Conformance and compliance are often used interchangeably when referring to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines but that’s actually incorrect usage.
So conformance refers to something that is voluntary.
And this could be the standard or policy and this is from a non governing body and so conformance refers to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG.
Compliance refers to the law.
So compliance refers to something that is mandatory.
And this is going to be typically from an authority or a governing body.
And so think of this as it could come from the law, it could come from a federal agency, something like that.
And compliance refers to usually formal requirements or laws and regulations.
Again this is not voluntary, this is mandatory so we use the word compliance.
And one good way to illustrate this is through Section 508.
So Section 508 incorporates the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, but it is Section 508 that is the law.
So it is Section 508 that we seek to be in compliance with and it is still- it is still conformance when we refer to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
So even though WCAG may be incorporated into the law, WCAG is still not the law itself.
It is still a set of voluntary technical standards that is incorporated into the law.
And so you can see this, this is demonstrated by the W3C itself.
So the W3C through its web accessibility initiative “WAI” has issued the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and every time they refer to these guidelines, they use the word conformance, they never used the word compliance.
And so the W3C is showing you, by example, that these are voluntary technical standards and you seek to conform with them.
In fact, they have documentation that is referred to a statement of conformance often called the conformance statement this the word, the very name of the document tells you that when you’re referring to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines the proper word is conformance.
And we see this wrong all of the time we see it wrong from accessibility companies that have been in this space for years.
We- I constantly read through plaintiffs’ lawyers filings and they use WCAG compliance which is obviously wrong.
So many people in this landscape are using the wrong terminology. It is always WCAG conformance; it is never WCAG compliance.
Compliance refers to the law, and in this case usually the American Disabilities Act, conformance is going to refer to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.