Techniques for WCAG 2.0

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G171: Playing sounds only on user request

Important Information about Techniques

See Understanding Techniques for WCAG Success Criteria for important information about the usage of these informative techniques and how they relate to the normative WCAG 2.0 success criteria. The Applicability section explains the scope of the technique, and the presence of techniques for a specific technology does not imply that the technology can be used in all situations to create content that meets WCAG 2.0.


All technologies that can play sound.

This technique relates to:


The intent of this technique is to allow a user to control the use of sounds in Web content. Someone that uses a screen reader may find it very distracting and difficult to listen to their screen reader if there are also sounds coming from Web content. Providing a way to play sounds only upon request will give a user the control needed to listen to any sounds or other audio without interfering with the output from a screen reader.


Example 1

A Web page from a grey whale conservation society has a looping background sound of grey whales singing. There are also sounds of water splashing. The sounds do not start automatically. Instead, the Web content provides a link at the top of the page to allow the user to start the sounds manually. The button says "Turn sounds on." After pressing the "turn sounds on" button, the sounds are heard. The user is then presented with an option to "turn sounds off."

Example 2

A link is provided to a sound file that includes the sounds of the grey whales. The link text says, "Hear the song of the grey whale (mp3)."



  1. Load a Web page that is known to contain sounds that play for 3 seconds or longer.

  2. Check that no sounds play automatically.

  3. Check that there is a way for a user to start sounds manually.

Expected Results

If this is a sufficient technique for a success criterion, failing this test procedure does not necessarily mean that the success criterion has not been satisfied in some other way, only that this technique has not been successfully implemented and can not be used to claim conformance.