What is the WCAG and How Does it Impact Your Business’s Website?
What is the WCAG, and how does it impact your business? The acronym WCAG refers to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (also known as WCAG 2.1 guidelines) are widely regarded as the most important protocols contributing to the development of web accessibility policy. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which is the same body that establishes worldwide standards for all technologies associated with the web, was the organization that was responsible for its development.
The WCAG 2.1 rules are intended to make web content more accessible to individuals with disabilities, including those using screen readers and other assistive technology.
What is the WCAG and Why Should I Be Concerned With Compliance?
You need to have an understanding of the people who are behind the WCAG in order to get a complete comprehension of why they are so important. For example, the World Wide Web Consortium, also known as the W3C, is responsible for developing the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) was established in October 1994 within the walls of the Laboratory for Computer Science (MIT/LCS) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Top scientists were among the group’s founding members. As of late 2019, the organization has approximately 440 members, including executives from businesses, charitable organizations, colleges, government bodies, and industries related to the mission.
In the middle of the 1990s, when the W3C was first started, one of the first concerns that its founders tackled was the problem of developing accessibility standards for the web. However, it would be a number of years before a unified set of standards was presented for public consumption. The Trace R&D Center at the University of Wisconsin, a collaborator of the W3C, presented a 25-point document on best practices for web accessibility in 1998. This served as the foundation for the initial edition of WCAG, released in 1999, the year after it was first published. At the tail end of 2008, the WCAG 2.0New Window was finally made available to the public after a delay of over ten years. Today, the updated version of WCAG 2.1 is the standard on web accessibility set by the W3C; this is the standard that we currently adhere to.
Initially, the W3C worked on defining web protocols to make it possible for websites and online tools to communicate with one another. However, before being presented to the membership for a vote, each standard proposed by the W3C is subjected to rigorous testing and scrutiny. As a result, the W3C standards typically include three different degrees of conformity, ranging from A to AAA.
The Four Principles of WCAG.
Although the complete WCAG 2.1 is extremely lengthy and complicated, with many different points and requirements, they are all founded on the same four fundamental principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. In other words, the WCAG 2.1 is designed to ensure that websites are accessible to people with disabilities. Some people are under the impression that there is a checklist for WCAG 2.1, but the process is far more involved. Understanding the WCAG’s principles is the first step toward achieving compliance with the guidelines:
This relates to the ways in which people perceive content on the internet through their sight, sound, and touch senses. This includes things like text that can be altered for contrast, color, text size and spacing, typeface, and other similar features that make it simpler to read. Some examples of this are captions for films, text that can be adjusted for contrast, color, text size and spacing, and font.
The term “operability” refers to the various ways a website can be utilized. People who have issues with their motor function, such as weakened muscles, wounded limbs, etc., can benefit tremendously from this information. A website must be completely navigable using only the keyboard, sight-assisted navigation, and other methods in addition to the more traditional mouse.
Sites that are understandable are simple and straightforward for all users. They do not have a large number of technical phrases or tough jargon, they do not contain intricate instructions that are hard to follow, and they have consistent directions that will not confuse readers.
There are two components that make up a robust website:
- Employing HTML and CSS code that is well-organized and complies with established standards
- Having compatibility with the assisting technologies that individuals with disabilities use to navigate the internet
What kind of impact does WCAG have on accessibility laws?
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are not a codified body of laws, but numerous governments have chosen to use them as the basis for their accessibility mandates. This article provides a concise summary of the international accessibility laws based on the WCAG criteria. Conformity with WCAG is, in practice, the best means of attaining compliance with the majority of worldwide legislation.
Regulation in the United States that is related to WCAG.
The revised version of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 went into effect at the beginning of 2018. According to Section 508, all users must have access to any and all online platforms operated by federal agencies or any organization that receives funds from the federal government. In addition, these websites are required to conform to the WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards, as per the most recent set of regulations.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that in the event of a lawsuit brought by a disabled person against a company operating in the United States that has a website that is not accessible, the court will order the website to comply with WCAG 2.0 Level AA. Therefore, you will probably hear the term “WCAG ADA Compliance” quite frequently. This indicates that adhering to the WCAG standards is the most effective method for complying with the ADA.
Regulation in the European Union that is relevant to WCAG.
In 2010, officials from the EU decided to make compliance with WCAG 2.0 Level AA essential for all official EU websites. In 2016, they expanded this requirement to cover all digital platforms used by the public sector and added WCAG 2.1. Additionally, the European Union (EU) decided to use WCAG 2.0 as the benchmark for the new European Accessibility Act (EAA), which is scheduled to enter into force in 2025.
Regulations in Canada linked to the WCAG.
The federal government in Ottawa, Canada, enacted the Accessible Canada Act (ACA) in June of 2019, making it a law in the country. The ACA mandates that a significant number of websites in both the public and private sectors conform to the guidelines established by the WCAG.
Several provinces have also enacted accessibility laws, such as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) of 2005, the Accessibility for Manitobans Act (2013), and the Nova Scotia Accessibility Act (2017), which all use the WCAG as the standard for compliance. These laws were passed in response to the growing number of people living in the province with disabilities.
WCAG-related regulations in Australia’s legal system.
In 1992, Australia passed a law called the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) to remove the obstacles that hinder people with impairments from accessing real-world workspaces. The Human Rights Commission of the Australian government and other authorized entities in that country eventually interpreted the DDA to include provisions for online services. To avoid running afoul of the DDA, official recommendations “highly encourage” all companies and services to conform to the WCAG 2.1 requirements.
In 2010, the Australian government’s Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy mandated that all departments and agencies of the Australian government must comply with WCAG 2.0 Level AA.
Israel’s WCAG-related regulatory framework.
Accessibility is regulated by the law known as Israel Standard (IS) 5568, which went into force in October of 2017. The majority of companies are required by IS 5568 to conform their websites to the WCAG’s accessibility standards.
Ignoring the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) could result in legal action because it serves as the foundation of accessibility legislation in most countries around the world and is universally acknowledged as the most dependable and efficient set of accessibility standards. However, if you conform to the guidelines established by the WCAG, you won’t make any mistakes.
Despite the fact that the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) do not have the authority of law, they have gained worldwide recognition as the most important set of accessibility standards, and most major countries implement them, albeit to varying degrees. Failing to comply with the WCAG could result in legal action, as many countries have passed laws that make adhering to the WCAG the most effective way of conforming to accessibility requirements.
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