You must have seen "For the disabled" signs often when out in public. From building ramps for people in wheelchairs to reserving seats for them in public transport, the Government and other organizations provide many more unique services to uplift the differently-abled. But what about the digital space? Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are the key to providing accessibility to the web.
What are Web Content Accessibility Guidelines?
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is a set of principles, guidelines, and success criteria that helps create accessible web content. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) publishes them as a web standard under Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).
The goal is to make designers, web content creators, and developers implement and adopt these guidelines into their practices. Doing so makes the web accessible to everyone, especially disabled people.
Evolution of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
The World Wide Web (WWW) started taking center stage during the early 1990s and claimed to be universal and accessible in every aspect. That brought forth 38 versions of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from different authors and organizations.
The "content" of a Web page or Web application refers to its information, including text, images, forms, and sounds. Users must be able to access information no matter the extent of their abilities.
1. WCAG 1.0
The first version of these guidelines, i.e., WCAG 1.0, came out over 20 years ago, in 1999. It had 14 guidelines with two themes that focused on the graceful transformation of web pages and making content understandable and easy to navigate.
2. WCAG 2.0
WCAG 2.0 came out in 2008. This time, the number of guidelines went down from fourteen to twelve and were organized under four principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.
3. WCAG 2.1
WCAG 2.1 was released on 5 June 2018. It extends WCAG 2.0 by adding new success criteria and definitions to support them, guidelines to organize the additions, and a few additions to the conformance section. The Working Group of WCAG is working on the draft of WCAG 2.2 that will come out later this year.
WCAG Principles: 4 Pillars of Web Accessibility
Present the information and user interface components so that users can understand. As a result, disabled people will be able to see the content or have alternatives if they need them. It includes making images comprehensible through alternative text and videos through captions and audio descriptions.
Make the navigation and user interface components operable so the users can operate websites and web applications using their preferred technology. For example- many users can't use a mouse because they use a screen-reader, a refreshable braille display to use the site, or maybe temporarily unable to use a pointing device due to repetitive strain injury (RSI).
Make the information and operation of the user interface clear to the user. This principle is a combination of making sure that the content is easy to understand and that you can interact with a website or application understandably. For example, it covers specifying the language of the page and parts of the text and assisting users when filling out forms.
Content must be durable enough that a wide variety of user agents and assistive technologies can interpret it. This probably is the most technical principle, and it underlines how vital good code is for accessibility. If your code is buggy or components are misused, the technology used by users might not be able to interpret the information the way you and users want them to.
Should websites meet all WCAG standards?
It can be challenging to meet all the accessibility standards as a designer. Until the new version of WCAG comes out, your app or website should pass at least conformance level AA of WCAG 2.0 or 2.1.
If you wish to know more about enhancing web design accessibility, check out the Design for Accessibility course on ProApp. It has all the information on accessibility features and testing, Inclusive Design, and many more topics.