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18.02.2019, 08:57

WCAG - Inclusivity through Accessibility

One of 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 realized on 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 on-line content more easily accessible - especially for disabled users.

Along with new web technologies come new opportunities for improvement. In December 2008 a new revised set of guidelines - WCAG 2.0 was published and became an official ISO standard, receiving an ISO/IEC 40500:2012 in October 2012.

Current iteration is WCAG 2.1, which became a W3C recommendation in June 2018.

Is WCAG mandatory?

Depending on the country you live in. In Poland regulations require public entities and institutions 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 in my company’s website?

It's the owners 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 those adjust a different level of the website:

  • UX designers will adjust the website taking into account usability. 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 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

In conclusion

The need for WCAG standards implementation is easy to understand. The more guidelines you fulfill - the more accessible to a bigger audience your website will be. Those regulations are aimed at not only the psychologically or physically disabled - also the elderly and mobile users.

While it might seem to some that implementation of WCAG is costly, time consuming and not related to who their business targets are, 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.

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