In today’s increasingly digital world, web accessibility shouldn’t be taken lightly by any company, regardless of its size or customer base. People of all abilities deserve an equitable web experience, and the law increasingly enforces standards to accommodate them. That’s why it’s never been so essential to meet WCAG 2.0 compliance, the benchmark for website accessibility. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place to learn what you need to know.
Let’s start by considering the legal implications of non-compliance.
Compliance Isn’t a Choice: It’s The Law
In short, not complying with WCAG accessibility standards can alienate users and land your company in legal trouble. The past few years have shown that lawsuits for non-compliant websites are sharply rising for all-sized businesses. And, naturally, smaller firms with fewer resources take the biggest hit.
But for any organization, assistive tech tools can be the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. They can dramatically improve a website’s accessibility and conformance standards at a fraction of the cost of a potential lawsuit.
The WCAG aims to provide a fair online environment for everyone, regardless of their abilities. Moreover, you want everyone to get the most out of their time on your website, which means considering any users who may require special modifications or accommodations. Get started by first having a good understanding of WCAG requirements.
Like all acronyms, WCAG represents a meaningful definition—and this is one you definitely want to understand (see below).
What does WCAG stand for?
WCAG stands for “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.” These guidelines have been developed by the W3C to provide the gold standard for web accessibility that meets the needs of people with disabilities, no matter what they are. WCAG 2.0 compliance guidelines provide updated standards for good web accessibility that are testable and not technology-specific.
Every person who visits your site is different. Some will interact with the content in the way you would anticipate, but a large section of the population will not. According to a 2015 CDC report, 53 million adults in the U.S. lived with a disability. However, this statistic is general and can refer to many different kinds of disabilities.
Still, 53 million people make up a significant proportion of the population which shows there is a significant need for accessible solutions in both the physical and online worlds. That’s why WCAG 2.0 exists – to help you help your users.
WCAG guidelines for accessibility were developed to create a baseline for a single standard on web content accessibility. This baseline would meet the needs of people, organizations, and governments worldwide.
Are you still wondering, “but what is WCAG?” Let’s delve into the guidelines a bit more to get a better understanding of what WCAG 2.0 compliance means for you.
What Does WCAG Impact?
The existence of WCAG requirements shows there’s a big problem in accessibility as basic needs are not being met. Online content is often difficult for entire groups of people to access because it’s not built to accommodate specific disabilities. These web accessibility guidelines strive to help include everyone by adapting content to suit their needs through the four principles of WCAG, which call for digital content to be:
Let’s consider how a person with a visual impairment would use the internet. They will likely need to enlarge text on a website or use a text-to-speech function to have the words read aloud to them. However, a website needs to be built or modified in a way that accommodates this function.
This means that a webpage full of images without alt-text to describe them will be unreadable to someone with a screen reader, or that small text with poor contrast to the background color may be unreadable to someone with low vision. This is why WCAG 2.0 compliance is important for people with disabilities to be able to navigate the online world.
It’s not just about vision, either. Other disabilities, such as motor impairments and auditory disabilities, can also impact how a user perceives your site. WCAG requirements help website owners understand their user’s limitations and make the necessary adjustments.
Why Is WCAG Important?
These WCAG guidelines for accessibility will affect your company if you have an online presence, such as in an app or website. Essentially, they exist to help people who need assistance accessing websites due to disabilities or limitations. Helping people access your online content is both morally right and business-savvy.
Making your website WCAG accessibility compliant means that millions of people who were previously excluded from easily using your site will now be able to participate. WCAG 2.0 compliance criteria were established to help people with impairments who may find it difficult to use the internet without accessibility support.
An excellent video on YouTube, Inclusive design and testing: Making your app accessible – Google I/O 2016, illustrates the online accessibility changes businesses need to make to comply with WCAG requirements. It introduces a few startups that engage in conversation with users with disabilities that could prevent them from interacting with their web content in unexpected ways.
Through some basic user testing, each startup was able to make simple changes that opened their sites up to people with disabilities. These barriers were surprisingly easy for the startups to break down once they learned what the users needed.
Similarly to this testing exercise, WCAG 2.0 guidelines help website owners learn more about what users with disabilities need in online content. The regulations do the work of identifying what problems most disabled users have when using websites and give website owners guidelines on how to correct the problems.
