Guideline 1.2.1 of WCAG says:

Audio-only and Video-only (Prerecorded) (Level A)

For prerecorded audio-only and prerecorded video-only media, the following are true, except when the audio or video is a media alternative for text and is clearly labeled as such:

  • Prerecorded Audio-only: An alternative for time-based media is provided that presents equivalent information for prerecorded audio-only content.

  • Prerecorded Video-only: Either an alternative for time-based media or an audio track is provided that presents equivalent information for prerecorded video-only content.

I'm responsible for a website that presents some musical instruments to the visitor. The page describes the instruments using texts, images and for some of them, there are also audio samples. You can hear someone playing this specific instrument to get a feeling of the sound of this instrument. So the purpose of the audio is to hear the sound of that instrument in addition to the text description, but the audio is not necessarily an one-to-one alternative to the text. The text may or may not include description of the sound of the instrument (this is not under my responsibility).

How to I meet Guideline 1.2.1? Is the description of the instrument on that page enough alternative to the audio to meet the criteria of 1.2.1?

1 Answer 1


The key phrase to consider with the alternative to the audio of an instrument is that it be "equivalent". While this may be difficult to represent the sound of an instrument with text - it could also be helpful for other users. Depending on the purpose of the audio - that equivalent experience might look different.

The Sound Effects and Musics section of the Captoning Key includes some advice:

Use descriptions that indicate the mood. Be as objective as possible. Avoid subjective words, such as "delightful," "beautiful," or "melodic."

Consider asking yourself, how would I describe that noise to someone else? For example - a description might look like "high-pitched, twangy string sound".

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