Understanding WCAG

WCAG, or the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, explain how to make websites and applications accessible to people with disabilities. They set the international standard for web accessibility and are used worldwide by many. In fact, countries around the world use WCAG to measure compliance with accessibility legislation.

Organisations should aim to comply with WCAG to level AA standard. And that’s what we recommend, as a minimum. But what does this really mean?

The three levels of WCAG Compliance

WCAG is broken down into three different levels. Level A, AA and AAA. Each one outlines elements that websites must meet to be accessible. With each level, the criteria gets harder. Meeting each extra level makes your site accessible to more and more people.

The criteria covers everything from technical information to on-page content. Both of which affect how well users can access and understand your content. Below, we identify some elements outlined at each level.

Level A

This level is the easiest to meet. It outlines the minimum requirements for a website to be considered accessible. 

At this level, within the current guidelines (WCAG 2.1) there are 30 criteria that organisations must meet. An example of the criteria includes;

  • Non-text content (images and videos) must have a text equivalent
  • Content must be able to be accessed using a keyboard only
  • Forms must include labels or instructions, so users know what’s expected of them
  • Assistive technologies, such as screen readers, must be able to access content
  • Meaning must not be conveyed through shape, size or color alone

Meeting level A criteria will mean your website is somewhat accessible to people with disabilities. But you should aim to do better. After all, it's important that every visitor feels welcomed by you. Not only for your brand reputation, but to allow every visitor the chance to complete your customer journey. And that’s good for business.

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In fact...

People with disabilities are part of a market worth £1 trillion in annual disposable income. Helping them to browse, buy and access your online content or services isn't just the right thing to do. It's smart for business.

Level AA

As the recommended level, AA tackles the most common barriers for disabled users. Meaning people with disabilities will have a much better online experience with your brand.

At this level, criteria includes all that outlined at level A plus an extra 20 elements. Examples include;

  • Text and background must use good colour contrast. For example, have a minimum level of contrast of at least 4.5 to 1 
  • Content should be organised under clear headings, using a logical order. For example a H1, followed by H2, H3 and so on 
  • Elements that affect navigation should be consistent across the site

At this level, your website would be considered usable and understandable for most people, including those with disabilities.

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Did you know?

Despite WCAG level AA being the recommended level for compliance, 97.8% of websites have WCAG Level AA failures. That means many organisations are failing to meet with legislation including the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 2018.

Level AAA

This level is the highest level of compliance. It’s also the most difficult. It’s criteria outlines an extra 28 criteria from that outlined at level AA. Examples include;

  • Text and background must have a good colour contrast. For example, have a minimum level of contrast of at least 7 to 1 
  • Pre-recorded video content must have a sign language translation
  • All content should be written at a ninth-grade reading level

Meeting WCAG level AAA means making your website accessible to the greatest number of people with disabilities.

Why should I aim to comply with WCAG Level AA?

By meeting WCAG level AA you’re considered as having made your website “accessible”. At this level your website is usable and understandable for most people, including those with disabilities. It’s also the requirement typically outlined in accessibility legislation.

How Texthelp can help you achieve WCAG level AA

The ReachDeck Auditor identifies WCAG compliance errors at level A, AA and AAA. 

It’s a web accessibility checker that automatically scans your URLS quickly and at scale. And provides you with downloadable reports, so you can prioritise improvements with ease. It helps save you time from manual checks. Allowing you to focus on what’s important - fixing errors and improving accessibility.

It also identifies errors that affect how understandable your content is. It highlights readability errors such as a high reading age, sentence length and jargon words. Helping you to ‘Keep content clear and concise’ as outlined by WCAG.

Top 10 WCAG errors identified by ReachDeck

  1. Colour contrast errors (at level AA/AAA)
  2. Duplicate IDs
  3. Missing attributes (e.g. IFRAME)
  4. Missing alt text
  5. Missing field label
  6. Missing submit button
  7. Empty heading
  8. Invalid Scope
  9. Obsolete Markup
  10. Missing HREF

ReachDeck Auditor identifies these errors plus much more!