I learned about the WCAG as part of my self-guided continued learning after completing my Cambridge Sustainability program. As a digital communications professional and blogger, I wanted to take a greater responsibility for my learning to make sure I know of the various aspects of ethical internet communications and not just the points of being kind, refraining from bullying, avoiding plagiarism, etc. While those three things are essential to ethical communications and digital usage, there is more “below the surface” of that and additional tasks. And so, one of the things I learned about was the WCAG and disability inclusion online.

The WCAG is essential in creating, implementing, and regulating policy for digital/website accessibility.

What does it mean for a website to be WCAG compliant? And how can you tell if one is? More specifically, how do you determine if your website or blog is WCAG compliant? WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which was created by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium and is a series of guidelines that are recognized and standardized internationally, for the internet.

WCAG International Regulation:

The WCAG is recognized around the world. This blog post focuses on the United States and the European Union’s recognition, adaptation, and enforcement.

United States of America–

The United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division details the amending of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, with the creation and implementation of Section 508.

What is Section 508?

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 “requires that Federal agencies’ electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public (ADA).”

European Union–

The EU recognized WCAG 2.0 Level AA as a mandate for all official websites of the European Union, in 2010. Additionally, the EU recognizes and uses the WCAG 2.0 as their standardization for their European Accessibility Act, also known to and commonly referred to as the EAA, which is set to become a part of the law in 2025.

What happens with web inclusivity post- Brexit?

Since the U.K. has decided to leave the EU, changes will be unavoidable. Such changes relating to this decision mean that disability and accessibility guidelines will change. Disability Rights UK is one of the best sources to better understand what this means for individuals who identify as differently-abled, in the U.K. and who want to know more in-depth information about what this disability and inclusivity policy and regulation looks like.

What does the WCAG do?

The WCAG’s purpose is to make sure web content is accessible to those with differently-abled bodies and disabilities.

What is the purpose of the WCAG?

The purpose of the WCAG is to raise awareness, educate, and provide resources to website users, developers, creators, communicators, and those using/taking up web space, in general. The main objective as listed on their website is to create standards that websites follow. Click here to read more on those.

What does it mean to have website (web) accessibility?

This means that “websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them. (W3C,2021).”

Web accessibility helps people to:

  • Understand and use a website
  • Post/contribute/ interact with the website

Web accessibility aims to help those with differnt types of disabilities use the web with less difficulty.

For example, individuals with the following accessibility limitation benefit from the support of the web accessibility standards:

  • different auditory abilities
  • different cognitive abilities
  • different neurological abilities
  • abilities physical abilities
  • different speech abilities
  • different visual abilities

Web accessibiity helps those without varying abilities

For example:

  • devices with varying input modes (smart phones, smart watches, tablets, desktops, laptops, smart TVs, etc.)
  • individuals with with changing abilities due to ageing or other speial circumstances
  • individuals diagnosed and managing “temporary disabilities”
  • individuals who manage “situational limitations” including but not limited to weather or environmental ailments like bright sunlight or etreme weather conditions preventing from users able to listen to materials on their screen
  • individuls or locations with slow internet connection, limited bandwith, or other intetnet expenses

WCAG also encourages social inclusion

Individuals who are older, located in rural or isolated locations, and those located in developing countries can also utilize and rely on the website compliance from the WCAG.

What do websites need to do to be WCAG Compliant?

The WCAG has a checklist (“standards”) of things that need to be done in order to achieve a compliant status. There are three levels (referred to as “Priority”) that the WCAG has (WUHCAG).

Priority 1

The bare minimum for differently-abled users to fairly use and access the web.

Priority 2

Implementing everything outlined in the WCAG Priority 1 level, while expanding on those points to address the larger limitations differently-abled web users face.

Priority 3

Priority three includes everything in Priority 1 and 2 while making additional improvements to achieving total web accessibility.

What are the WCAG compliance requirements?

I will be focusing on the two components listed below as I don’t have the qualifications or educational background to go in-depth about the science of technology, coding, or developing web pages.

  • Wesbite Development
  • Website Content/ Design

My expertise is the “front end” of a website, which is what users interact with. Front End examples are the look and feel of the website––images, texts/words on pages (also referred to as “copy”). The “Back End” refers to the part of the website that users don’t see. For example, the coding to create the website, data storage, the editing page to write and save drafted or scheduled blog posts, and more.

How a Developer can make websites inclusive for users with disabilities

There is a technical aspect of developmental tasks that are mandatory for an inclusive website. Below are a few of the main ideas. You can find the entire list of requirements, here.

  • Providing alternative and non-text content
  • Audio and video alternatives
  • Tet transcribing and closed captioning
  • No audio auto-play
  • Allowing users to utilize full keyboard navigation
  • Conten flash liitations
  • Clearly distingishable active focus characters

How to make web content and design inclusice for differently abled users

Below are a few of the main ideas. You can find the entire list of requirements, here.

  • Clear headliens and other appropriate uses of text/website copy
  • Properly sized text for optimal readability
  • Proper letter spacing
  • Adhering to the copy minimum text ratio

Sources:

(ADA), ADA United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, 2021, “SECTION 508 SURVEYS and REPORTS”, Available at: https://www.ada.gov/508/ and redirection found at: https://www.justice.gov/crt/section-508-home-page-0

(WCAG,2008), WCAG, 17 November 2021, “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0”, Available at:https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/

(W3C, 2021) , WC3, 6 October 2021, “Introduction to Web Accessibility”, Available at: https://www.w3.org/WAI/fundamentals/accessibility-intro/

(WUHCAG), WUHCAG, 2021, “What are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines?”, Available at: https://www.wuhcag.com/web-content-accessibility-guidelines/

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