Improve Your Website Accessibility with a WCAG Checklist

person using WCAG checklist

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 2.0 (short for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0) and using a reliable WCAG checklist will assist you meeting its requirements.

Before we get to WCAG and what to look for in a checklist, here’s a quick refresher on why enhancing web accessibility is in your company’s or organization’s best interest. For starters, you’ll enhance the customer experience for the 20% of Americans who have disabilities. 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.

WCAG is a set of technical requirements for designing, writing and developing websites that will make them as 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 using a screen reader. People who are deaf or hard of hearing require captioning for video and a transcript for audio. Visitors who don’t use a computer mouse benefit from increased keyboard functionality. These common accessibility features are not difficult to implement.

Having an accessible website is required by law. 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 communications. The ADA doesn’t mention websites – the legislation was written before the Internet became part of everyday life – but the Department of Justice (DOJ), which enforces the ADA, has indicated repeatedly that web accessibility is required, and that WCAG 2.0 is the standard to follow. (If your organization receives any federal grants or other federal funds, your site must also comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.)

You should also be aware that, 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 2.0. Protect your business by making web accessibility a priority.

Why WCAG 2.0?

These technical guidelines 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 2.0 helps you ensure that content – including text, images, sounds, code or markup – on webpages and in applications will be more accessible.

The original guidelines, known as WCAG 1.0, were released in 1999. WCAG 2.0, released in 2008, contains many improvements, and over time it has become the world’s most accepted web accessibility standard.

What do the guidelines look like? WCAG 2.0 has 12 guidelines organized under four principles: perceivable, operable, understandable and robust1 Each guideline has several testable success criteria. WCAG 2.0 also has three levels of conformance: A (minimum, basic accessibility), AA (addresses the major, most common accessibility issues) and AAA (highest standard). Each level has a list of success criteria to meet. 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.

If you’re new to the world of web accessibility guidelines, they can seem overwhelming at first – especially if you’re not very tech-savvy. “There are so many things to fix or add to my website,” you might be thinking. “Where do I begin?” This is where a web accessibility checklist comes in handy.

Using a WCAG 2.0 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 web accessibility checklists align with what’s in WCAG 2.0. They include the specific success criteria, plain-language descriptions or summaries of the criteria, and details or links for where to find further information (such as techniques and examples of common failures) from W3C or another reputable source. Web accessibility 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 2.0 Checklist

To help you get started, eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY has created a free, downloadable practical resource guide, The Must-Have WCAG 2.0 Checklist. It helps you learn more about WCAG 2.0 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, and it will likely launch in mid-2018. However, don’t put the brakes on your web accessibility upgrades – WCAG 2.1 is designed to be backwards-compatible. Sites that meet the requirements of version 2.0 will still be ADA-compliant when 2.1 becomes available.

What’s different about WCAG 2.1? It includes requirements that improve accessibility for people who have cognitive and learning disabilities and for people with low vision, and it addresses mobile accessibility2.

An Innovative Solution

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 services with assistive technology to deliver a transformative experience for people with disabilities. Learn more about eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY’s innovative solution.

References

  1. WCAG 2 at a Glance, W3C, 2011
  2. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, W3C, 2018

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