Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) – What is it?

Web Content Accessibility Guideline

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines – What are they?

The Internet is meant to be available and easily accessible to everyone, everywhere. However, many people living with some form of disability routinely experience significant barriers to their online experience. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a set of globally adopted recommendations that provide a single shared technical standard for the accessibility of Internet content and digital assets to meet the needs of all end users, regardless of their abilities.

WCAG was developed and published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), in collaboration with individuals, governments and organizations around the globe. These standards are enforced by laws in many countries, such as the United States, Canada, Japan, Israel, Australia, and members of the European Union.

According to the W3C, WCAG is primarily intended for:

  • Web content developers (page authors, site designers, etc.)
  • Web authoring tool developers
  • Web accessibility evaluation tool developers
  • Others who want or need a standard for web accessibility, including for mobile accessibility

Conforming to the most current WCAG criteria will ensure that your website and digital assets are easily accessed and understood by most users, both with and without disabilities.

WCAG Requirements

WCAG standards are based upon criteria categorized under four digital accessibility principles of online content that form the acronym POUR: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. Compliance issues usually fall into one of these categories:

Perceivable – Users need to access and comprehend all the information on your website. Include alternative text (Alt text) for all images and non-text content; add closed captions to multimedia content such as videos; provide options for time-based media; increase the contrast ratio to make text in the foreground distinguishable from a color background.

Operable – Enable all functionality to be navigable from a keyboard, as many people with motor or visual disabilities cannot operate computers with a mouse or trackpad. Allow enough time for users to read and utilize content. Do not design elements in any way that might trigger seizures or other physical reactions.

Understandable – Website visitors should be able to understand all information and the user interface operation. Web pages need to appear and function in a predictable manner. Content must be readable and understandable, which includes providing a lookup tool and using plain, simple language that someone without an advanced education can comprehend.

Robust – Your content needs to be robust and accessible enough to interface with a range of assistive technologies, such as screen reading software and other user agents, which may evolve over time.

In the past, online marketers who chose to make their websites and digital assets (such as graphics, images, and videos) accessible have faced a long, expensive, labor-intensive road that requires dedicated personnel or outsourcing.

The Allyable360™ solution provides a fast, easy, and affordable way to comply with WCAG requirements at multiple levels! We provide the only 360° digital accessibility solution on the market, so you can address all of your WCAG compliance needs, all in one place.

Allyable’s full suite of state-of-the-art software tools allow you to simply and quickly remediate existing issues and build with accessibility in mind, whether you are a developer, marketer, consultant, small business or large enterprise. Our platform automates scanning, fixes some violations automatically, and flags the remainder for manual remediation.

WCAG version

The first version of the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, WCAG 1.0, was established in 1999, then replaced by WCAG 2.0 in 2008 as digital technology became more advanced. While WCAG 1.0 was based upon accessibility checkpoints and specific techniques, WCAG 2.0 introduced the POUR approach, detailing the success criteria under each of the four guideline categories.

Ten years later, in 2018, W3C updated its standards to the current version, WCAG 2.1, which expanded 2.0 with new success criteria to keep up with the latest technology, rather than replacing its previous version. Currently, additional criteria for WCAG 2.2 are under consideration and may be implemented soon.

At this time, the next-generation WCAG 3.0 accessibility recommendations are in development by a group known as the Silver Task Force, which will likely result in a major overhaul and update of the guidelines to better meet the needs of end-users with disabilities.

Allyable is committed to continuously evolving all of our digital accessibility tools as new WCAG criteria are released, so customers will always be in compliance.

WCAG levels

WCAG 2.1 standards are organized by three levels of conformance, with increasingly higher standards from minimum to high compliance: A, AA, and AAA. This supports web and content developers to meet a range of success criteria depending on the size and needs of each situation or company. The guidelines for each level are cumulative, incorporating all of the criteria from the lower tiers.

WCAG 2.1 Level A – Minimal compliance standards for the most basic accessibility. Disallows elements that make the website inaccessible or extremely difficult for people with disabilities to use, such as keyboard traps, noncaptioned videos, site navigation that is limited to mouse/trackpad only, and other important components.

WCAG 2.1 Level AA – Acceptable compliance; includes all Level A and AA requirements. This is the most commonly used standard worldwide, including for ADA adherence in the U.S., ensuring that websites are usable and understandable for most people with or without disabilities. This level includes guidelines for navigation elements, color contrast, alternative text, accurately labeled form fields, screen reader status updates, and more.

WCAG 2.1 Level AAA – Optimal compliance; includes all Level A, AA, and AAA requirements. Level AAA incorporates enhancements to make digital assets accessible and easy to experience for all users and demonstrates extra consideration for seniors and people with disabilities. This includes providing context-sensitive support, sign language interpretation for multimedia content, elimination of timing-related activities, and more.

The award-winning Allyable360™ platform addresses all three levels of WCAG 2.1+ regulations that can be identified and potentially solved by technology. It is not a replacement for manual testing, use case testing, or usability testing; rather, it is an important component of a robust overall accessibility and quality program.

Many violations can be automatically tested, detected, and remediated by our accessibility solution. Most, if not all, of the violations found can be fixed by using simple wizards and code remediation development tools available in our platform. We are working constantly to add additional tests and automated fixes to keep the compliance of our clients’ digital assets fully up-to-date.

Why your website should be accessible

It is important to stay up to date with the latest WCAG requirements and review your digital accessibility compliance regularly, in order to avoid legal issues and potential lawsuits. Ensuring that your websites, intranets, and other digital assets are fully compliant is not only the law, but also offers numerous benefits for your organization.

Here are just a few ways you may benefit by designing with accessibility in mind and remediating existing compliance violations using the Allyable360™ solution:

  • Increased Sales – The 1.85 billion people with disabilities worldwide influence a whopping $13 trillion in discretionary spending each year. By removing accessibility barriers to your digital assets, you may naturally capture more of this huge consumer market with a corresponding rise in revenues.
  • Improved Online Performance – WCAG compliance will boost your web pages’ SEO and overall results. Google, the #1 browser, ranks websites with accessibility features higher in its organic search, leading to more exposure and traffic.
  • Enhanced User Experience – Research has shown that providing universally accessible digital assets and user interfaces positively impacts ALL users, not only those with disabilities. Which means visitors remain longer and bounces decrease accordingly.
  • Competitive Advantage – With barely 2–5% of current websites meeting accessibility compliance standards, any organization who adheres to the WCAG standards will stand head and shoulders above their competitors, in any industry.
  • Legal Protection – Addressing WCAG compliance issues—whether by remediating violations in your existing assets, or by building new assets with accessibility in mind from the ground up—reduces your risk and liability for potential lawsuits.

Allyable’s full suite of simple, easy-to-install tools allows you to fix existing issues and build with accessibility in mind simply and quickly, whether you are a developer, marketer, consultant, small business, or large enterprise. Together, we can remove accessibility barriers for people with all levels of abilities and physical/sensory/cognitive challenges.

Allyable provides the only 360° digital accessibility solution on the market, so you can address all your WCAG compliance needs, all in one place. Our modular platform is designed to identify and remediate a wide range of the most common accessibility barriers for compliance following WCAG 2.1 standards—much of it automatically, by embedding only a single, secure line of code.

Our unique, revolutionary platform consists of several components that work together to provide a highly effective, technology-based approach to digital accessibility that incorporates artificial intelligence, machine learning and image processing. This gives you a fast, easy solution for superior auditing, immediate remediation, continuous compliance, and built-in accessibility for existing digital content and assets in development—all in one place—saving you significant time and money. Here is an overview of Allyable’s product suite:

AllyAudit™

Our Digital Accessibility Checker, powered by AI crowd-sourcing and image processing. AllyAudit deploys a single, secure line of code for superior 24/7 scanning of your digital assets, to ensure that they are always up to compliance.

