The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
What are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)?
The guidelines offer technical recommendations on how to make website content accessible. The guidelines are also the standard reference for most website accessibility-related legislation like the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) in the US, and the European Web Accessibility Directive.
WCAG Versions - 2.0, 2.1, 2.2 and 3.0
- WCAG 2.0 - published 11 December 2008.
- WCAG 2.1 - published on 5 June 2018 and is now the W3C recommended version
- WCAG 2.2 - not yet in effect, scheduled to be published in 2021
- WCAG 2.0 had 61 success criteria
- WCAG 2.1 introduced 17 more success criteria to address mobile accessibility, people with low vision, and people with cognitive and learning disabilities.
- WCAG 2.2 will be expanding on 2.1 with nine new success criteria, plus an update to one, with the goal of making content more accessible to a wider range of users.
The current standing WCAG versions 2.0 and 2.1 are categorized according to four principles, perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust (POUR).
Elements that convey information or components of a website’s user interface must be presented in a way that users are able to find, process, and understand.
All functionality and navigation on the website should be usable.
Information and the operation of the user interface must be clear and understandable to users of all abilities.
The website should be capable of adapting and developing itself to support a variety of current and potential future user agents, including assistive technologies.
Under each principle are testable success criteria that provide recommendations on how to make digital content more accessible. The success criteria are classified by three levels A, AA, and AAA, with A being the most basic level of WCAG compliance and AAA being the hardest.
Learn more about the elements of WCAG and how to comply with its success criteria.
On the 21st of January, 2021, the WAI released the first working draft of the WCAG 3.0. WCAG 3.0 is planned to be a major revision with the intention to make the guidelines more user-friendly than the WCAG 2 iterations, and more flexible, covering even more content, apps, and tools, as well as organizations and disabilities. WCAG 3.0 is still in development and is not expected to be finalized for the next few years. Learn more about WCAG 3.0.
The different WCAG compliance levels
The WCAG categorizes its conformance based on three levels: A, AA, and AAA. To conform to the guidelines, it is a requirement that one of these levels should be fully met.
Minimal WCAG compliance (level A)
Examples of Level A success criteria:
- All non-text content like images or videos must have a text alternative, like alt text or captions, that serves the equivalent purpose.
- Users can navigate the website effectively using only a keyboard
- Avoid using color as the only visual means of conveying information or prompting an action, like having green buttons with no text on them to suggest that it is meant to be selected as a ‘yes’ response.
- If there is audio that auto-plays on your website for more than 3 seconds, ensure that that you provide means of adjusting the volume, stopping, or pausing it.
Acceptable WCAG compliance (level AA)
Examples of Level AA success criteria:
- Ensuring that text on a webpage can be resized without assistive technology up to 200 % without loss of content or functionality.
- Provide descriptive headings and labels in content
- Navigational elements on the site, like menus, should be in a consistent, repeated position across the website.
- When executing an action on the site, like filling in forms or clicking on buttons, errors can occur on the user’s part. If an error should occur, suggestions for correction should be provided.
Optimal WCAG compliance (level AAA)
Examples of Level AAA success criteria:
- The visual presentation of text and images of text must have a contrast ratio of at least 7:1.
- Removing timing limitations from all content, unless it is for non-interactive synchronized media and real-time events.
- When a user has to submit information on a webpage, the submissions must be reversible, checked for input errors (and offer suggestions for correction if errors do occur), and there is a confirmation mechanism in place to allow the user to review the submission and edit if needed.
- Images of text should be avoided or only used for decoration.
Who should comply with the WCAG?
- Web content developers (page authors, site designers, etc.)
- Web authoring tool developers
- Web accessibility evaluation tool developers
How to check your website’s WCAG compliance level
How Monsido can help your website meet WCAG standards
Each audit scans your site for machine-testable issues, provides detailed reports so you can review any errors that may arise, gives you targeted recommendations on how to address these errors based on the guidelines, and shows you your compliance based on levels A, AA, and AAA. You can track and prove your accessibility compliance progress via reports in the History Center. We also offer accessibility training to customers and support, all-inclusive, to ensure that you are well-versed in both automated and manual remediation methods, and can efficiently and consistently improve your website’s accessibility.
Monsido also offers free tools to complement your web accessibility efforts, including a color contrast checker for web teams to test out compliant color combinations for their web design, and an accessibility statement generator, which helps you generate a public statement declaring your commitment to web accessibility and helps make your web accessibility policy transparent to all your users.