The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) were developed with the goal of providing an international internet standard practice for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, governments, and organizations. The WCAG outlines practices to make your content accessible to individuals with disabilities. This web content includes but is not limited to text, images, sounds, other media, coding, structure, and presentation of your website.
On June 5, 2018, the WCAG published WCAG 2.1 that’s backward compatible with WCAG 2.0 released 10 years prior. WCAG 2.1 covers a wide range of recommendations for making your web content more accessible.
Who can use WCAG?
WCAG was created for web content developers like content authors, web designers, web tool developers, website accessibility tool developers, and all others who want to meet web and mobile accessibility standards. WCAG is a technical standard but they also provide related resources for policymakers, managers, researchers, and others.
Principles of Accessibility
The WCAG 2.1 outline 12-13 guidelines that make your website accessible for all based on the following principles:
It’s important that your website makes all of the information and user interface applications presentable in a way that users can perceive. This information needs to be decisive between all of their applicable senses.
- Guideline 1.1: Provide text alternatives for non-text content
- Guideline 1.2: Provide alternatives for time-based media
- Guideline 1.3: Create content that can be presented without losing information or structure
- Guideline 1.4: Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground and background.
Your site’s user interface applications, as well as components, need to be operable for all users. Users must be able to use your interface and your site should not include components that users are unable to perform.
- Guideline 2.1: Make all functions performable from a keyboard
- Guideline 2.2: Give users enough time to read content
- Guideline 2.3: Avoid designing content in a way that may cause seizures
- Guideline 2.4: Provide assistance that helps users navigate, orient themselves, and find content
The information presented and the user interface of your website need to be understood by all users. Users have to be able to understand the information and the navigation, and user interface tools of your website.
- Guideline 3.1: Make text content legible and understandable
- Guideline 3.2: Make web pages appear and operate predictably
- Guideline 3.3: Help users avoid and correct mistakes easily
Your content needs to be encompassing enough that it can be interpreted by all users, including those using assistive technologies. As technologies continue to advance, your users still need to be able to have access to your content.
- Guideline 4.1: Maximize compatibility with assistive technologies, as well as current and future applications
WCAG 2.1 also acknowledge the importance of your website is accessible for the following individuals:
- Users with cognitive and/or learning disabilities
- Users with low vision
- Users with disabilities using mobile devices
If your website does not adhere to these four principles, then it won’t be accessible by all. If a person with a disability is unable to access your website then it will negatively impact their internet experience, damage your brand’s reputation, and you could possibly miss out on a potential user. More than three-quarters of individuals with disabilities use the internet so it’s important that your website adheres to the guidelines set by the WCAG so that your website is accessible by all. Feel free to refer to the WCAG 2.1 guide for more specifics on how to make your website accessible to those with disabilities.
Who is responsible for creating WCAG?
The WCAG technicalities are developed by the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group, which is part of the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3) and Web Accessibility Initiative.
Benefits of WCAG
WCAG provides benefits to everyone including internet users with disabilities and the websites that they are using. Here are some of the benefits that you all can experience:
- Cooperatively developed international internet accessibility standard
- Applies to more advanced web technologies
- Clear criteria for usage
- Flexible for different usage situations
- Adaptable to developing technologies
- Supporting materials are available in abundance
- Implementation is practical
- Increased usability
- Reduce the risk of legal ramifications for inaccessible websites
- Government support and opportunities for government contracts
- Improved knowledge of accessibility and how to support these types of clients
Why is WCAG so important?
The internet is an ever-increasingly important part of life and a resource for education, entertainment, government, commerce, recreation, employment, health care, and much more. Since it’s so important, equal access and opportunity for individuals with disabilities is essential. The WCAG provides the guidelines for everyone to be able to participate more actively in society via the internet.
An accessible website affords businesses opportunities to create more opportunities for themselves and others. For those who are unable to read certain print materials, or unable to travel to physical store locations, accessibility services offer them an opportunity to use the internet as a means to improve their quality of life. Accessibility for a business can prove to be just as important as other digital marketing initiatives like SEO, website design, and a pillar of creating a high user experience.
The internet can be a tool to which those with certain disabilities can overcome barriers that prevent them from accessing information and technologies. The WC3 even suggests that creating an accessible internet is a corporate responsibility.
It’s important to remember that web accessibility is a law for certain sized businesses and sectors and that failure to adhere to those standards could result in a discrimination lawsuit and a damaged brand identity.
It’s important to always consider web accessibility when you’re creating a website, adding content, and creating navigation options. Here are a few websites that you can use to check your website for WCAG compliance:
- A11Y Compliance Platform by Bureau of Internet Accessibility
- Accessibility Developer Tools by Google Accessibility
- Contrast-Finder by Tanaguru
- DYNO Mapper by Indigo Design Company LLC
- WAVE by WebAIM
Using these websites can help you develop a website that’s accessible to all, serves all of your clients, and also protects your business.