Developers commonly use display: none to hide content on the page. Unfortunately, this simple and common action can be problematic for users of screen readers.

There are real world situations where you might need to hide elements visually (e.g., a form label), but keep the element text available to be announced by a screen reader. The “clip pattern” accomplishes this task for you; hide the content visually, yet provide the content to screen readers. Unlike CSS positioning and negative text-indent techniques, the “clip pattern” also works with RTL (Right-to-left) languages for localization. See the article Hiding Content for Accessibility for more information on the visually-hidden pattern.

.visually-hidden { /* */
    position: absolute !important;
    height: 1px; width: 1px;
    overflow: hidden;
    clip: rect(1px 1px 1px 1px); /* IE6, IE7 */
    clip: rect(1px, 1px, 1px, 1px);

It is possible to apply the .visually-hidden class to content that contains natively focusable elements (such as a, button, input, etc). It’s important to show these elements visually when they receive focus, otherwise a keyboard-only user might not know which element currently has focus. CSS for this might look something like:

.visually-hidden a:focus,
.visually-hidden input:focus,
.visually-hidden button:focus {
    width:auto; height:auto;

Consider adding these HTML classes and CSS rules to your base stylesheet and use them when applicable.

Alternatives to display: none

The aria-hidden="true" HTML attribute is the logical opposite of the .visually-hidden class. It hides content from assistive technology, but not visually. This can be helpful in cases where there are visual cues that screen readers do not need to announce, such as icons (although you should provide some form of alternative text for icons).

There may be cases where you want to use aria-hidden and also visually hide the content. This can be accomplished with some CSS like:

.my-component[aria-hidden="true"] {
    display: none;

Another way to hide content both visually and from assistive technology is the HTML5 hidden attribute. To support older browsers like IE9, you might want to add the following css to your pages:

 [hidden] { display: none; }

Further reading

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