Compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0)

The internet has been monitored, regulated and improved through all of its years by voluntary panels of individuals and organizations that comprise its diffuse governance body. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has developed the major standards that regulate the web over the last 20 years. This process of consensus-based development has brought us HTML, XML, CSS and all the protocols that make the World Wide Web so richly work.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are part of a series of web accessibility guidelines developed and proposed by the W3C. These specify how to make content accessible for people with disabilities and for users with limited devices, such as mobile phones.  The current version of WCAG is version 2.0, published in 2008. These guidelines became an ISO standard (ISO/IEC 40500) in 2012.

Need for WCAG Compliance:

The Government of Australia has made compliance with WCAG 2.0 compulsory at every level for official websites.

For the private sector, there are many commercial justifications for compliance to these compatibility standards. Between 17 percent and 20 percent of Australian consumers have some form of visual, hearing, or motor disability that affects their internet use. This is a significant audience share that non-compliant web sites would discourage. There are also ethical reasons, and in many jurisdictions, the owner of a business website that is not accessible to disabled users can be civilly sued for discrimination.

The Guidelines:

The guidelines in WCAG 2.0 present rules that make the web more presentable, navigable, operable, understandable, and robust.

  1. Navigable:
  1. Operable:
  1. Understandable:
  1. Robust:

How to Maximize Compliance:

WCAG compliance assessments can identify gaps in a website’s compliance with the guidelines. The inspection focuses on identifying any issues that may cause users difficulty in use or navigation of a site. Suggestions are provided to correct any deficiencies found.

Automated software-based tests of web compatibility are available, but no tool has yet emerged that is able to detect an adequate number of issues to make them effective. Some applications can find issues that are likely to make the application fail. A caution is that organizations using automated compliance testing tools might run into errors in the reviews of applications.

One “accessibility checker and validator,” for instance, is an online application that asks you to enter the website to be checked. The application checks the site against WCAG accessibility standards, especially with regard to accessibility. It claims that the application puts the website through a total of 259 separate tests including HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PDF, GIF, and Flash elements, before outputting a list of suggestions. The website includes the following caution:

“Some accessibility issues require human judgement and cannot be tested automatically.”


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