AllyFix™

Simplify and automate your team’s remediation process for accessibility compliance errors, in combination with AllyDev, AllyAudit, or both. AllyFix incorporates advanced AI and image processing to consistently and automatically correct most identified violations. No-code wizards help you easily fix a wide range of issues for your internet and intranet digital assets.

AllyDev™

This is the only tool that many websites need to build with accessibility in mind! Browser plug-in lets you easily and safely develop online content that meets accessibility compliance guidelines, and debugs, audits, updates and maintains your digital assets so they are accessible to users with and without disabilities.

AllyToolbar™

This Accessibility Menu allows end-users to customize their experience on your website. It is easily installed through a single, secure line of code and can be branded for your organization. Works on all Type A browsers.

AllyAble360™

Manage all of your compliance projects in one place with the AllyAble360 centralized accessibility dashboard and project management hub. Our user-friendly control panel integrates the platform’s modules with each other and with ticketing systems, empowering them to work together.

FAQ’s

What is WCAG and why is it important?

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a set of globally adopted recommendations that provide a single shared technical standard for the accessibility of Internet content and digital assets to meet the needs of all end users, particularly people with disabilities. WCAG development is overseen by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), in collaboration with individuals, organizations, and governments around the globe, including the United States, Canada, Japan, Israel, Australia, and members of the European Union.

More than 1.85 billion people around the world—61 million in the United States—live with some form of disability, which can include mobility, cognitive, auditory, speech, visual, and age-related challenges. Although often overlooked as a consumer set, these individuals influence over $1 trillion in discretionary spending each year! Most of these users require accommodations online, as well as in their daily lives at home and out in the world, in order to experience the Internet as intended.

Conforming to the most current WCAG criteria ensures that websites and digital assets are easily accessible and understood by most online users, regardless of their abilities. This is not only good for business, but offers protection against the increasing risk of lawsuits.

What does WCAG Compliance mean?

WCAG compliance means developing or remediating a website to ensure accessibility, according to the international WCAG 2.1 criteria that represents its current standards (WCAG 2.2 or 3.0 in the future). This process involves first conducting an audit of your site

and digital assets, then fixing the compliance errors that show up as a result of the scan. Alternatively, new websites in development can be designed to incorporate WCAG criteria from the ground up.

Allyable’s full suite of state-of-the-art software tools allow you to simply and quickly audit and remediate existing issues and to build with accessibility in mind, whether you are a developer, marketer, consultant, small business or large enterprise.

Is WCAG required?

This depends on the countries where you do business or have an Internet presence. WCAG standards are used as the basis for enforcing digital accessibility by statutes in many countries, including the United States (Section 508), Canada (ACA), Israel (IS5568), Australia (DDA), and members of the European Union (EN 301 549), to name a few.

How important is WCAG?

It is important to stay up to date with the latest WCAG requirements and review your digital accessibility compliance regularly, in order to be fully inclusive and avoid potential lawsuits. Ensuring that your websites, intranets, and other digital assets are compliant is not only the law in many countries, but also offers numerous benefits for your organization, including:

  • Increased sales
  • Improved SEO performance
  • Enhanced user experience
  • Competitive advantage
  • Legal protection

With only 5% of websites worldwide meeting WCAG standards, and 1.85 billion people unable to experience the Internet as intended, businesses can no longer afford to ignore the issue of digital accessibility.

Conclusion

WCAG requirements set the benchmark for digital accessibility in countries all around the globe, providing a measurable way for individuals, organizations, and governments to ensure that people living with disabilities have equal access to the Internet. By adhering to the success criteria of WCAG, website owners can even the playing field, make their digital assets inclusive for all potential users, improve their online performance, increase sales, and protect themselves from discrimination lawsuits.

Allyable offers a revolutionary, award-winning 360° solution that makes WCAG compliance fast, easy, and affordable for organizations of all sizes, from sole proprietors to small businesses to multinational enterprises. You can even start by checking your website accessibility for free! To learn more and get a complimentary 7-day trial, visit Allyable.com.

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