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Demystifying WCAG: A Simple Guide to Web Accessibility

By 29 January 2024Instructional Design Services6 min read
WCAG Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Welcome to the world of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), where making online content accessible to everyone is the top priority. In this simple guide, we’ll unravel its key aspects, breaking down the jargon for those new to the concept.

Understanding the Basics

Four Principles of WCAG:

It operates on four fundamental principles: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust (POUR). These principles ensure that web content is accessible to all users, regardless of their abilities.

Four Criteria for WCAG:

Within each principle, specific criteria guide accessibility. These include providing text alternatives, enabling keyboard accessibility, ensuring sufficient time for tasks, and creating adaptable content.

Three Levels of WCAG:

It has three conformance levels: A, AA, and AAA, representing increasing degrees of accessibility. AA is the standard for most websites.

AA and AAA Accessibility:

AA and AAA are conformance levels. AA is the standard for most websites, while AAA represents a higher level of accessibility.

Different Types of WCAG:

It is organized into guidelines, success criteria, and conformance requirements, forming a comprehensive framework for web accessibility.

Number of WCAG Rules:

There are 61 success criteria in WCAG 2.0, each addressing specific aspects of accessibility.

Creation and Maintenance:

It was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to ensure the long-term growth of the web. The W3C continues to maintain and update it, incorporating feedback and technological advancements.


WCAG is a global standard, while the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a U.S. law. Complying with WCAG often ensures ADA compliance.

Testing and Audits:

Testing involves evaluating a website’s compliance with the guidelines to identify and rectify accessibility issues. Conducting an audit ensures a systematic review of a website’s compliance.

How to Conduct a WCAG Audit:

Review each success criterion, use testing tools, and ensure your website aligns with the specified conformance level for a comprehensive audit.

What is the Application:

It ensures that websites, applications, and digital content are accessible to people with disabilities, promoting inclusivity.

Coverage of WCAG:

It covers a broad range of aspects, including text alternatives, keyboard navigation, time-based media, and adaptability.

Mandatory or Not:

While not universally mandatory, WCAG compliance is often required by laws and regulations, making it a crucial standard for inclusive digital experiences.

Essential Elements

The First Principle:

Its first principle is perceivability, emphasizing the need for information and user interface components to be presented in ways that users can perceive.

WCAG Design:

Design involves creating websites and content that follow the guidelines for accessibility, prioritizing the needs of diverse users.

What Constitutes a Good Score:

A good score means complying with the specified success criteria for the chosen conformance level, such as AA. The minimum level depends on legal requirements and your commitment to inclusivity. AA is the standard for most websites.

Accessibility Tools:

Accessibility tools assist in evaluating and improving website accessibility, including screen readers, color contrast checkers, and code validators.

Addressing Specifics

WCAG and Mobile Applications:

It covers mobile applications, ensuring they meet the same accessibility standards as websites.

Screen Reader Users:

A screen reader user relies on assistive technology to audibly read the content on a screen, enabling access for individuals with visual impairments.

Origins of WCAG:

It began in 1999 with the release of version 1.0, addressing accessibility challenges on the emerging World Wide Web.

Practical Implementation

Creating a WCAG Website:

Create a compliant website by incorporating accessible design, providing text alternatives, ensuring keyboard navigation, and conducting regular audits.

Understanding Accessibility:

Accessibility refers to the practice of designing products, services, or environments to be usable by individuals with disabilities, promoting equal access.

Accessibility Methods:

Incorporate inclusive design, provide alternatives, and conduct testing to ensure that digital content is accessible to everyone.

Basic Accessibility:

Basic accessibility involves implementing fundamental principles like text alternatives and keyboard navigation to make digital content accessible.

Specific Applications

WCAG and Logos, social media, Documents, Email:

Yes, it applies to logos, social media platforms, documents, and email content, ensuring accessibility for users with disabilities.

Technical Details

Color Ratio:

Color ratio measures the contrast between text and its background, ensuring readability for users with visual impairments.

WCAG Ratio:

The WCAG ratio refers to the contrast ratio required between text and background, with specific values outlined in the guidelines.

Screen Readers and HTML:

Yes, screen readers read HTML and other web technologies, translating them into audible information for users with visual impairments.

Free Screen Readers:

Yes, many screen readers are free to use, providing an affordable solution for individuals with visual impairments.

Advanced Concepts

Aria in HTML:

Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) is a set of attributes in HTML that enhances the accessibility of dynamic content for users with disabilities.

Accessibility Format:

Accessibility format refers to presenting content in ways that are accessible to individuals with disabilities, such as providing alternative formats like text descriptions.

Embracing Accessibility

Using Accessibility:

Use accessibility by following WCAG guidelines, incorporating inclusive design, providing alternatives, and regularly testing and updating your digital content.

Unlocking Benefits:

Benefits include reaching a wider audience, improving user experience, meeting legal requirements, and enhancing the overall reputation of a website.

Global Standard:

Yes, it is a global standard adopted by organizations and countries worldwide to ensure accessible digital content.

Identifying Issues:

An issue refers to any aspect of a website that does not comply with the WCAG guidelines, hindering accessibility for users with disabilities.

Now equipped with a simplified understanding of WCAG, you can navigate the web with a fresh perspective on accessibility. Embrace the principles, implement the guidelines, and contribute to a digital world that welcomes everyone.

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