The anatomy of visually-hidden

Visually-hidden styles are used to hide content from most users, while keeping it accessible to assistive technology users.

It works because the content is technically visible and displayed — it appears in the accessibility tree and the render tree, both of which are used by assistive technologies — it’s just that the rendered size is zero.

Our industry has largely settled on a standard CSS pattern for this, refined over years of testing and iteration, by many people. This pattern:

Code language: CSS

.visually-hidden {
    clip: rect(0 0 0 0);
    clip-path: inset(50%);
    height: 1px;
    overflow: hidden;
    position: absolute;
    white-space: nowrap;
    width: 1px;


This article is not about when or why you would use visually-hidden content. There’s a number of excellent articles that discuss these questions in detail, notably Scott O’Hara’s Inclusively Hidden. But most of them don’t go into much detail about the specific CSS involved — why do we use this particular pattern, with these specific properties? So today I’m going to dissect it, looking at each of the properties in turn, why it’s there, and why it isn’t something else.