Compliance doesn’t need to be confusing.

Long before the government and lawyers got involved, the visionaries of the web were already working on ways to make it accessible to everyone. In order to understand what the WCAG 2.0 means, it helps to understand where it came from. Let’s take a brief look at it’s history.

The History of the WCAG 2.0

1989-1990

Tim Berners-Lee invents the World Wide Web as a project to help CERN organize information better.

1991

The first website goes live at CERN. The web is born.

1994

Tim Berners-Lee and others form a consortium to develop standards that will lead the web to its full potential. They call it the W3C. (three w’s / consortium)

1996-1997

Aligned with their mission within the W3C, Tim and friends form the WAI (website accessibility initiative) to promote a high degree of usability for people with disabilities.

1999

WCAG 1.0 (website content accessibility guidelines) is published. It includes 65 checkpoints and three priority levels.

2008

WCAG 2.0 is published. The latest version contained 12 main guidelines focused around four main principles that a website must be perceivable, operable, understandable and robust.

The structure of the WCAG 2.0

The structure of the WCAG today begins with the four main POUR principles (Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust). Each principle has supporting guidelines. And each of these 12 supporting guidelines are tested at three different levels (A, AA and AAA). There are a slew of recommended techniques in addressing these guidelines.

Perceivable

This principle states that information on your website can’t be invisible to all of a user’s senses. They must be able to perceive it in some way.

Guidelines
  • Provide text alternatives for non-text content.
  • Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia.
  • Create content that can be presented in different ways,
    including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning.
  • Make it easier for users to see and hear content.

Operable

This principle states that the interface and navigation must require interaction that a user can perform.

Guidelines
  • Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
  • Give users enough time to read and use content.
  • Do not use content that causes seizures.
  • Help users navigate and find content.

Understandable

This principle states that however a user perceives information on your site, it must be intelligible. The content or operation cannot be beyond their understanding.

Guidelines
  • Make text readable and understandable.
  • Make content appear and operate in predictable ways.
  • Help users avoid and correct mistakes.

Robust

This principle states that content on your site needs to work with assistive technologies. As these technologies advance, the user must be able to access your content.

Guidelines
  • Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools.

For each guideline, there are testable success criteria, which are at three conformance levels: A, AA, and AAA.

LEVEL A

wheelchair-iconASSISTANCE: EXCLUSIVE

logic-iconLOGIC: MINOR

cost-iconEXPENSE: LOW

LEVEL AA

wheelchair-iconASSISTANCE: SUBSTANTIAL

logic-iconLOGIC: VARIED

cost-iconEXPENSE: MODERATE

LEVEL AAA

wheelchair-iconASSISTANCE: INCLUSIVE

logic-iconLOGIC: MAJOR

cost-iconEXPENSE: HIGH

DEFINITIONS: Assistance pertains to the amount of accessibility features necessary to achieve this level. Logic relates to the amount of code necessary and the impact it will have on presentation and design. Expense is the cost in time and labor usually required to reach this level.

Don’t sweat the techniques.

Understanding why the WCAG exists and how it’s structured is enough to take in. When it comes to techniques used to become compliant, it can easily become overwhelming. Not to mention, they’re changing everyday. So we’ll just leave those to our trusty developers.

If you would like to see a full list of the WCAG 2.0 guidelines along with the techniques, you’ll find it here.