Improve Your Website Accessibility with a WCAG Checklist

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Summary: If you want to improve your website’s accessibility but you’re not sure where to start, here are two key things you need to know: the worldwide standard for website accessibility is WCAG 2.1 (short for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1) and using a reliable WCAG checklist will assist you meeting its requirements.

person using WCAG checklist

The benefits of web accessibility

Before we get to WCAG and what to look for in a WCAG checklist, here’s a quick refresher on why enhancing web accessibility is in your organization’s best interest. For starters, you’ll enhance the customer experience. More than  20% of Americans have disabilities, which may impact the way they interact and engage online. Your inaccessible website may be hurting your business and you don’t even know it – research shows that 8 in 10 people with disabilities will simply disregard a business because of barriers to accessibility. 

Having an accessible website is an important part of legal compliance. The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits businesses and organizations from discriminating against people with disabilities in the course of doing business, and that includes in communications. The ADA doesn’t mention websites explicitly—the legislation was written before the iInternet became part of everyday life—but the Department of Justice (DOJ), which enforces the ADA, has indicated repeatedly that web accessibility is required as part of ADA compliance, and more recently, they’ve pointed to WCAG 2.1 as the standard to follow. (If your organization is a federal agency, or wants to sell its digital products to one, your site / product must also comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.)

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In recent years, hundreds of businesses and organizations across the United States have been sued or threatened with lawsuits because their websites weren’t compliant with WCAG 2.1. So, making web accessibility a priority is important to protecting your business. The question is, how do you know where your organization is at in terms of web accessibility, currently. A WCAG checklist is your crucial first step.

Enter WCAG 

WCAG is a set of technical guidelines for designing, writing and developing websites that are accessible to people with various disabilities. For example, visitors who are blind or have low vision need alternate ways to perceive text, such as enlarging the size, changing the background color, or allowing text to be read aloud using a screen reader. People who are deaf or hard of hearing require captioning for video content and a transcript for audio. Visitors who don’t use a computer mouse benefit from increased keyboard functionality. These common accessibility considerations are not always difficult to implement, if you know where and how to do so.

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Theguidelines were created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), a network of staff, volunteers and organizations around the globe that want to make the Internet accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.

WCAG Version 2.1, released in 2018, contains 78 accessibility success criteria, these support the overall guidelines, which are organized under four principles: perceivable, operable, understandable and robust.WCAG 2.1success criteria are also categorized into  three levels of conformance: A (minimum, basic accessibility), AA (addresses the major, most common accessibility issues) and AAA (ensures an excellent standard of accessibility). AA is the level that’s used most often in laws concerning web accessibility, and it’s the level that the DOJ recommends for ADA compliance. At this level, there are 20 success criteria to satisfy, if you’re following WCAG Version 2.1

If you’re new to the world of web accessibility guidelines, this can all seem overwhelming at first. “There are so many things to fix or add to my website,” you might be thinking. “Where do I begin?” This is where a WCAG checklist comes in handy.

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Using a WCAG checklist

If you’ve ever undertaken a renovation project, you know how helpful a detailed checklist can be. Think of improving your website’s accessibility as a digital renovation – staying organized and tracking your progress with a checklist will help ensure that you (or your web developer) won’t miss anything.

Good WCAG checklists align with what’s in WCAG 2.1. They include the specific success criteria, with plain-language descriptions or summaries of the each, and details or links for where to find further information (such as techniques and examples of common failures) from W3C or another reputable source. WCAG checklists typically list success criteria by conformance level, clearly showing what you need to do to reach levels A, AA and AAA.

The Must-Have WCAG 2.1 Checklist

To help you get started, eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY has created a free, downloadable practical resource guide, The Must-Have WCAG 2.1 Checklist. It helps you learn more about WCAG 2.1 and understand why your organization should implement the guidelines.

A Word About WCAG 2.1

As you may have heard, an update to WCAG is on the way in late 2022.. However, don’t put the brakes on your web accessibility upgrades until it’s released – WCAG versions are designed to be backwards-compatible. Sites that meet the requirements of Version 2.1 will still be following best practices for ADA compliance when 2.2 becomes available.

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What’s different about WCAG 2.2? It includes success criteria focused on accessibility for users with low vision, cognitive and learning disabilities, and limited fine motor skills. They also address mobile devices and ebooks.

An Innovative Solution

You’ve got your WCAG checklist, but do you have a plan for how to manage the results? Once you know what you need to fix, how do you go about fixing it in a way that’s thorough, yet efficient and cost-effective? Don’t worry, we’re here to help. eSSENTIAL Accessibility  has developed a comprehensive accessibility solution to help organizations follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and achieve and maintain compliance with standards and regulations. This includes integrating web compliance evaluation and remediation support with legal support services and on-demand training for your in-house teams. Together, we can help you  transform your user experience and make it more accessible not just for people with disabilities, but for everyone. Learn more about eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY’s innovative solution.

What to do next

We can help you meet WCAG standards and maintain ADA and AODA compliance:

  1. Connect with us today to learn more about our comprehensive approach to digital accessibility, including our automated and manual auditing capabilities and extensive range of managed services.
  2. Visit our resources section to download free white papers and webinars, and find our newest blogs on industry trends.
  3. Connect with us to continue the conversation on Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook.

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