Pillars of Web Content Accessibility (WCAG)

# accessibility #compliance #webcontent

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Jay Anthony

14 July 20218 min read

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Introducing the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is developed through the W3C process in cooperation with individuals and organizations around the world. It lies in the goal of providing a single shared standard for Web Content Accessibility. This meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.

The WCAG documents explain how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. Web “content” generally refers to the information in a web page or web application, including:

- Natural information such as text, images, and sounds

- Code or markup that define structure, presentation, etc.

Who is WCAG for?

WCAG is primarily intended for:

1. Web content developers (page authors, site designers, etc.)

2. Web authoring tool developers

3. Web accessibility evaluation tool developers

4. Others who want or need a standard for web accessibility, including mobile accessibility

Related resources are intended to meet the needs of many different people, including policy makers, managers, researchers, and others.

WCAG is a technical standard, not an introduction to accessibility. For introductory material and the answer to your question- “Where should I start?” click here. You will get to know the laws, standards, and guidelines of how making information accessible is accomplished. 

WCAG is accepted worldwide

The most widely accepted standards are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These technical standards are based on four pillars of accessibility that define how information should be presented digitally. If we see WCAG 2, these are the standards adopted by the governments of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, UK, and the US to measure digital accessibility in your organization.  WCAG 2.1 was released in June 2018 and builds upon the previous version without alteration to previous standards. The W3C consists of members from around the world who contributed to the building of WCAG. 

According to WCAG, information that is presented digitally should be:

~ Perceivable

~ Operable

~ Understandable

~ Robust

These are the 4 Pillars of accessibility that define how information should be presented digitally. Let us discuss these pillars in detail, below:

1. Perceivable

Starting at the most basic level, users must be able to process information. Information that is not presented in a processable format is not accessible. Among other affordances, this means providing text for those who cannot hear, and audio for those who cannot see. It does not mean creating audio for all text, but content must be consumable by screen readers and other assistive technologies. Websites and apps that require sight or hearing won’t pass the test of perceivability.

Ask yourself: Is there anything on our website that a blind, deaf, low vision or color blind user would not be able to perceive?

There should be a non-text alternative for all text and text functions.  Some examples of “perceivable” include alt text for images and captions on videos, color contrast practices such as red text not being used against a green background as 8% of men have red/green color blindness. Content should be easy to see or hear or feel with a connected Braille display, and it should be easy to locate.

Operable

People with disabilities need to be able to operate websites and applications with a variety of tools. Many users with disabilities cannot operate a mouse. Alternatives like keyboard-based operation should be implemented.

To help users with cognitive disabilities operate a website, animations and media should be controllable, and time limits for completing an action should be generous or configurable. Most importantly, sites and apps should be forgiving. All people, not just those with disabilities, make mistakes. Offer second chances, instructions, cancellation options, and warnings to help all users.

Ask yourself: Can all functions of our website be performed with a keyboard? Can users control the interactive elements of our website? Does our website make completing tasks easy?

Here, buttons should work regardless of whether someone is using a keyboard, a mouse, a touchscreen, a joystick, or any other input mechanism. Users should be able to navigate through the content easily. There should be no “keyboard traps” (places where you can tab onto an element but are unable to tab back out).

Understandable

If users can perceive and operate a website, that doesn’t mean they can understand it. Understandable websites use clear, concise language and offer functionality that is easy to comprehend. If a user takes an action, the connection between the action and the result should be obvious. Navigation should be used consistently across a site. Forms should follow a logical flow and provide clear labels. If a user must go through a process — like a checkout — adequate guidance should be provided. If this feels like usability and not accessibility, that’s because usable websites are inherently more accessible.

Ask yourself: Is all the text on our website clearly written? Are all of the interactions easy to understand?

The language presented visually should be the same as the language coded into the website so that the screen reader is reading it in the correct language. I once saw a mistake in the coding result in an unexpected change of language for screen reader users from English to French right in the middle of an exam.

Robust

Users pick their own mix of technologies. Within limits, websites should work well-enough across platforms, browsers, and devices to account for personal choice and user need. While users cannot expect a website to support Internet Explorer 1.0, sites should not dictate the technology users can use. When sites dictate supported technology platforms, they restrict access for any non-conforming user. One of the best ways to meet the principle of robustness is to follow development standards and conventions. Clean code is generally more robust and consumable across platforms.

Ask yourself: Does our website only support the newest browsers or operating systems? Is our website developed with best practices?

The content should be usable with a variety of technologies, assistive and otherwise, and remain usable as technology changes.  For example, a video should work regardless of the browser or device on which you are trying to watch it. 

In conclusion to WCAG

The goal of WCAG is for your organization’s digital information to reach everyone, regardless of how they access that information. You need to remain familiar with both accessibility standards and changing technology. Make accessibility an integral part of your organization with TECHVED Consulting. Allow it to mould how your digital content is created and provided to your audience for their convenience. 

They also cover more than the specific guidelines: Questions such as “what is simple language?” Simple to whom? In what context?  If your online content meets these basic pillars of the WCAG philosophy, it will meet or exceed the individual standards found in WCAG.

Need to know more about WCAG and Accessibility?  We are here to help!

 

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Concluding message

A well-designed website for users with disabilities is a site that is more accessible to use for all types of users.

A well-designed digital business can easily explain the process of online buying and selling for users with disabilities and can add more value to the business.

Therefore, add some mint into the users’ cup of tea and provide an accessible zest to your digital assets by making it more compliant.

Feel free to get in touch with TECHVED Consulting!

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WRITTEN BY

Jay Anthony

Marketing Head | TECHVED Consulting India Pvt. Ltd.

He led efforts to develop a fully integrated marketing communications plan and growing team. He is responsible for successful corporate re-brand and update of all branded assets.

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