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Applies to

  • Websites
  • Documents
  • Online courses


Headings and subheadings play a critical role in accessibility.¬† Most web pages and documents include a main heading that identifies the title or main topic, and subheadings that identify the start of new sections. Visibly, headings typically appear in a larger, bolder font than the surrounding text. Headings benefit all users, as they keep content organized and help users quickly find the particular content they’re looking for.

In order for screen reader users to benefit from headings, the headings must be identified as such (Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.) using the heading features that are provided by the authoring tool. Virtually every document authoring format includes support for headings and subheadings.

Headings should form an outline of the page content (Heading 1 for the main heading, Heading 2 for the first level of sub-headings, etc.). This enables screen reader users to understand how the page is organized. If the heading structure skips or reverses heading levels, this breaks the outline and users have a much harder time figuring out the relationships between sections of the page.

Screen readers also have features that enable users to jump quickly between headings with a single key-stroke, or to view an outline of the page created from its heading structure. This functionality makes it possible for screen reader users to navigate within a page with the same efficiency as sighted users.


WCAG 2.1 success criteria

The issues described on this page, and associated Techniques pages, map to the following success criteria in the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1: