What is a web accessibility conformance statement? It’s a badge of honor, in a way. A conformance or compliance statement lets your customers and contacts know that you have brought your digital properties into compliance with web accessibility guidelines. The statement is often written by a third-party expert who has thoroughly evaluated and tested your properties, has provided support for you to fix any accessibility problems and can attest to your web accessibility.
Currently one in five North Americans has a disability, and web accessibility is crucial if they’re to participate fully in society. You may be one of a growing number of organizations and agencies that are removing barriers from their websites and apps to make them more accessible. One of the most satisfying points in this process is when you can post a web accessibility conformance statement to broadcast your achievement. But are you ready to take this step? We’ll tell you to know for sure.
What Is Meant by Conformance?
Web accessibility conformance usually refers to compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, a set of technical requirements for online accessibility. WCAG 2.0 is used around the world. It’s often cited in Americans with Disabilities Act settlements that address web accessibility. It also forms the basis for part of EN 301 549, the new European standard for accessibility in information and communication technology (ICT). If your web accessibility conformance statement indicates that you’re complying with WCAG 2.0, then you have achieved a level of digital accessibility that is universally accepted.
However, there are six requirements that must be met before you can accurately state that your website or web page conforms to WCAG 2.01. Find out if your organization is ready to post a web accessibility conformance statement!
1. Your website or web page meets at least one of the WCAG 2.0 levels of conformance.
WCAG 2.0 has three levels of conformance: A, AA and AAA. Level A is a minimum level of accessibility. Many laws that make accessibility ICT mandatory, such as Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, do not consider Level A to be a satisfactory level of accessibility2. Most laws refer instead to Level AA, which removes all of the most common major barriers to people with disabilities. Level AAA is the highest standard of accessibility, but it’s not always possible to achieve in all situations.
The World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), which develops WCAG 2.0, recommends that you also mention in your conformance statement any areas of your website or web page that go above and beyond the accessibility level you’re claiming. Let your customers know you’re continually striving for improvement!
2. The entire web page (or website, if your statement applies to the whole site) meets the requirements of WCAG 2.0.
You can’t post a web accessibility conformance statement if some parts of your website or web page have not been brought into compliance. As WAI points out, you can’t state that a “portion” of your web page conforms to accessibility standards. This isn’t a proper conformance statement. Making a partial claim like this could also appear as though you’ve set the bar lower for accessibility, or that you’ve given up trying to meet a higher standard – or, worse, that you don’t take the needs of people with disabilities seriously.
It’s best to wait until every part of the web page or website has been evaluated and remediated before posting a web accessibility conformance statement. In the meantime, you may wish to publish an accessibility statement that shares information about your commitment and timeline.
3. If several web pages are involved in completing a process or a task, then all of those pages conform.
If, for example, there are four web pages involved in the process of paying an online bill – a page for logging in, one for viewing your account, one for opening an invoice and one for processing an online payment – then all four of those pages must meet the accessibility requirements of WCAG 2.0 before you can make a conformance statement.
It’s actually pretty common for a “process” to involve multiple web pages. Think about the process of making a purchase from an online store: It could involve browsing pages of products, clicking individual products to find out more information, adding items to a shopping cart, and then checking out. The process of registering for a recreational program might involve doing a search for a specific sport or activity, looking at the schedules of various community centres, and selecting and signing up for a program. Thus, all of the web pages involved must be accessible before you can post a web accessibility conformance statement.
4. If people with disabilities use assistive technology, it will work properly on your web page.
Sometimes, people with disabilities rely on assistive technology to interact with a website. For example, people who are blind and can’t see the words on a web page might use screen readers to read all the text out loud. People with limited movement in their hands might use voice-controlled tools to navigate the site. These individuals may have their own downloaded assistive technology, or they may use a suite of assistive technology tools provided by you, or they may manage with the accessibility features programmed into a browser or smartphone.
Removing online barriers means making it possible for people with assistive technology to use your website. If your web pages aren’t supported by assistive technologies or the accessible features of technologies, then you cannot post a web accessibility conformance statement.
A qualified web accessibility consultant will actually perform functional testing on your web pages using various assistive technologies to ensure that they are supported.
5. If non-accessible technologies are used on a web page, they don’t interfere with the way people with disabilities use the page.
If you’ve incorporated a cool new animation, graphic or other technology into a web page, and it isn’t accessible, all of the functions and information on the page must remain available to people with disabilities. Plus, the new technology can’t interfere with the way people with disabilities use the rest of the page. For example, you can’t add a fast-flashing animation to the page, because flickering at a high rate is a disability barrier. It can induce seizures in some people, and it can make it difficult for others to concentrate.
6. All third-party content on your website is accessible.
When you’re choosing third-party technology to use on your website, you should always make sure it meets the technical requirements of WCAG 2.0. Make it a standard part of your procurement process to check these technologies for accessibility conformance. Your accessibility partner can help you verify this. If, however, you’re allowing content onto your page that you don’t control – such as a portal to another organization’s events calendar – then you can’t make a conformance statement, because you can’t guarantee this won’t contain barriers.
The WAI recommends that you set up a regular monitoring system to check for any content that falls out of compliance. One this is in place, you’re in business! Your accessibility partner can work with you to draft an accurate statement that promotes what you have achieved. You can post your web accessibility conformance statement with pride, letting the marketplace know that you’re an inclusive organization, and that your website meets universal accessibility requirements.
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.