Web accessibility is designing tools, web sites and applications used through the world wide web to be accessible by anyone regardless of their abilities and/or disabilities. Making web content with high accessibility is not only inclusive, but profitable to businesses because it expands the range and audience reached. There are many guidelines out there that provide recommendations for accessibility, but the legally binding guide is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
Wikipedia explains that,
"The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are part of a series of web accessibility guidelines published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the main international standards organization for the Internet."
WCAG mainly focuses on people with disabilities, but their recommendations create an overall better user experience for all users. The WAI has published multiple guides since 1999 when their first version, 1.0, was released. The most recent version is 2018's 2.1. When choosing a version, going with the most recent increases inclusivity. However, legally, the United States doesn't have a formal law mandating website accessibility. Nonetheless, version 2.0 was adopted into the United States Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 for Federal agencies. The US General Services Administration's Section 508 website summarizes it as
"Under Section 508, agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information comparable to the access available to others. The rule updated and reorganized the Section 508 Standards and Section 255 Guidelines in response to market trends and innovations in technology. The refresh also harmonized these requirements with other guidelines and standards both in the U.S. and abroad, including standards issued by the European Commission, and with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), a globally recognized voluntary consensus standard for web content and ICT."
Whichever newest version chosen for WGAC compliance, both 2.0 and 2.1 have four principals.
Web content must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Each principal has a set of testable guidelines provided by WCAG which can be found here.
- Web cannot cannot be invisible to all user senses
- Users must be able to navigate and operate components
- All users should be able to understand the content
- Web content should be available to all user's technologies
I hope you enjoyed this overview of web accessibility. If you'd like to know more about being in compliance, check out WCAG's Techniques and Failures for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0