Accessibility guidelines were built to help businesses and organizations deliver content on the web in a way that makes it easy for everyone to gain meaning of the content. The web audience is diverse and some users rely on assistive technology or special user agents to help them navigate. From these guidelines, a set of standards were built, and these were further broken up into 4 core accessibility principles. Once a website or application meets some or all of these standards, that website or application can gain a conformance rating demonstrating the organization’s commitment to web accessibility.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 by the World Wide Web Consortium
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG 2.1) was developed through the W3C Process and explains how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. Web “content” generally refers to the information in a web page or web application, including:
- Natural information such as text, images, and sounds.
- Code or markup that defines a structure, presentation, etc.
WCAG 2.1 is technical standard meant to guide web content developers, tool developers, and evaluation applications, towards a more inclusive web.
Components and user agents that participate in accessible content
As identified by the W3C, Web Accessible Components consist of:
- Content – the information being presented in a Web page or Web application, including:
- natural information such as text, images, video, and sounds.
- code or markup that defines structure, presentation, etc.
- Devices such as Web browsers, media players, and other “user agents”
- Assistive technology such as screen readers, alternative keyboards, scanning software, etc.
- Users’ knowledge, experiences, and in some cases, adaptive strategies using the Web
- Developers – designers, coders, authors, etc., including developers with disabilities and users who contribute content
- Authoring tools (software that creates websites)
- Evaluation tools – Web accessibility evaluation tools, HTML validators, CSS validators, etc.
Each component is related, and they don’t exist in isolation from one other. When accessibility features are effectively implemented with one component, other components are more likely to implement and adapted. Eventually, a website will experience a cascading wave of accessibility affordances, making it more easy to gain conformance.
For instance, when developers want to implement an accessibility feature such as adding alt text to image content, they are more likely to select or demand an authoring tool that enables ease of alt text implementation.
4 core principles for building and maintaining content
The WCAG and the criteria designed to measure your successful implementation of those guidelines are based on four principles. When we design and build your website we apply the following:
- Content is Perceivable. Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive (it can’t be invisible to all of their senses).
Example: Employing alt attributes on img elements meaning, alternative text can describe what is being presented in the image.
- Content is Operable. User interface components and navigation must be operable (the interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform).
Example: Providing heading elements (H1, H2, H3, etc.) to indicate the start of main content areas.
- Content is Understandable. Information and the operation of the user interface must be understandable (the content or operation cannot be beyond their understanding).
Example: Specifying the default language of the website or document by providing the “lang” attribute on the HTML element.
- Content is Robust. Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies (as technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible).
Example: Maximizing compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.
Conformance rating to measure & demonstrate success
Conformance to WCAG 2.1 can be verified by a third party like Accessible Web, who reviews the website or application for conformance to the standards outlined above. Below are the rating levels of conformance a website or application can meet:
This is a baseline for web conformance. With this level, a website can be considered to have gone through basic website review, repair, and content considered and consider to have a basic level of accessibility. Criteria to meet A conformance cover needs and considerations related to mixed media, HTML markup, graphic design, forms, navigation, and usability considerations.
This level of website conformance means a team has invested time and energy into upgrading their website. With affordances such as strong color contrast, video caption considerations, and robust integration with assistive technology, many organizations find AA conformance to be a good balance between serving a wide range of users with a reasonable budget.
This level of conformance usually requires a website to have been built with accessibility in mind from the very beginning. With additional technical considerations such as reading level, definitions of technical terms, robust accessibility tools embedded into the site itself, AAA conformance has more rigorous standards than those present in a and AA. Seen on many state and public-service sites, AAA usually requires significant resources to fully meet the guidelines.
How to reach conformance
As an organization, our expertise is on Website Design and Development. Web Accessibility addresses a large swath of components that need to work together, not exclusive to what is being presented on a Web page.
Our goal is to design a website that follows the W3C Recommendations developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) for:
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, AA, which addresses Web content.
- Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) apply to authoring tools such as development platforms (e.g., WordPress). And User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UUAG) address “User Agents” such as Web browsers (e.g., Chrome, Firefox).
If Web Accessibility is critical to your organization, we recommend partnering with a consultant who can assist you with meeting the standards laid out in the ATAG and UUAG Guidelines.
Interested in making your website or web application accessible?
We can work with your organization to help deliver accessible content to your website’s visitors.