What are WCAG 2.0 A, AA, and AAA? May 11, 2017

Ace of Clubs Playing Card

We’ve talked about what WCAG 2.0 is and why we need these rules in previous posts. If you need a quick refresher you can go here. WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and helps to keep the internet accessible to everyone no matter what their needs are or what modifications they may require. It may seem difficult to meet everyone’s needs, and truthfully, it is. With that in mind, everyone with a website needs to make an effort to pitch in and do their part to keep the internet accessible. If you are saying to yourself, “That’s all well and good, but where do I start?” that’s why the WCAG 2.0 guidelines exist. They’re here to help you get your website to a place where anyone and everyone can utilize it and access the information you want them to know.

WCAG 2.0 Foundational Principles

There are four basic considerations that these WCAG 2.0 guidelines are based upon. You need to think about whether your web content is perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.[1] From these four main categories, the WCAG 2.0 recommendations branch out into more detailed recommendations.

The Difference Between A and AAA

When you were in school, there were probably a few kids who were constantly seeking that A+. At the time it might have seemed a bit much, but in situations like digital accessibility, the A+ is meeting AAA requirements, and it’s actually a really good thing. Sure, it is great to meet the A-level requirements. That shows you are aware of the issues that accessibility can cause your website visitors. Also, following the WCAG 2.0 A standards can keep you out of legal trouble since inaccessible websites can be subject to lawsuits.

The difference is that making your website AAA compliant will actually help the most people in many cases. Before we go any further, it is good to note that AAA conformity isn’t always possible as the W3C site notes, “It is not recommended that Level AAA conformance be required as a general policy for entire sites because it is not possible to satisfy all Level AAA Success Criteria for some content.”[2] While the highest level of compliance is a great thing to strive for, do remember that it might not be possible in every case.

Compliance Levels Sample Case

The A, AA, and AAA distinctions might seem a bit abstract right now, so let’s put them into an example case. If you or someone you know is prone to seizures that are triggered by flashing content, then websites can be potentially harmful. WCAG 2.0 accounts for this possibility and has guidelines to inform website owners of what is appropriate flashing content and what is not.

In the WCAG 2.0 Guideline 2.3 – Seizures they explain compliance in the following ways:

 “2.3.1 Three Flashes or Below Threshold Level A Web pages do not contain anything that flashes more than three times in any one second period, or the flash is below the general flash and red flash thresholds.”[3]

2.3.2 Three Flashes Level AAA Web pages do not contain anything that flashes more than three times in any one second period.”[4]

So the Level A recommendations are a bit more flexible by giving website owners the “or” option, the AAA recommendation is stricter. If there is an AAA level of compliance, then it is a good idea to at least check to see if you can implement it on your content. Avoiding seizure triggering content is just one of the ways that following the A, AA, and AAA guidelines can help you to keep your website visitors from having unexpected issues when using your site.

Compliance with WCAG 2.0 is extremely important. Meeting any level of requirements can make a big difference for your users, and can help prevent issues that are totally avoidable. In all likelihood, your website is made to appeal to a fairly large audience, which means that they will have diverse needs. Following the WCAG 2.0 recommendations will help you to accommodate these needs and ensure your website visitors have the best possible experience when visiting your site.

Have you started implementing the WCAG 2.0 A, AA, or AAA guidelines on your site? Do you have any advice or tips for other website owners looking to improve the accessibility of your website? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below!

 

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