Occasionally, when creating websites or applications, we’ll either want or need to include content that is, by nature, not 100% accessible. Generally, this refers to multimedia: images, videos, audio recordings, data visualizations, and more. Just because a piece of content isn’t inherently accessible, though, doesn’t mean that we can’t use it—but it does mean that we can’t use it alone. To help make the content as accessible as possible, we need to include an alternative approach to understanding this content. That way, any given piece of content isn’t reliant on only a single sense or ability.

WCAG guidelines

The applicable WCAG guideline, Success Criteria 1.1.1 (non-text content), addresses the accessibility requirements for content that isn’t text-based. This criterion states that any non-text content we serve to our users is also accompanied by text that serves the same purpose. There are some exceptions to this, such as time-based media, tests and quizzes, and sensory experiences. Even in all of those situations, however, we’re required to provide a text description that can at least approximate the experience for our users when text can’t recreate the experience entirely. Allowing them to at least understand the gist of the content and partially engage with it is far better than leaving them to wonder what was there and what they might be missing.

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