Guide to Guideline 1.1 Level 1 Success Criterion 1

Key terms and important concepts

non-text content

Content that is not represented by a Unicode character or sequence of Unicode characters. This includes ASCII Art, which is a pattern of characters.

  1. functional non-text content - content that is capable of performing one or more actions in response to user input and is not text.

    NOTE: This includes___.

    Editorial Note: We need to decide which term to use here to refer to programs that run in the context of user agents.(ex. applet, embedded programmatic object, functional component)

  2. non-text content used to convey information - content that communicates ideas, data, facts [@@include info from definition of information] and is not text.

  3. non-text content that is intended to create a specific sensory experience - arrangements of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that cause a reaction in the viewer or listener.

text alternative

Programmatically determined text that is used in place of non-text content or text that is used in addition to non-text content and referred to from the programmatically determined text.


For the purposes of these guidelines, multimedia refers to combined audio and video presentations. It also includes audio-only and video-only presentations that include interaction.

Intent of this success criterion

The intent of this success criterion is to make information conveyed by non-text content such as charts, diagrams audio recordings and animations available in a form that can be rendered through any modality (for example, visually, auditorily or tactilely). Text alternatives must be in electronic text so that they can be displayed in a variety of ways by a variety of user agents. For example, using synthetic speech, a person who can not see a picture can use synthetic speech to have the text alternative for the picture read to them.

Since multimedia has built-in audio descriptions and captions, a full text alternative is not required under this level one success criterion. However, the multimedia must be identified using a short text alternative. A full description is required under 1.1 L3 SC1.

Techniques for addressing 1.1 L1 SC1

The following combinations of techniques are deemed to be sufficient by the WCAG Working Group for meeting success criterion 1.1 L1 SC1.

Instructions: Select the situation below that matches your content. Beneath it, are the option(s) that are known and documented to be sufficient for that situation. For the technology-specific techniques, see the options for the technology you are using listed immediately below.

Situation A: If all information in non-text content can be conveyed in a short description, the following would be sufficient:

Situation B: If all information in non-text content can not be conveyed in a short description (e.g. a chart or diagram), the following would be sufficient:

Technology-Specific Techniques for 1.1 L1 SC1

Providing short text alternatives in HTML

Providing long descriptions in HTML

Editorial Note: Linked items point to the techniques in the current draft, which need additional work. Also, above titles do not match the titles in current drafts.

Common Failures Identified by the Working Group

The following are common mistakes which are considered failures of this success criterion by the working group.

Optional Techniques (Advisory) for 1.1 L1 SC1

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.

Additional Technology-Independent Techniques (Advisory)

Additional HTML Techniques (Advisory)

Additional CSS Techniques (Advisory)

Benefits: How 1.1 L1 SC1 helps people with disabilities

  • People who are blind, have low vision, have cognitive disabilities can have text alternatives read aloud to them by assistive technology.

  • People who have trouble reading text may use tools that both read text aloud and highlight the words as they are read. In some cases, it may be difficult for someone to recognize visual information and the text alternative may help him or her understand the purpose of the non-text content.

  • People who are deaf, are hard of hearing, or who are having trouble understanding audio information for any reason can read the text presentation or have it translated and presented as sign language by assistive technology.

  • People who are deaf-blind can read the text in braille.

  • Additionally, text alternatives support the ability to search for non-text content and to repurpose content in a variety of ways.

Examples of 1.1 L1 SC1

In the examples below, a single piece of non-text content is used in different contexts that require different text alternatives.

  1. an image used as a button

    A magnifying glass icon is used to link to the search page of a Web site. A screen reader identifies the button as a link and speaks the text alternative, "Search."

  2. a data chart

    A bar chart compares how many widgets were sold in June, July, and August. The short label says, "Figure one - Sales in June, July and August." The longer description identifies the type of chart, provides a high-level summary of the data comparable to that available from the chart, and provides the data in a table.

  3. an audio recording of a speech (no video)

    The link to an audio clip says, "Chairman's speech to the assembly." A link to a text transcript is provided immediately after the link to the audio clip.

  4. an animation that illustrates how a car engine works

    An animation shows how a car engine works. There is no audio and the animation is part of a tutorial that describes how an engine works. All that is needed is a description of the image. From "How car engines work: Internal combustion"

  5. a traffic Web camera

    A Web site allows end-users to select from a variety of Web cameras positioned throughout a major city. After a camera is selected, the image updates every 2 minutes. A short text alternative identifies the Web camera as, "TraffiCam." The site also provides a table of travel times for each of the routes covered by the Web cameras. The table is also updated every 2 minutes.

  6. a photograph of an historic event in a news story.

    A photograph of two world leaders shaking hands accompanies a news story about an international summit meeting. The text alternative says, "President X of Country X shakes hands with Prime Minister Y of country Y."

  7. a photograph of an historic event in content discussing diplomatic relationships.

    The same image used in a different context with additional text alternative. The image of the president shaking hands with the prime minister appears on a Web site discussing intricate diplomatic relationships. The first text alternative reads, "President X of country X shakes hands with Prime Minister Y of country Y on January 2, 2009." An additional text alternative describes the room where the leaders are standing, the expressions on the leaders' faces, and identifies the other people in the room. The additional description might be included on the same page as the photograph or in a separate file associated with the image through a link or other standard programmatic mechanism.

  8. a photograph of an historic event.

    An audio recording. The Web page described in the previous example includes a link to an audio recording of the leaders' press conference. The page also links to a text transcript of the press conference. The transcript includes a verbatim record of everything the speakers say. It identifies who is speaking as well as noting other significant sounds that are part of the recording, such as applause, laughter, questions from the audience, and so on.

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