used alone) both refer to Web Content Technologies.


Web content technologies may include markup languages, data formats, or programming languages that authors may use alone or in combination to create end-user experiences that range from static Web pages to synchronized media presentations to dynamic Web applications.

user agent

any software that retrieves and presents Web content for users

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


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


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.

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