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What are the WCAG Accessibility Guidelines?

web accessibility guidelines

The Creation of WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines)

The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) is an international community that develops web accessibility standards to support the longevity and growth of the Web.

The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) develops standards and support materials to help companies and Web developers understand and implement accessibility to increase website usability for all users.

The World Wide Web Consortium, with input from individuals and organizations around the world, created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) with the goal of providing a universal standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of users with disabilities worldwide.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a set of accessibility standards set forth to guide the creation of web content and is commonly used by Web developers to improve a website’s accessibility for users with disabilities.

WCAG standards apply to the information found on a website such as text, images, videos, and sounds as well as to the code that dictates the structure and visual presentation from the backend.

Who WCAG is for?

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

The WCAG Accessibility Guidelines

According to the W3C, The WCAG guidelines for improving website accessibility are as follows:

  • Guideline 1.1 – The information on websites must be Perceivable – meaning there must ways to provide text alternatives for all non-text content. In order to be considered accessible, content needs to have the ability to be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols, or simpler language.
  • Guideline 1.2 – Alternatives should be made available for any Time-based Media. Websites should provide synchronized alternatives for multimedia (time-based media) such as prerecorded audio-only and prerecorded video-only media and captions.
  • Guideline 1.3 – Content must be Adaptable. Websites need to create content that can be presented or structured in different ways (for example a simpler layout) without losing the information or overall structure of the message.
  • Guideline 1.4 – Content should be Distinguishable. Web developers should strive to make it easy for users to distinguish the foreground information from the background and make it easy for users to see and hear the content.
  • Guideline 2.1 – Content online must be Keyboard Accessible. Websites should ensure that all functionality on their site is operable via a keyboard interface.
  • Guideline 2.2 – There should be Sufficient Time for all users to utilize the website. Websites must allow users to control the time limits for interaction on the site and provide users enough time to read and use the content.
  • Guideline 2.3 – Consider the possibility of Physical Reactions such as seizures when designing online content. Web developers should not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures or physical reactions in users, or they must provide a way for the user to avoid certain content that could pose a risk of a physical reaction due to photosensitivity, etc.
  • Guideline 2.4 – Websites should be Navigable and provide mechanisms to help users find content, orient themselves within the site, and navigate through the site to determine where they are.
  • Guideline 2.5 – There should be more than one Input Modality for the online content. Website content needs to be accessible and functional through various inputs beyond that of a keyboard.
  • Guideline 3.1 – Content online should be created in a way to be Readable and understandable for users with disabilities.
  • Guideline 3.2 – Web pages should be Predictable. Web developers should make the placement of and the functionality of content appear and operate in predictable ways.
  • Guideline 3.3 – Sites should be designed with Input Assistance. Input assistance helps users avoid mistakes and makes it easy to correct mistakes when they do occur.
  • Guideline 4.1 – Websites should be Compatible meaning they support compatibility with current and future assistive technologies.
  • Guideline 4.2 – Content online needs to be Accessible for all users or websites must provide an accessible alternative to get their information.

WCAG 2.0, 2.1, 2.2

WCAG 2.0 was published on 11 December 2008. WCAG 2.1 was published on 5 June 2018. WCAG 2.2 is scheduled to be published in 2021.

All requirements (“success criteria”) from 2.0 are included in 2.1. The 2.0 success criteria are exactly the same (verbatim, word-for-word) in 2.1. All requirements in 2.0 and 2.1 will be included in 2.2. The wording of the 2.0 and 2.1 success criteria will be exactly the same in 2.2.

There are additional success criteria in 2.1 that are not in 2.0. They are introduced in What’s New in WCAG 2.1. The proposed new success criteria in 2.2 are introduced in What’s New in WCAG 2.2 Working Draft.

Content that conforms to WCAG 2.1 also conforms to WCAG 2.0.

And content that conforms to WCAG 2.2 will also conform to 2.1 and 2.0. (This is often called “backward compatible”.) A website that meets WCAG 2.1 or 2.2 should meet the requirements of policies that reference WCAG 2.0. To put it another way: If you want to meet both WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1, you can use the 2.1 resources and you don’t need to bother looking at 2.0.

WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1 are both existing standards. WCAG 2.1 does not deprecate or supersede WCAG 2.0. W3C encourages you to use the most recent version of WCAG when developing or updating content or accessibility policies.

T-Base Specializes in Website Accessibility

T-Base offers Web Accessibility Training to help your organization understand the latest legal, moral, and ethical obligations in website accessibility for users with disabilities. This training includes Before and After demonstrations to educate your staff on the challenges faced by visually impaired users and the technologies available to assist them in accessing the information they need online.

T-Base will test the pages on your website for accessibility and provide you with the tools and techniques that can be applied to make your website more accessible to users with disabilities.

Jeff Jullion

Author Jeff Jullion

Manager of Education Accessibility Communications  at T-Base Communications Inc.

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