Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law 30 years ago today — July 26, 1990. You want all people to have access to your website’s content, regardless of what device and software they’re using, location or ability (sight, hearing, movement, cognitive, etc), not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s good for business. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) defines how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. For website managers, the cool thing is that meeting web accessibility also meets many of the requirements for search engine optimization (SEO). Both practices are about getting relevant content to users.

Check Your Web Accessibility Score

The WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool is incredibly useful. Enter a URL and get instant feedback on the accessibility of a webpage, from structural elements to images, links, contrast errors, redundancies and more. You can also view a webpage with styles off so that you can see how a machine is reading the page.

Like any good teacher or coach, the tool confirms where the page is successful, and what needs to be fixed. The criticism is very constructive, providing an explanation for each error, why it matters and how to fix them. Fixing web accessibility errors can be a team sport. I’ll an SEO or content editor fix incorrect structural elements, a developer chase down technical issues and a designer resolve contrast errors.

Conformance levels “A”, “AA” and “AAA”

  • Level A is the minimum level of conformance. It has little impact on design, so there’s little reason not to fix anything failing Level A.
  • Level AA is an acceptable level of conformance. This can have a moderate impact on design but should be reasonably attainable. Try to maintain Level AA.
  • Level AAA is optimal conformance. However, this may require extreme changes in design or may not be possible for some content.

Learn more about conformance at w3.org.

WCAG Resources

Fixing contrast issues while maintaining a visually pleasing website with a branded color palette can be a challenge. Keep these bookmarks handy for quick reference.