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What are WCAG?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) comprise a wide range of recommendations to make web content more accessible. By following these guidelines, content becomes accessible to a larger audience of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, motor impairments, language disabilities, photosensitivity, as well as combinations of these, and partly improves accessibility for those with learning disabilities and/or cognitive limitations. However, the guidelines may not be exhaustive for all users' needs with such disabilities. WCAG 2.1 are guidelines for web content accessibility applicable to desktop, laptop, tablet, and mobile devices. Following them will help make web content more usable for users in general.

WCAG is developed by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) in collaboration with individuals and organizations worldwide, with the goal of providing a shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.

Conformance Levels

WCAG 2.1 guidelines are classified into three different conformance levels (Level A, Level AA, and Level AAA) based on the impact they have on the design or visual presentation of pages to meet the needs of different individuals and situations. Conformance levels must be fully satisfied, and conformance to higher levels implies conformance to lower levels:

  • Level A — The lowest and easiest level of conformance to achieve. Level A establishes a minimum level of accessibility and does not achieve broad accessibility for many situations.
  • Level AA — The middle range and most commonly achieved level of conformance. Level AA is the recommended conformance for all websites.
  • Level AAA — The highest and most difficult level of conformance to achieve. It includes the most tests and checks to ensure content accessibility to the widest possible audience.

Level A

These conformance requirements essentially prohibit elements that would make the website inaccessible. Websites that do not meet at least WCAG 2.1 A are impossible or extremely difficult to use for people with disabilities.

Some important WCAG 2.1 Level A requirements include:

  • No keyboard traps
  • Keyboard navigability
  • Non-text content alternatives
  • Video captions
  • Meaning is not conveyed solely through shape, size, color, etc.

Level AA

This conformance level is used in most accessibility standards and regulations worldwide, including the ADA. To meet WCAG 2.1 Level AA conformance, the website is usable and understandable for most people with or without disabilities. The conveyed meaning and available functionality are the same.

Some important WCAG 2.1 Level AA requirements include:

  • Color contrast is, in most cases, at least 4.5:1
  • Alternative text or a similar solution is used for images conveying meaning
  • Navigation elements are consistent throughout the site
  • Form fields have accurate labels
  • State updates can be conveyed through a screen reader
  • Headings are used in logical order

Level AAA

Conformance at this level makes your site accessible to the majority of users and simplifies its use. If your website or application is also targeted at seniors or people with disabilities, WCAG Level AAA conformance can help ensure that your audience can easily use your site. This also demonstrates that you are attentive to your audience and their needs. Since many websites are not accessible, your users will notice this additional level of attention.

Some important WCAG 2.1 Level AAA requirements include:

  • Sign language interpretation for audio or video content
  • Color contrast is at least 7:1 in most cases
  • Timing is not an essential part of any activity
  • Context-sensitive help is available