WCAG – The Go-To Digital Accessibility Standard

06/03/2019

By Zack Poelwijk

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Over the last few years, a steady increase in federal digital accessibility lawsuits has led to greater awareness of the importance of digital accessibility. 

If you’re early on in your digital accessibility journey, you probably have a lot of questions – one of which is surely What are the standards I need to achieve in order to be accessible? 

Currently, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the go-to international standard for digital accessibility. 

Created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) publishes and maintains the WCAG which details the requirements digital media must meet to be considered accessible to individuals with a wide range of disabilities – both permanent and temporary. 

By updating your site to meet WCAG compliance, you ensure that all visitors can fully engage with your website – no matter if they just broke their arm and need to wear a cast for the next few weeks or if they’re blind and rely on a screen reader to navigate the Internet.

Every guideline in WCAG address at least one of four principles: 

  • Perceivable – Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
  • Operable – User interface components and navigation must be operable.
  • Understandable – Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.
  • Robust – Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. 

Additionally, each WCAG guideline is given one of three different levels of compliance:

  • Level A – addresses the most basic accessibility issues and functionality
  • Level AA – addresses the biggest and most common accessibility issues
  • Level AAA – reserved for the most complex and specific accessibility issues

We encourage organizations to meet Level AA compliance as that is the most common standard used by governments, and in the majority of settled digital accessibility lawsuits in the US, it is the level of compliance to which courts have ordered defendants to update their websites. 

In order to achieve Level AA compliance, you must comply with all guidelines marked Level AA in addition to all those marked Level A. 

While we are intimately familiar with WCAG, we understand that it can pose a major challenge to those new to accessibility as they can be very hard to understand – even for experienced web developers. 

We still remember what it was like when we first read them ourselves. Needless to say, there is a steep learning curve involved. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry; you’re not alone. One of the biggest problems of the current guidelines is that they can be very confusing to those who are starting to learn about digital accessibility. 

If you have any questions regarding your website’s compliance, please feel free to sign up for a no-obligation free consultation with one of our accessibility experts.

Is Your Website Accessible?

The Author

Zack Poelwijk

Zack Poelwijk

Director of Client Success