WCAG Compliance

Posted on Friday, 17 April 2020 by Marissa Sapega

If you’re searching for the meaning behind the term “WCAG compliance,” you’re in luck – you’ve come to the right place to learn all about it and why it’s important!

Start with the basics

Before we dive into what “WCAG compliance” means, let’s start with a bit of context. You may have heard of a group called the W3C, which stands for the World Wide Web Consortium. The W3C is tasked with creating web standards, which, when followed by developers, enable users to have comparable experiences throughout the web, even while using different devices, browsers, operating systems, etc.

One subset of these web standards are the Web Accessibility Content Guidelines (WCAG). Content creators and developers follow these guidelines when generating digital content to help ensure what they create is accessible to people with disabilities.

So what is WCAG compliance?

WCAG compliance is simply conforming to web accessibility criteria. At this point we’ll throw a tiny wrench into this post: there is a difference between WCAG compliance and WCAG conformance. Strictly speaking, websites can conform to WCAG, but the concept of compliance doesn’t really fit. Many people use the terms interchangeably, but WCAG conformance is more technically accurate.

Why is WCAG compliance (er, conformance!) important?

WCAG is comprised of a multitude of criteria, but to an accessibility newbie, many of them can seem ambiguous. Let’s start with a few of the easy to understand practices that will help you improve the accessibility of your digital content.

Including alternative text when you have an image on a website is one very easy way to help your content conform to WCAG. Blind and low-vision individuals use assistive technology called screen readers to access digital content, but a screen reader will only read what is on the screen (hence its name.) Therefore, if there is an image without alternative text included in the HTML, the person using the screen reader will have no idea what the image is conveying.

Here’s an exercise to try: take a look at your organization’s website and picture it without any illustrations, banners, or photos. Does it still make sense? Are you still able to navigate it and understand what it’s about, or how to complete a task?

Second scenario: imagine you’re in your doctor’s waiting room watching a television program. The sound is turned all the way down and the program does not have any captions. It’s a news show and the anchor looks pretty serious, but other than the headline, you have no idea what she’s talking about. This is a frustrating position to be in, one that deaf and hard of hearing individuals find themselves in all too frequently. If you are looking to conform to WCAG, you should always include captions and transcripts for your multimedia so they will be accessible to as many users as possible.

These simple scenarios illustrate the importance of WCAG conformance, but there are other, more serious situations in which an inaccessible website can be life-threatening. (For real-life stories of how an inaccessible internet can be more than just an inconvenience, check out our series “Real People, Real Stories.”)

How can we help you conform to WCAG?

TPG offers a variety of services to help your organization make its digital content accessible, from training, to accessibility reviews, to long-term accessibility monitoring. We realize it can be a challenging journey but we will partner with you 100% of the way to achieve a more accessible future. Remember, WCAG compliance is not the goal, WCAG conformance is. Contact us today to get started on your journey to conformance!


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