What is WCAG?

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If you are at the beginning of your accessibility journey you may have heard the term "WCAG" (often pronounced "wuh-KAH-Geh"). It is an important aspect of accessibility for the web and is something everyone in the digital space should have a basic understanding of, especially as accessibility legislation is implemented across Canada and the United States. 

Below we have outlined what WCAG is, how it is used, and why it is important. If you would like more information about accessibility or would like to know how accessible your website is, get in touch with our team of experts today.

What is WCAG?

WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and is developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) as a part of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). WCAG was first developed in the late 1990s with the goal of establishing an international standard for web content accessibility. The most current version of WCAG is 2.1, which was published in 2018, while WCAG 2.0 has been approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as a standard. These guidelines act as a standard for web developers, companies, and even governments to use to ensure web accessibility.

What is Web Accessibility?

Web accessibility is the practice of ensuring there are no barriers that prevent people with disabilities from accessing information on the web (view this article to learn more about web accessibility). WCAG outlines four principles of web accessibility:

  • Perceivable - information must be presented in a way all users can perceive
  • Operable - the user interface must be operable by all users
  • Understandable - the information must be presented in a way that all users can understand
  • Robust - the content must be robust enough to be interpreted by a wide range of technologies

To learn more about the above principles, see real examples, and view case studies request a copy of our accessibility whitepaper

Under WCAG, each of these principles have guidelines and each guideline has testable success criteria with different levels of conformance. The three levels for success criteria are A, AA, and AAA, with A being the lowest level and AAA being the highest level. In order to conform with level AAA, success criteria from A, AA, and AAA must be met.

Who follows WCAG?

WCAG was initially developed to be used by web content developers as a technical standard for accessibility, though since then many organizations and governments have adopted WCAG as a standard for accessibility. For example, as of 2021, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires organizations to build websites compliant with WCAG 2.0 level AA. To learn more about the AODA view this article

Why is it important?

Web accessibility not only allows people with a wide range of disabilities better access to information on the web, it improves online experiences for everyone. It's easy to believe that web accessibility only affects a small percent of people, but the reality is that everyone will likely use a web accessibility feature at some point. For example, ensuring proper colour contrast helps people with low vision, people who are colour-blind, and people looking at their phone in sunlight.

WCAG standardizes what web accessibility means, and what needs to be done to achieve it. This standardization means that users can expect a certain level of accessibility from site that are compliant with WCAG.

The future of WCAG

The current version of WCAG, 2.1, is over 4 years old. WCAG 2.2, the next version, is scheduled to be finalized in early 2023, though a draft is currently available. WCAG 2.2 is expected to include 9 new success criteria plus all the success criteria from WCAG 2.1. Despite new success criteria being added, WCAG guidelines are backwards compatible, meaning that if you confirm with the most current version, you also conform to all previous versions. For this reason, W3C recommends using the most recent version of WCAG, as it ensure compliance with all previous versions.

To learn more about web accessibility view the below articles and get in touch with our team of experts. 

To learn more about web accessibility check out these articles: