The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the accessibility standards set forth by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international group whose mission is to ensure universal equal access to the internet. WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1 are the most recent versions of these guidelines. Websites that substantially conform to WCAG 2.0 are considered accessible by people with disabilities.
WCAG 2.0 Overview
WCAG 2.0 was published in 2008. Its requirements are broken down into four categories:
- Perceivable – Information and content need to be presented such that all individuals can understand it. An example of a success criteria under this category would be providing text alternatives for non-text content like images
- Operable – Content and navigation must be navigable. An example of a success criteria for this category would be ensuring that all content can be accessed via a keyboard alone.
- Understandable – Users must be able to comprehend digital content. An example of this would be avoiding the use of excessive jargon or abbreviations that may not be universally understood.
- Robust – Digital content must be created in such a way that user agents can interpret it. A relevant user agent for this success criteria would be assistive technology, like a screen reader.
WCAG 2.0 Compliance Levels
There are three levels of compliance for WCAG 2.0, ranging from minimal (A) to very comprehensive (AAA). Generally speaking, most firms aim for the middle compliance (AA). Organizations whose websites and digital content substantially conform to AA can be reasonably certain people with disabilities will encounter few barriers when attempting to engage with their online content.
How do you comply with WCAG 2.0?
There are a variety of resources online for individuals who wish to ensure their web content conforms to WCAG 2.0. The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) has authored many of them:
- Introduction to WCAG
- A Quick Reference for How to Meet WCAG 2.0
- Techniques for WCAG 2.0
- Help With Understanding WCAG 2.0
Who needs to conform to WCAG 2.0 or 2.1?
Every organization’s digital content should adhere to at least WCAG 2.0. While WCAG 2.0 conformance is mandated by law for Federal and State agencies, all vendors of these agencies must conform as well (as Section 508 maps to WCAG 2.0 level AA. Even organizations that do not work directly with Federal or State agencies, but may provide services for such vendors should comply.
Just because an organization is confident that it will never have a Federal or State agency as a client or customer, it should not interpret this as a free pass to ignore digital accessibility. Digital accessibility lawsuits have skyrocketed in the past few years and show no signs of slowing. Lowering this risk, as well as gaining access to a larger target market, are both critical reasons to spend time and effort to conform to WCAG.
WCAG 2.1 was released in June 2018. It is slowly becoming the de facto standard for substantial conformance, so forward-thinking companies would be wise to use 2.1 over 2.0 as their guide. Note that WCAG 2.1 at the AA level adds additional success criteria for mobile, low vision, and cognitive. This is especially important for organizations to consider when deciding which guidelines to conform to, given our increasing reliance on the mobile web, aging demographics worldwide, and prevalence of cognitive disabilities, like autism.
Need help conforming to WCAG 2.0 or 2.1?
That’s what we’re here for. TPGi’s accessibility experts will help ensure your organization’s digital content conforms to WCAG 2.0 or 2.1 and is accessible to people with disabilities. We are a full-service firm, offering everything from accessibility reviews to training to accessibility monitoring and testing. Contact us today to learn more about how TPGi can support your accessibility goals.