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Web Accessibility Guidelines for Audio

A new AODA requirement for Ontario websites will come into force on January 1st, 2021. Under the Information and Communications Standards, organizations must make their websites and web-based apps accessible. Organizations  must do so by making their websites compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA. This international standard gives web developers guidelines on how to make their webpages accessible to computer users with disabilities. Some of these guidelines outline how to make web-based audio content accessible to a variety of users. Here we will describe a few of these web accessibility guidelines for audio.

Web Accessibility Guidelines for Audio

Captions for Pre-Recorded Audio

Web designers must provide captions for any pre-recorded audio content.

Captions for Live Audio

There is a WCAG guideline for web designers to provide captions for live audio content. However, the AODA does not require designers to follow this guideline. Nonetheless, designers can choose to implement this guideline as a best practice. Designers who do so will create a wider audience for their content.


If audio content is an alternative for text content, designers do not need to provide captions.

Automatic Audio

If audio begins playing automatically, and plays for three (3) seconds or more, designers must create a way for users to:

  • Pause or stop the audio
  • Control the volume of the automatic audio without impacting the main system volume

Advanced Requirements

The WCAG webpage provides the full list of requirements, as well as technical guidance on how to implement them. The AODA only requires websites to follow guidelines in version 2.0, level AA. However, the WCAG webpage provides guidelines at level AAA. In addition, the page also includes new guidelines added in Version 2.1. For example, some additional guidelines for making online audio accessible are:

  • Sign language interpretation for pre-recorded audio
  • Alternatives for live audio that is time-based
  • Guidelines for background audio

While websites do not need to follow these guidelines, they can choose to follow them as a best practice. Websites that follow more guidelines have the chance to welcome more visitors and do more online business.