WCAG, short for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, are a series of guidelines laid out by the Web Accessibility Initiative, which is affiliated with the World Wide Web Consortium, the entity that upholds international standards for how the internet should function.
These guidelines are meant for:
Web Content Developers
Web Authoring Tool Developers
Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool Developers
Anyone else who requires a set standard for web accessibility, including accessibility on different kinds of platforms
The intent of a set of Content Accessibility Guidelines is to ensure that content on the web is properly accessible to people with different kinds of disabilities. It also takes care of how the internet is accessed on different kinds of devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers.
In this article, we’ll have a look at the different kinds of guidelines and why they specifically are in place. These levels are A, AA, and AAA. These levels of conformity get incrementally tougher, and compliance to these standards gets commensurately tougher. Higher the level of compliance, the more the number of people who can use those sites.
Level A guidelines require conformity to 25 criteria. It’s a subset of the AA level and the easiest level to reach due to minimal impact on the design and structure of the website. The majority of users would be able to access a site meeting Level A standards properly.
Level AA, which is pretty strict, requires compliance with an additional 13 criteria on top of Level A compliance criteria. This level requires a lot more focus to achieve. You’ll need to ensure that all your text matches contrast requirements, and the requirements vary with the size of the text.
The majority of websites don’t match these standards since it requires a comprehensive analysis of the contrast throughout the entire website, including revising the colour scheme, which could be a problem if it conflicts with your brand identity.
The toughest level of compliance requires matching 61 separate criteria. The colour contrast requirements are the strictest at this level, with very limited colour and background options. You can mostly use very dark colours and light backgrounds, and vice versa.
This level is reserved for specialist websites, and sites used by people for normal every day use don’t aspire to reach this level. Nevertheless, it helps to have a level that requires meeting so many criteria as examples for your site to meet.
Your website can claim compliance to each level only if it matches all the criteria of that specific level. There’s no provision for partial compliance to any level. If you’re designing a website, Level AA is the level you should aspire to match since that level of compliance is when your website is truly considered accessible.