Why I Love WCAG (And You Should, Too!)Published on
So much of our everyday lives involves using the internet on our computers, phones, watches, and more. It’s nearly impossible to go a day without Googling something, catching up on our favorite topics or interacting with friends on social platforms – all online.
The internet has given us the world. We’re a global community. And, as a global community, it’d be ideal if we could all access the same, necessary information. That’s where WCAG comes in to play.
[Ready for some technical stuff? Deep breath. Here we go!]
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) put together the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) who broke in to Working Groups (WG) that helps create Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) so everyone can use the internet. And, while WAI, through W3C, compiled WCAG, (SO many acronyms!) they made sure to get input from people around the world, tested their solutions on real websites and made sure it worked the way it should.
I love WCAG, and I’d like to tell you why it’s worth your love, too.
Who it benefits
It’s true that many view WCAG recommendations only as helping people with disabilities. And, unfortunately, some disregard these recommendations altogether because they don’t feel their clientele falls into “that Category.” But, they’re wrong. And, though their intent probably isn’t malicious, they’re excluding a large audience.
WCAG benefits more than people with disabilities. It benefits all of us and reaches your clientele. Sure, WCAG was originally developed to provide equal access to people with varying disabilities such as auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech and visual impairments; which then evolved to include the aging population, those with low or limited literacy and those not fluent in the language. But, WCAG benefits people who don’t fall into any of these categories, too. It benefits every generation, lifestyle and user worldwide.
I’ll refrain from explaining why everyone needs to be included and, since WCAG works towards that goal, you should love it, too. Instead, I’ll tell you how people without disabilities benefit greatly from WCAG recommendations.
WCAG benefits people using mobile devices on low bandwidth. It benefits people with “temporary disabilities” like a broken arm or misplaced glasses. It even benefits people enjoying a day outdoors – at the beach, hiking, watching a sporting event – in bright sunlight. WCAG recommendations truly make a difference for all users.
How it benefits
It’s great to spout off some situations in which anyone can benefit from WCAG standards, but, how do you really know it helps? Lucky for you, I’ve compiled a few facts and real world examples of how WCAG helps everyone.
WCAG is written to be as user-friendly as possible. All of the guidelines fall into “four principles of accessibility.” Web content must be perceivable (and not just by sight) to users, operable so that all users may interact, understandable so everyone can comprehend the necessary information and operations, and robust enough that it’s usable by all technologies; including assistive technologies.
The W3C provides the necessary guidelines and techniques to meet all 4 of these principles. They’ve even gone the extra mile to provide descriptions, examples, support notes, resources, and tests for each technique to assist in their successful implementation.
One of the WCAG criteria, which falls in the “perceivable” category, requires audio description accompanied by captions for on-screen events. This not only benefits those with visual, hearing and cognitive impairments but also those in a noisy place or someone who – heaven forbid – looks away from their screen for a moment.
Another of WCAG’s criteria, which falls in the “understandable” category, requires clear descriptions or complete wording of abbreviations. This measure is helpful for everyone! Can you imagine if, in my opening paragraphs, I’d only used acronyms instead of telling you what they meant? I would’ve lost you there, and you wouldn’t have gained this valuable knowledge.
Finally, my last – and personal favorite – example of WCAG criteria, which also falls in the “perceivable” category, is color contrast. Higher contrast between the foreground and background provides increased readability. This criteria is not only great for those with disabilities but also the lucky beach-goer who’s taking a break from the water and perusing your content.
The W3C is always looking for ways to improve WCAG and, every handful of years or so, releases new official recommendations. WCAG is designed to be a “technology-agnostic standard” – meaning that it should be applicable even as technology evolves – but there are sure to be unforeseen technological advances that’ll require revisions. The W3C will also expand and improve current recommendations, too. Therefore, new official recommendations are released on occasion.
Thus far, each released rollout is backwards compatible – meaning the new version builds on the old – so you don’t have to start from scratch; you can just add on.
June 5th of this year brought us WCAG 2.1 with expanded accessibility features. They’ve added on to their mobile, low vision, and cognitive and learning guidelines which benefits a wider range of web users. Some of these expansions include increased support for interactions requiring touch, expanding color contrast requirements to graphics, and causing enlarged text to wrap so users don’t have to scroll left and right.
Are you WCAG compliant?
So, how do you make sure you’re WCAG compliant? There are two very easy ways to do this.
- Talk to your web developers. See what measures they’ve taken to make your site accessible and direct them to the W3C’s site for any questions they may have.
- Enlist a company to audit your website. The company you choose should provide a detailed report of accessibility issues and ways to fix them. Most of these companies can help you with ongoing efforts to maintain WCAG compliance, too.
Show some love
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