WCAG - Inclusivity through Accessibility
Story by Alex Augustyniak
4 min read
One of the many essential steps to opening your business website up to the biggest possible potential customer pool is adjusting accessibility. Providing viewing or reading options for disabled users allows them to access your content in a predictable and consistent manner.
Ever since the popularization of the internet as a whole, the need to create a predictable set of useful guidelines has become evident to the industry. This idea was brought to fruition on the of 5th May 1999 - when WCAG was first introduced to the world of web development.
What is WCAG?
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are part of a series of web accessibility guidelines published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the main international standards organization for the Internet.
It is a set of rules and recommendations for making online content more easily accessible - especially for disabled users.
Along with new web technologies came new opportunities for improvement. In December 2008 a newly revised set of guidelines - WCAG 2.0 was published and became an official ISO standard, receiving an ISO/IEC 40500:2012 in October 2012.
The current iteration is WCAG 2.1, which became a W3C recommendation in June 2018.
Is WCAG mandatory?
It all depends on the country you live in. In Poland, public entities and institutions are obligated to comply with the regulations. It is not required from private companies - however, it is still a good practice.
There are three levels of WCAG - A, AA, and AAA. Your website is considered “digitally accessible” when it meets all criteria required for levels A and AA.
Am I responsible for implementing it on my company’s website?
It's the owner's responsibility to implement WCAG, but achieving it is a group effort. It requires input and knowledge from various specialists - UX and UI designers, graphic designers, content editors, programmers, and testers.
Each of these individuals adjusts a different level of the website:
- UX designers will adjust the website taking usability into account. Their job is to develop coherent and intuitive navigation, which will in turn allow users to quickly and efficiently find needed content.
- Graphic designers will take care of fonts, spacings, color contrasts, and other visible elements of the website.
- UI designers will take components created by graphic designers and implement them in a coherent, logical, and readable way. Their job is to create a logical and easy-to-understand way to navigate the website.
- Content editors take care of proper paragraph structure, listings, and intuitive naming conventions.
- Programmers prepare the website’s code to be read and used by third-party applications for disabled users (screen readers, color adjusters, etc.)
- Testers make sure all of the designs and mechanisms described above work as intended.
How to determine if my website is accessible?
For a website to be deemed accessible in the WCAG context, it has to adhere to four main principles.
An accessible website has to be:
- Perceivable- the information contained within the website should be easily viewed by any recipient.
- Operable- users have to be able to navigate the website with options other than the common computer mouse. This can be achieved via many different devices, such as eye tracking or voice recognition.
- Understandable - content should be presented and structured in a straightforward and easy-to-understand manner.
- Robust - the information you are presenting should be consistent within the site structure, but also the website itself should be functional and optimized.
The need for WCAG standards implementation is easy to understand. The more guidelines you fulfill - the more accessible your website will be to a bigger audience. Those regulations are not only targeted towards the psychologically or physically disabled but also extend to the elderly and mobile users. So how can you create content with accessibility in mind? In one of our blog posts, we give an overview and practical tips to help you familiarize yourself with this important aspect of content creation. Feel free to check it out!
While it might seem to some that the implementation of WCAG is costly, time-consuming, and not related to their target audience, here at DirektPoint we believe that by willingly imposing standards on our own industry (instead of being regulated by a governing body) we can demonstrate to everyone that the IT industry is able to self-regulate and remain fair, inclusive and open.