Understanding WCAG

WCAG, or the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, explain how to make websites and applications accessible to people with disabilities. They set the international standard for web accessibility and are used worldwide by many. In fact, countries around the world use WCAG to measure compliance with accessibility legislation.

Organizations should aim to meet WCAG Level AA standard. And that’s what we recommend, as a minimum. But what does this really mean?

The three levels of WCAG Compliance

WCAG is broken down into three different levels. Level A, AA and AAA. Each one outlines elements that websites must meet to be accessible. With each level, the criteria gets harder.  Meeting each extra level makes your site accessible to more and more people.

The criteria covers everything from technical information to on-page content. Both of which affect how well users can access and understand your content. Below, we identify some elements outlined at each level.

Level A

WCAG 2.2 introduces nine additional success criteria since WCAG 2.1, refining the guidelines for digital accessibility. Level A outlines the fundamental requirements for a website to be considered accessible. It encompasses basic principles to ensure that content is perceivable, operable, and understandable by users with disabilities. Here are some key criteria outlined in Level A:

  • Providing text alternatives for non-text content such as images and videos.
  • Ensuring content can be accessed using a keyboard only.
  • Including labels or instructions in forms.
  • Ensuring assistive technologies like screen readers can access content.
  • Avoiding conveying meaning through shape, size, or color alone.
  • New in WCAG 2.2: Ensuring focus is not obscured when an item receives keyboard focus.
  • New in WCAG 2.2: Ensuring focus appearance meets size and contrast requirements.

Meeting Level A criteria indicates that your website is somewhat accessible to people with disabilities, but aiming for higher levels of accessibility is recommended.

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In fact...

People with disabilities represent a market worth $1.9 trillion in annual disposable income. Ensuring they can browse, buy, and access your online content or services isn't just the right thing to do - it's smart for business.

Level AA

Level AA is the recommended level of compliance, addressing common barriers for disabled users. In addition to Level A criteria, Level AA includes an extra 20 elements. These criteria enhance usability and accessibility for a broader range of users, including those with disabilities. Some examples of Level AA criteria are:

  • Ensuring good color contrast between text and background.
  • Organizing content under clear headings using a logical order.
  • Maintaining consistent navigation elements across the site.
  • New in WCAG 2.2: Ensuring dragging movements have a simple pointer alternative.
  • New in WCAG 2.2: Ensuring targets meet a minimum size or have sufficient spacing around them.

Meeting Level AA criteria ensures that your website is usable and understandable for most people, including those with disabilities.

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Did you know?

Despite Level AA being the recommended level, 97.8% of websites have Level AA failures, That means that many organizations are failing to meet accessibility standards.

Around the world, legislation uses WCAG level AA as the base for determining accessibility. And some, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, simply state that businesses are required to make their “place of public accommodation” accessible to people with disabilities. As the international standard for accessibility, it makes sense for organizations to aim for WCAG AA compliance (at minimum).

Level AAA

Level AAA represents the highest level of compliance, with criteria that are more stringent than those at Level AA. This level ensures an exceptional level of accessibility, making your website usable by the greatest number of people with disabilities. Some examples of Level AAA criteria include:

  • Maintaining even higher standards for text and background color contrast.
  • Providing sign language translations for pre-recorded video content.
  • Ensuring all content is written at a ninth-grade reading level.
  • New in WCAG 2.2: Ensuring accessible authentication methods are available that do not rely on cognitive function tests.
  • New in WCAG 2.2: Ensuring authentication processes do not require users to recognize objects or user-supplied images and media.

Meeting Level AAA criteria means going above and beyond to make your website accessible to the widest audience possible.

Why should I aim to comply with WCAG Level AA?

By meeting WCAG level AA you’re considered as having made your website “accessible”. At this level your website is usable and understandable for most people, including those with disabilities. It’s also the requirement typically outlined in accessibility legislation.

How Texthelp can help you achieve WCAG level AA

The ReachDeck Auditor identifies WCAG compliance errors at level A, AA and AAA. 

It’s a web accessibility checker that scans your URLS quickly and at scale. And provides you with downloadable reports, so you can prioritize improvements with ease. It helps save you time from manual checks. Allowing you to focus on what’s important - fixing errors and improving accessibility.

It also identifies errors that affect how understandable your content is. It highlights readability errors such as a high reading age, sentence length and jargon words. Helping you to ‘Keep content clear and concise’ as outlined by WCAG.

Top 10 WCAG errors identified by ReachDeck

  1. Color contrast errors (at level AA/AAA)
  2. Duplicate IDs
  3. Missing attributes (e.g. IFRAME)
  4. Missing alt text
  5. Missing field label
  6. Missing submit button
  7. Empty heading
  8. Invalid Scope
  9. Obsolete Markup
  10. Missing HREF

ReachDeck Auditor identifies these errors plus much more!