Web accessibility has a significant impact on any organization and business that is online. Besides the benefits to business development, meeting specific criteria ensures equal access for people with disabilities.
In the United States, it is mandatory that every website, including online stores, provide easy access for all users. It is based on accessibility regulations that are following established laws. One of the most recognizable is the WCAG guidelines.
What is WCAG compliance?
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, known mainly as WCAG, are accessibility standards developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
The W3C’s web accessibility initiative aims to improve the accessibility of web content for people with disabilities. It is also related to ensuring equal access to various digital platforms and the fight against discrimination.
WCAG provides standards and guidelines to serve as a framework for creating digital content, websites, and applications that are easy to perceive, understand, and interact with.
There are two versions of WCAG Compliance:
- WCAG 1.0 – it is the first version of the guidelines from 1999. It included 14 guidelines divided into 3 levels. The first level ensured a basic level of accessibility, the second aimed to remove accessibility barriers for people with disabilities, and the third level ensured accessibility improvements.
- WCAG 2.0 – these are the present guidelines, which entered into force in 2008. WCAG 2.0 is based on four principles.
Why Is It Important to Meet WCAG Compliance?
Compliance with WCAG plays a key role in creating an inclusive and accessible online space where every user can access a product, service, content, and other types of digital products.
There are many reasons to meet the WCAG compliance:
- Legal requirements – as we have mentioned above, the United States and many other countries have legislation that obliges website owners to create digital content that is easily accessible to people with disabilities;
- Better inclusivity – encouraging inclusion allows people with visual, hearing, cognitive, and motor impairments to access and interact with your website. This demonstrates a commitment to providing equal opportunities and a positive user experience to all users;
- Improved user experience – complying with the guidelines is also about optimizing your website and improving its performance. It is also related to an improved user experience, which is essential for growing your business;
- Expanding market reach – about 15% of the world’s population has some form of disability. It is a significant reason to create a more inclusive environment that people with disabilities can also access.
Meeting legal requirements, being socially responsible, and having an excellent user experience contribute to improving brand reputation. That, in turn, expands the audience you reach.
How Many Success Criteria Are There?
The WCAG guidelines cover accessibility requirements based on four principles, forming the acronym POUR.
These principles are:
Perceivability means that all users, including those with disabilities, have equal access to websites, digital platforms, and applications. They can easily perceive content through the different senses – sight, hearing, and touch.
It includes adding alternative text to all images, providing transcripts and captions in videos, as well as ensuring that there is sufficient contrast between the background and the text.
Operability enables interaction with web content by users. In this regard, the guidelines refer to easy keyboard navigation and content that will minimize the risk of user errors.
On the other hand, understandability refers to providing understandable content. It includes using clear language, consistent navigation, and clear instructions and error messages.
Last but not least, robustness ensures a reliable interpretation of the web content provided. It includes different user agents and assistive technologies. To comply with this principle, follow the best coding practices and use valid HTML, CSS, and other web technologies.
There are three levels of WCAG compliance for websites:
- Level A – this is the bare minimum of accessibility. If the score of your website is A, you must work on improving web accessibility and fixing existing errors;
- Level AA – it is an average level of accessibility that most sites strive for;
- Level AAA – it is the highest level of accessibility.
Who Should Follow WCAG Requirements?
WCAG requirements are addressed to all website owners, developers, and designers. However, all private and public organizations and businesses that maintain a website should have access to and understand all regulations.
It ensures compliance with accessibility requirements as well as improves a website’s online performance and brand reputation.
What Happens if Your Website Isn’t WCAG Compliant?
Non-compliance with the accessibility regulations can lead to legal consequences, such as fines and lawsuits, as well as damage to the brand’s reputation.
When you do not follow the accessibility guidelines, you mitigate the chances of reaching a wider audience. Bad user experience leads to poor website performance, such as low traffic.
How to Check Your Website for Accessibility?
The best way to check if your website meets accessibility guidelines is to use an accessibility checker. It will thoroughly scan and analyze your site’s performance and provide you with an in-depth report. That guarantees that you won’t miss significant issues that affect the level of web accessibility.
How to Make Your Website WCAG-Compliant?
Various factors are considered for a website to be WCAG-compliant.
The most important things you should implement to improve your website accessibility are:
- Add alternative text to all images on your website – they help screen readers understand what the image is about;
- Add video and audio transcriptions and captions;
- Create easy-to-read content – short paragraphs with headings;
- Put the most crucial information at the top of the web page;
- Create lists that describe what the content is about;
- Use the ARIA rules (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) to improve digital accessibility and dynamic content;
- Avoid using tables – they only will confuse screen readers;
- Make sure you provide the necessary keyboard navigation so that people with disabilities can access your website;
- Use audio descriptions to describe the visual elements of the videos and multimedia content you share;
- Use colors that are not too bright, as they may distract the user and irritate the eyes. It is essential to have a contrast between the text and the background.
Differences between WCAG compliance and ADA compliance
ADA stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act. The main differences between WCAG and ADA are their scope, legal framework, international application, and specification.
On the one hand, the scope of ADA website compliance is much broader. The law is about preventing discrimination against all United States citizens with disabilities. It does not explicitly mention web accessibility.
However, the Department of Justice, on the other hand, enforces WCAG standards under the ADA, which confirms the relationship between the two legal regulations.
Besides these two requirements, two others apply. These are AODA compliance and Section 508 compliance.
Why Trust QualiBooth for Your Accessibility Success?
QualiBooth checker provides a detailed analysis of your website’s accessibility. It shows whether there are issues and how to fix them.
The accessibility software is straightforward to install and use, as well as the reports are easy to understand. With in-depth analysis and continuous monitoring, you can significantly improve the effective performance of your website.
What is WCAG compliance?
WCAG compliance stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. These standards aim to provide equal web accessibility for people with disabilities.
Is WCAG legally required?
WCAG guidelines are internationally recognized requirements for all public and private organizations. Non-compliance with the guidelines may lead to legal consequences.
What are the 4 criteria for WCAG?
The four WCAG criteria are: