5 things you need to know about WCAG
WCAG 2.1 is a set of guidelines developed by W3C to ensure website accessibility to people with disabilities, including physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental health disabilities.
Adhering to WCAG standards can enhance user experience, avoid legal and financial risks, and promote equality, diversity, and inclusion.
The guidelines are organized into four main principles: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust (POUR).
WCAG 2.1 includes three levels of compliance: Level A, Level AA, and Level AAA. Level A is the minimum level of compliance, Level AA is the recommended level, and Level AAA is the highest level of compliance.
WCAG compliance is often required and / or referenced by law in many countries.
What is WCAG 2.1?
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 is a set of guidelines developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to ensure that websites and digital content are accessible to people with disabilities.
WCAG 2.1 is the latest version of the guidelines, released in 2018. It builds upon the previous version, WCAG 2.0, and includes additional guidelines to address new and emerging technologies. WCAG 2.1 is compatible with WCAG 2.0, and organizations can use either version to meet accessibility requirements.
Why should you care about web accessibility and WCAG standards?
First and foremost, it ensures that websites and digital content are accessible to all individuals, including those with disabilities. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 15% of the world's population, or over 1 billion people, have some form of disability. This includes physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental health disabilities. Furthermore, the number of people with disabilities is expected to increase due to an aging population and the prevalence of chronic health conditions. By making websites and digital content accessible, individuals with disabilities can fully engage and participate in online activities and services, such as online shopping, e-learning, and social media.
Moreover, adhering to WCAG standards can also benefit businesses and organizations in several ways. For instance, it can enhance the user experience for all users, not just those with disabilities. By ensuring that their websites are easy to navigate, their content is presented in a clear and concise manner, and their website functionality is intuitive, businesses can improve user engagement and increase customer satisfaction.
Additionally, adhering to web accessibility guidelines can also help organizations avoid legal and financial risks associated with non-compliance.
Finally, adhering to web accessibility guidelines is simply the right thing to do. By ensuring that websites and digital content are accessible, businesses and organizations can promote equality, diversity, and inclusion and make a positive impact on society as a whole.
What are the WCAG principles?
The WCAG 2.1 guidelines include four main principles: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust (POUR). Each principle includes a set of guidelines that address specific aspects of accessibility.
The Perceivable principle focuses on ensuring that information and user interface components are presented in a way that can be perceived by all users, including those with visual, auditory, and cognitive disabilities. Guidelines within this principle include providing text alternatives for non-text content, providing captions for audio and video content, and ensuring that content is easily distinguishable from its background.
The Operable principle focuses on ensuring that users can interact with content and user interface components. Guidelines within this principle include providing keyboard accessibility, giving users enough time to read and use content, and providing clear and consistent navigation.
The Understandable principle focuses on ensuring that content is presented in a way that is easy to understand for all users. Guidelines within this principle include using clear and simple language, providing instructions and feedback, and organizing content in a meaningful way.
The Robust principle focuses on ensuring that content is compatible with a wide range of users, including assistive technologies used by people with disabilities. In layman’s terms, if your website’s HTML code contains errors, and there is no metadata behind images, an individual using assistive technologies will either encounter gaps when interacting with your website, or will not be able to interact with your website’s pages altogether.
What are the compliance levels described in WCAG?
The guidelines are organized into three levels of compliance, each building on the previous level to provide increasingly comprehensive accessibility.
Level A: This is the minimum level of compliance and ensures basic accessibility for users with disabilities. Level A guidelines address the most important accessibility issues and must be met by all websites and digital content.
Level AA: This is the recommended level of compliance and ensures a higher level of accessibility for users with disabilities. Level AA guidelines address a wider range of accessibility issues and should be met by websites and digital content whenever possible.
Level AAA: This is the highest level of compliance and ensures the highest level of accessibility for users with disabilities. Level AAA guidelines address all accessibility issues and should be met by websites and digital content only when it is essential for users with disabilities.
WCAG and global regulations
In many countries adherence to WCAG 2.1 is often required by law. By following the guidelines in WCAG 2.1, organizations can ensure that their websites and digital content are accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities, and avoid legal and reputational risks associated with non-compliance.
WCAG and US regulations
In the United States, there are several laws and regulations that require federal agencies and organizations that receive federal funding to comply with specific accessibility standards. These include Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title III.
Section 508 requires federal agencies to ensure that their electronic and information technology (EIT) is accessible to individuals with disabilities, including compliance with WCAG 2.0 Level AA. ADA Title III requires state and local government agencies and businesses that offer goods and services to the public to provide equal access to individuals with disabilities, including access to websites and digital content. While these laws do not specifically reference WCAG, courts have relied on WCAG in determining whether a website or digital content is accessible under the ADA.
In addition to federal laws, several states have their own accessibility laws and regulations that reference or incorporate WCAG into their requirements. For example, the California State Legislature passed the California Internet and Technology Accessibility Act (CITAA) in 2017, which requires state agencies to comply with WCAG 2.0 Level AA by July 1, 2021, and private sector businesses to comply by January 1, 2020.
WCAG and European regulations
In Europe, the European Union (EU) has passed regulations that govern the way public sector websites and mobiles apps ensure accessibility. The most notable of these regulations is the European Accessibility Act (EAA), which was adopted in 2019 and will apply to most products and services by 2025.
The EAA requires that public sector websites and mobile applications comply with WCAG 2.1 Level AA. The EAA also requires that other types of products and services, such as consumer goods and transportation services, must be designed to be accessible to people with disabilities.
In addition to the EAA, other European states have their own laws and regulations related to web accessibility. For example, the United Kingdom has the Equality Act of 2010, which prohibits discrimination based on disability and requires that all websites be accessible to people with disabilities.
WCAG and Canadian regulations
Web accessibility is an important issue in Canada, and the country has regulations in place to ensure that digital content is accessible to all individuals, including those with disabilities. The main set of guidelines used in Canada to ensure accessibility is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
The Canadian government has adopted WCAG 2.0 Level AA as the standard for web accessibility. The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) enforces these standards under the Canadian Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disability. This means that all Canadian organizations must make their digital content accessible to people with disabilities.
The accessibility guidelines outlined by the CHRC require organizations to make their websites, documents, videos, and other digital content accessible to all individuals, including those with visual, hearing, and motor disabilities. Some of the accessibility requirements include providing text alternatives for images and multimedia content, creating meaningful link text, and ensuring that website content is navigable using a keyboard.
In addition to the CHRC, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) also mandates accessibility standards in Ontario. The AODA requires organizations in Ontario to comply with WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards by specific deadlines based on their size and sector. Organizations that fail to comply with the AODA may face penalties or fines.
WCAG and Australian regulations
The primary regulation related to digital accessibility in Australia is the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (ADDA), which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in various areas, including access to goods, services, and facilities. The ADDA requires that websites and other digital content be accessible to people with disabilities to the extent that it is reasonable to do so.
In addition to the ADDA, the Australian government has established the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) to provide guidance and resources on digital accessibility, including WCAG. The DTA's Digital Service Standard requires that all government websites and digital services meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA, and the standard is used as a benchmark for other organizations as well.
The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is responsible for enforcing the ADDA and has the power to investigate complaints of discrimination related to digital accessibility. If a complaint is substantiated, the AHRC may recommend that the organization make changes to improve accessibility and may seek court orders if necessary.
In addition to the ADDA, several Australian states have their own regulations related to digital accessibility. For example, the Victorian Government's Accessibility Standard for Digital Products requires that all government websites and digital content meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA, and the New South Wales Government's Digital Accessibility Policy requires compliance with WCAG 2.0 Level AA for all government websites and digital content.
WCAG and Israeli regulations
In Israel, the government has recognized the importance of digital accessibility for people with disabilities and has taken steps to ensure that websites and digital content are accessible to everyone. The main law that regulates accessibility in Israel is the Equal Rights for People with Disabilities Law of 1998. This law was later amended to include specific provisions on digital accessibility, which are regulated by the Israeli standard IS 5568.
The Israeli standard IS 5568 is based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, which is an internationally recognized set of guidelines for ensuring web accessibility. The standard outlines specific requirements for web accessibility, including the use of alternative text for images, the provision of captions for audio and video content, and the use of clear and simple language.
The Israeli government requires that all public sector websites comply with IS 5568, and has provided guidelines and tools to help organizations achieve compliance. Private sector organizations are not required by law to comply with IS 5568, but are encouraged to do so in order to provide equal access to their services and information.
How can Clym help?
Clym believes in striking a balance between digital compliance and your business needs, which is why we offer businesses the following:
- All-in-one platform: One interface combining Privacy and Accessibility compliance with global regulations, at an affordable price;
- Seamless integration into your website;
- Adaptability to your users’ location and applicable regulation;
- Customizable branding;
- Ready Compliance: Covering 30+ data privacy regulations;
- Six preconfigured accessibility profiles, as well as 25+ display adjustments that allow visitors to customise their individual experience.