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Technique F14:Failure of Success Criterion 1.3.3 due to identifying content only by its shape or location

About this Technique

This technique is a Failure of 1.3.3: Sensory Characteristics.


All technologies.

This technique relates to 1.3.3: Sensory Characteristics (Failure).


The objective of this technique is to show how identifying content only by its visual shape or location makes content difficult to understand and operate. When only visual identification or location is used, users with visual disabilities may find it difficult to locate content since they cannot see the screen or may perceive only a small portion of the screen at one time. Also, location of content can vary if page layout varies due to variations in font, window, or screen size.


  • The navigation instructions for a site state, "To go to next page, press the button to the right. To go back to previous page, press the button to the left."
  • A user is reading a news article in an on-line newspaper. The article contains an illustration and additional links for more information. Within the text of the article is a statement, "Please see sidebar to the left of the illustration for links to additional information." An assistive technology user would have difficulty finding the illustration and the sidebar. Some alternatives would be to include the list of links within the text; to provide an in-page link within the text which links to the sidebar; to provide a heading for the sidebar which can be used for navigation and refer to the heading in the instructions.
  • A user is completing an on-line survey. There are three buttons at the bottom of the survey form. The instructions state, "Press the square button to exit the survey without saving, Press the triangle button to save in-progress survey results. You may return later to complete the survey. Press the round button to submit the survey results." A screen reader user or a user unable to distinguish shapes cannot determine which button is square, triangular, or round. The buttons must have additional information to indicate their functions or their shapes.



  1. Examine the Web page for textual references to content within the Web page.
  2. Check that the references do not rely on only the visual shape or location of the content.

Expected Results

  • If step #2 is false, then this failure condition applies and the content fails this Success Criterion.
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