An Overview of the WCAG Standards and Guidelines

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Overview of WCAG standards

>> We just talked about the section 508 standards that are part of the US Federal Law, now we're going to talk about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. They're currently at version 1.0 and they are published by the Web Accessibility Initiative. This is part of the World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, which is an organization that writes web standards such as the standards for HTML, CSS, and other languages used in web sites. You can view all of the details of WCAG 1.0 at

One thing to point out is that version 2.0 is currently in development, but it could be quite a while before that becomes a recommendation. Until that does become a recommendation, you should continue to follow the guidelines in 1.0, but you may want to look at WCAG 2.0 for ideas and to begin preparing for any changes that you might need to make once it becomes a recommendation. Most countries outside the US do not have their own standards, such as section 508, but instead rely on the standards that are part of WCAG. If you're in the US, you're not required to comply with these standards, however, doing so can really improve the accessibility of your page, versus just doing section 508.

WCAG 1.0 is made up of 14 guidelines. Each of these guidelines contains on or more checkpoints that you can use to evaluate the web accessibility of your site. Then these checkpoints have a priority assigned to them of one, two or three. The priority one checkpoints are ones that you must satisfy, otherwise one or more groups will find it impossible to access the information on your page. Priority two checkpoints are ones that you should satisfy, otherwise one or more groups will find it difficult to access the information.

Priority three checkpoints are ones that you may address, otherwise one or more groups will find it somewhat difficult to access the information. Not every checkpoint will apply to every web page, so it's not required for you to comply with all of them. However, the priority levels give you an idea of which ones will result in the greatest amount of accessibility for the greatest number of people. Now let's quickly go over these 14 guidelines. Again, there's more information contained in the individual checkpoints that make up these guidelines.

We'll go over these checkpoints in more detail in later movies. The first guideline is to provide equivalent alternatives to auditory and visual content. This is similar to the section 508 rules that dealt with text equivalents for images as well as captioning for multimedia. Two is don't rely on color alone. Again, this is important for people who have color blindness problem. So make sure that they're able to access all of the information that you're presenting visually on your page.

Guideline three says use markup and style sheets and do so properly. This is a pretty broad guideline that will pertain too many of the movies that we'll go over later. Four states clarify natural language usage. This just means that you need to make clear what language all of the text on your page is in so that different devices can present the text correctly to their users. Rule five says create tables that transform gracefully. This is related to the concept of progressive enhancement that we talked about before. It basically means that you want the information in tables to be able to be restructured in ways that will make it easier for different devices to read in the correct order.

Guideline six says ensure that pages featuring new technologies transform gracefully. Again, you need to follow the concept of progressive enhancement making sure there's a base level of content that can be understood and then add new technologies and new features on top of that to enhance the experience for other people. Guideline seven says ensure user control of time sensitive content changes. You want to make sure that anything on the page that is dependent on a time limit, such as filling out a form, can be completed successfully by your users.

Guideline eight says ensure direct accessibility of embedded user interfaces. This applies to multimedia and other technologies that you can embed inside a webpage. Nine, design for device independence. Because there are so many types of technology and devices that are used by people with disabilities as well as people without disabilities, you need to incorporate techniques into your page that will allow the greatest number of them to have access to your content. Guideline ten says use interim solutions.

This is addressing the challenge faced by many web developers when they're trying to make their web pages more accessible. Sometimes, a barrier in accessibility doesn't currently have a great solution provided by it because of technological limitations. However, there are frequently things that you can do as stop gap measures in the mean time. Eleven says use W3C technologies and guidelines. Again, the W3C is a web standards organization. Making sure that your web pages conform to current standards makes it more likely that they will be correctly viewed on a wider variety of devices and by a wider variety of people.

And it also makes them more adaptable to the future. Guideline twelve says provide context and orientation information. This is related to providing information on the page so that users know where they are within a site or within a page and are able to use that information to be able to navigate the site and find what they are looking for. Thirteen says provide clear navigation mechanisms. This is related to the previous rule. Fourteen, ensure that documents are clear and simple. This guidelines pertains mainly to the text of your page, making sure that the content is understandable by people even with cognitive disabilities or learning problems.

So these are the 14 guidelines of WCAG 1.0. Many of these guidelines, as well as those of section 508, are best met by adapting your HTML markup. We'll next talk about a method for markup that will help you meet many of these guidelines.

Overview of WCAG standards
Video duration: 6m 4s 6h 9m Appropriate for all


Overview of WCAG standards provides you with in-depth training on Web. Taught by Zoe Gillenwater as part of the Web Accessibility Principles

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