The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are often called the most accepted and universal standards for web accessibility — but how widespread is WCAG really?
Wuh-cag. Wih-cag. W.C.A.G. Whatever you call it, there are an estimated 1 billion people with disabilities worldwide, and while the web accessibility landscape varies from country to country, WCAG is used in different languages and places all over the world to help make the web more accessible to everyone.
Here is but a glimpse into the use and application of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
What is WCAG?
WCAG is a set of recommendations, created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), to make web and mobile content more accessible to people with disabilities. The most recent version of the guidelines, WCAG 2.1, was released in June 2018, adding new criteria for mobile users, people with low vision, and people with cognitive and learning disabilities.
The WCAG “success criteria” are divided into three compliance levels: A, AA, and AAA. A website that fulfills all of the criteria in levels A or AA is usually considered sufficiently accessible for people with disabilities.
Each WCAG success criterion is also categorized into one of four design principles:
- Perceivable: Website content must be presented in a way that enables all users to perceive and understand it. For example, images should have alternative text describing their meaning, and videos should have closed captions that transcribe their audio.
- Operable: Visitors with disabilities can fully use and interact with a website or app. For example, the site should be navigable using only the keyboard instead of a computer mouse.
- Understandable: All information can be read and understood without placing undue burden on the user. For example, sections of text in a foreign language should be labeled as such, so that they can be correctly pronounced by a screen reader.
- Robust: The website should be compatible with a wide variety of browsers and technologies. For example, the site’s source code should be correct and well-formed, so that users don’t encounter display errors or problems with using their assistive technology.
WCAG in Translation
The WCAG standards are drafted and formalized in English. However, a number of authorized translations (officially endorsed by W3C) and unofficial translations are available for the WCAG 2.0 standards.
As of May 2019, the full list of WCAG 2.0 translations is as follows:
- Authorized translations: Arabic, Catalan, Chinese (simplified), Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish
- Unofficial translations: Belarusian, Hebrew, Hungarian, Japanese, Korean
In addition, as of May 2019 only one authorized foreign language translation is available for WCAG 2.1: Italian. However, other volunteers have announced their intent to translate WCAG 2.1 into Chinese (simplified), French, Portuguese, and Slovak.
WCAG Around the World
It’s perhaps not surprising that so many translations of WCAG are available, given the fact that the standards are widely used in so many places. In many cases, WCAG 1.0 and 2.0 have been used as the basis for accessibility laws and regulations around the world.
A brief overview of some of WCAG’s use in different regions and countries is as follows:
- United States: The 2017 refresh of Section 508 requires federal agencies to adopt WCAG 2.0 standards for web accessibility.
- Canada: The province of Ontario has passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act, which requires all public organizations and private organizations with more than 50 employees to comply with WCAG 2.0 Level AA.
In the United Stated in plaintiff-favored rulings, judges are determining that complying with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) would provide a reasonable level of accessibility and that remediating sites and apps according to WCAG can be sufficient. Read Over 2250 Web Accessibility Lawsuits Filed in 2018. Could They Triple in 2019?
- Brazil: The Modelo de Acessibilidade em Governo Eletrônico (Electronic Government Accessibility Model, a.k.a. eMAG) uses WCAG 2.0 as its basis.
- Ecuador: Public sector websites and private sector websites that serve the public must comply with WCAG 2.0 Level AA, according to the Reglamento Técnico Ecuatoriano RTE INEN 288.
- Argentina: The Argentine federal government has published the document Pautas de Accesibilidad para el Contenido de la Web (WCAG) summarizing the WCAG standards and encouraging their use.
- European Union: All content on the official EU website EUROPA must comply with WCAG 2.0.
- Norway: Norway’s Forskrift om universell utforming av informasjons- og kommunikasjonsteknologiske (IKT)-løsninger require websites for organizations in the public and private sector to comply with WCAG 2.0.
- China: The Voluntary Web Accessibility Standard recommends that government websites comply with a derivative of WCAG 2.0.
- Hong Kong: The Guidelines on Dissemination of Information through Government Websites require public sector websites to comply with WCAG 2.0.
- Japan: The national standard JIS X 8341-3 is a voluntary document that describes a set of recommendations for web accessibility based on WCAG 2.0.
- Australia: The Disability Discrimination Act of 1992 requires Australian government agencies to make information and services accessible to people with disabilities. As a result, the website Australia.gov.au complies with WCAG 2.0 Level A, and is being upgraded to Level AA over time.
- New Zealand: The Web Accessibility Standard 1.0 requires all public service and non-public service agencies to comply with the WCAG 2.0 Level AA success criteria.
Is your website compliant with WCAG?
To understand how the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines apply to your website or app, and for help creating a customized accessibility compliance solution for your organization, contact us. Or, get started with a free website accessibility scan.