WCAG Compliance, What You Need to Know
When a website is one of your most important business assets, it makes sense to ensure it is accessible to as wide and diverse an audience as possible. That includes those who may not be able to access electronic resources in the traditional manner. That may be because they have vision or hearing disabilities or are unable to use conventional devices to access content. Whatever the reason, these are potential visitors and customers that you could be missing out on if you do not address accessibility standards.
Setting the Standard
Keeping on top of such standards can mean you are forever chasing your tail in order to stay compliant. Fortunately, an important development in the web design industry is that of accessibility standardization, and more specifically, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. These standards were established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in 2008 to help developers to design websites so that users of accessible devices are able to access and read them without barriers.
The guidelines are very thorough and address many types of accessibility challenges. For example, in order to comply with WCAG standards, all audio files would require an accompanying written transcript so that deaf users could access and engage with the content.
Why Do Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Matter?
According to recent research, two-thirds of Americans own one or more digital devices. When you consider also that eight out of 10 of those people use their devices to make purchases, and that a significant number of these people will have a disability, accessibility becomes an instant no-brainer.
The WCAG regulations take the guesswork out of getting accessibility right. Without them, it would be difficult to understand how to make a website accessible to everybody, regardless of their ability. It could also mean a lawsuit if users find you are unfairly making your website inaccessible to them. Sadly, the majority of websites contain accessibility barriers of some kind. WCAG helps organizations revisit and update their existing websites and develop accessibility policies that can be used for all future web design projects.
WCAG guidelines are split into three levels of standardization conformance: A, AA and AAA, with AAA being the highest level achievable. When your website hits AAA status, it means it conforms to all three levels.
Examples of what might be expected at each level include:
Level A: Captions are provided for all prerecorded audio content in synchronized media, except when the media is a media alternative for text and is clearly labeled as such.
Level AA: Except for captions and images of text, text can be resized without assistive technology up to 200 percent without loss of content or functionality.
Level AAA: Images of text are only used for pure decoration or where a particular presentation of text is essential to the information being conveyed.
You can choose the level at which you want to conform and then make a claim for compliance. Your site will be formally audited and, if successful, will be awarded certification at the level you have achieved. These levels are tested against WCAG 2.0 Success Criteria which determine whether the content satisfies the criteria. Testing involves a combination of human evaluation and automated testing.
WCAG Audit – What to Expect
A WCAG audit includes a four-point testing procedure that includes the following principles:
- Perceivable: Available through sight, hearing, or touch
- Operable: User interface and navigation must be operable and compatible with keyboard or mouse
- Understandable: User-friendly, easy to comprehend
- Robust: As technologies and user agents evolve, the content needs to remain accessible.
The first phase of testing is carried out by individuals with at least one disability, using accessible devices to access your content. They will examine the functions and pages of your website, document or mobile application and record their outcome using the Success Criteria mentioned above. During the second phase of testing, their findings will be reviewed by a subject matter expert who will add their own input if required and ensure accuracy.
Best Practices for Defining an Accessibility Strategy
Making a few changes here and there to address accessibility challenges is not enough to be compliant. To ensure that customers who cannot use traditional electronic or printed content can access your content in an accessible format at all times, you must make the WCAG 2.0 standard the cornerstone of your accessibility strategy.
Using the guidelines as your foundation, you will need to develop workflows and generate documents that ensure all of your teams are on the same page using the same design and development techniques and processes going forward. The documents you use may be as simple as a WCAG 2.0 checklist that your teams use for each project. Such a checklist will help you to keep tabs on your accessibility progress, set targets for the future and record how far you have come. You can also use your checklist to “retrofit” accessibility improvements on sites you have already published.
What’s Next for WCAG?
While it won’t replace WCAG 2.0, WCAG 2.1 is coming soon and will include additional guidelines that relate to newer technologies. Websites that already conform to WCAG 2.0 will still be compliant, but developers should refer to WCAG 2.1 to ensure they keep up to date with the latest guidance.
We Can Help
If your business needs compliance we can help. We’ve helped large and small enterprises reach compliance including brands like Zaxby’s. Phalanx can be your WCAG partner to either set the stage for compliance for you or your partners. Feel free to email us for more details at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Thursday January 18, 2018
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