What You Don’t Know About WCAG: Conformance is Not as Hard as It Seems

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are not as bad as they may seem as you first encountered them. The documentation is extremely long. The terminology is very technical.

And it’s difficult to extract plain English, meaning when you look through the official documentation, but as you learn more about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, they’re actually fairly intuitive.

And if you look through all of the different guides that are available, including my own, it really makes it out to be less of a mystery and more of a straightforward, Hey, here’s what you need to account for.

So let’s take a look at why- what you may not know about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. At the very top of the whiteboard, I have that there are 38 success criteria under version 2.0 conformance level AA, which is typically the conformance level that we are looking at.

There are 56 success criteria under 2.1 and our 57 success criteria under 2.2. Think of the success criteria as things to do to make your website accessible. So in 2.1, for example, there are 50 different considerations that we need to account for to make sure that our websites are optimally successful, accessible under that conformance.

And so one thing that’s important to know is that the different success criteria are not equal and worthless. So if I say 50 success criteria, that sounds like a lot of boxes to check, that sounds like a lot of things to do.

But just keep in mind that some of these success criteria are very easy to address and account for and removed from consideration. As we work through, there are probably five to 10 that we can immediately check off and know that we’ve accounted for them and that we need this different success of some of the requirements.

Some of the requirements- some of the success criteria are more simple than they sound. So that doesn’t- and right under simple I have the word easy and I’m going to cross that out. Because I’m definitely not saying they’re easy to meet, but they’re not complex to me if that makes sense.

So if you have 100 different videos on your website, that is a lot of work to do. But the work is fairly straightforward. If that makes sense. It won’t. It won’t be technically complex, it will just be- there’ll be a lot of manual work involved.

So I would say that some of the requirements are- most of the requirements are fairly simple, but there just might be a lot of work involved. There’s also a fair amount of overlap between the different success criteria.

So what the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines does is it separates the success criteria for specific things. And so let’s take the example of- there’s a success criterion for making sure that there is no keyword drop on your website.

There’s also a success criterion for making sure your keyboard- your website is keyboard navigable. To me, those things are done altogether, right? So while there may be two different success criteria for keyboard habitability, I’m going to take care of both of those in one action.

And so that’s what I have in this next set point under the fair amount of overlap. You can take care of multiple success criteria in- while you’re addressing one of them. And then the next point I have is you could do more.

So the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are not peak accessibility. It’s actually- there are actually more things you can do for accessibility that goes beyond the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Yes, these are excellent standards, and it’s great to adhere to them. But there is more work that can be done for accessibility.

And you’ve likely already met some of the success criteria. So for example, when we have- when we create our websites, it’s common practice to assign a title, a descriptive title to each of the pages in our website.

That is actually one of the success criteria that it’s called page title. So making you have a title on your page. So there are many things that we’ve already taken care of just naturally from creating a decent website or making sure we have some basic practices for search engine optimization.

So it’s likely already met a handful of the success criteria, even if you have several accessibility issues.

This last one is something that irks me and it’s the idea that full conformance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, is an impossibility it is not you can definitely make your website fully conformant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

It does require some work. It does require a regimented approach. But if you are diligent and you just take care of the success criteria, one by one you’re going to make your website highly conformant, and after that, it’s just a matter of resolving the final few issues.

And so even if you’re constantly uploading new content, what you need to do is you need to embrace training so that you’re not constantly reintroducing accessibility issues onto your website.

So once you have your audit then you remediate, then you go back and audit again, you check those remaining issues and then you remediate those.

And then you get to- you eventually get to a point where your website is fully conformant with a given version and conformance level of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Ideally 2.1 AA right now. Optimally 2.2 when it eventually comes out.

But if you do this, then you shouldn’t be reintroducing your accessibility issues and you can have a fully conformant website. And as much as that seems unlikely right now, I think, give it a few years and it will be commonplace.

And the reason for that is because accessibility is going to become a part of our processes. And so when we are uploading content, we are creating a website. It’s going to be done in an accessible manner.

And there are going to be less and less accessibility issues that are a part of our initial website that we build. And then our content similarly will be uploaded with accessibility in mind.

And so they will I think we will see less and less accessibility issues and we will eventually get to the point where we see full conformance on a regular basis.