If you need even more of an incentive, consider the legal consequences of non-compliance with these web accessibility guidelines. Companies of all sizes are finding themselves in hot water for having websites that are not WCAG 2.0 compliant.
Lawsuits are being filed every day, and the courts, attorney fees, and the general process that comes with a legal defense aren’t worth it. Keeping your website as accessible as possible will help protect you.
WCAG Compliance Checklist
When looking to make your website more compliant, you’ll want to keep some WCAG 2.0 compliance guidelines in mind. The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative’s reference guide lays out accessibility guidelines you’ll want to follow under the main principles of WCAG accessibility. They are:
- Text-alternatives – Provide text alternatives for non-text content
- Time-based media – Provide alternative options for time-based media
- Adaptable – Create content in a way that allows them to be presented in different formats without losing its structure of information
- Distinguishable – Make content that is easy to see and hear
- Keyboard accessible – Make navigation and functionality possible with just a keyboard
- Enough time – Give users ample time to read and explore content
- Seizures and physical reactions – Don’t design content that could harm others, like causing seizures or other physical reactions
- Navigable – Ensure that users have the ability to know where they are within a website, and can navigate and find content easily
- Input modalities – Make it easy for individuals to also use your website and content in more ways than just mouse or keyboard navigation
- Readable – Ensure that content is easy to read and understand
- Predictable – Create predictability in web page design and operation
- Input assistance – Help users avoid making mistakes and help them correct them if necessary
- Compatible – Ensure compatibility with current and future assistive technologies
What Can I Do?
First, there are great resources on the internet to help you to increase your compliance. Using a WCAG compliance checker to make sure your website follows these standards is important. You can utilize compliance checkers, color contrast checkers, and user testing that will help you make your website more compliant.
However, there is no concrete way to tell if you are 100% compliant. This is because the rules can be interpreted in many different ways, and currently, there isn’t a compliance certification process. There are still some good ways to ensure your website’s text, images, and formatting are more inclusive to a wider audience.
The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative provides a way of selecting web accessibility evaluation tools to help you uncover your website’s needs in meeting web accessibility guidelines. However, there is a more streamlined, automatic way of testing your website’s WCAG 2.0 compliance.
How UserWay Can Help
UserWay can help ensure you are making your website WCAG 2.0 compliant. For a quick scan of your website, check out our Accessibility Scanner, which can let you know how your website ranks against WCAG standards.
Our helpful widget only takes a few minutes to install and will save your users lots of frustration when interacting with your website. You won’t need to change any of your site’s code. Instead, UserWay’s widget allows users to increase font size, change color contrast, highlight links, and more! It’s a great way to make your website more compliant immediately.
Try out the UserWay Widget 4.0 for free today!
Is the WCAG the same as the ADA?
Although not specifically stated in the ADA, WCAG accessibility guidelines are important to consider when aiming for ADA compliance. Following the WCAG 2.0 guidelines can help you become ADA-compliant. Whereas the ADA is a law with a set of requirements, WCAG 2.0 gives you concrete guidelines to follow. Following the WCAG is the best way to ensure you meet ADA requirements.
What happens if I don’t follow the WCAG and ADA laws?
By not following ADA laws and WCAG 2.0 guidelines, you open yourself up to litigation for non-compliance. The internet should be accessible to all users, but if your website fails to provide accessible solutions to access your content, you can be sued. To protect yourself from this, accessibility solutions like UserWay’s Accessibility Widget can help.
Can UserWay help me make my existing website more accessible, or do I need to start a new website?
It’s quick and easy to add UserWay’s AI-Powered Accessibility Solution to your website! All you need to do is add a line of code to your website, and you’ll be able to access all the accessibility features it has to offer right away! To find out more about adding UserWay to your website, check out our installation guide (need link to the installation guide).
How will using UserWay’s AI-Powered Accessibility Solution help me prevent litigation for accessibility violations?
Our solution can help your website comply with ADA, WCAG, and EN 301-549 regulations through our AI-powered accessibility functions. We also offer real-time accessibility monitoring and reports, and remediation suggestions. You also have peace of mind as we provide protection against fraudulent lawsuits and offer a $1 million guarantee.
Want more information on this topic? Get a helpful and straightforward breakdown of the rules by visiting https://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/glance/.