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Web Accessibility Standards: What Are They?

August 31, 2022
When discussing web accessibility standards, we could be referring to two main sources. The first is legislative, i.e., the standards set by lawmakers across the globe; the second is the international web accessibility standard established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

And as we shall learn further ahead, the standards set by governments mostly align in accordance with the W3C.

Legislative standards


Web accessibility ADA

The leading legal standard for web accessibility is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is landmark legislation that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, aiming to facilitate equality in all areas of public life, including the web.

Title III of the ADA, which relates to private businesses and organizations, refers to the Department of Justice’s updated guidance from 2003. In it it stipulates two resources that websites should adhere to:

  1. Section 508 Standards
  2. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

Section 508 points to WCAG as the benchmark standard. In other words, if your website meets WCAG standards you will be ADA compliant.

To strengthen this position, the DOJ released a statement on March 18, 2022 that noted WCAG as a helpful tool for web developers and designers. Despite the avoidance from officially adopting a specific web accessibility standard, we recommend all businesses conform to the WCAG 2.1 Level AA standard as ADA claims continue to skyrocket, targeting organizations of all sizes.

To play it safe is to conform to WCAG’s latest guidelines, fending off any litigation risk.

Web accessibility Section 508

In 1998, President Bill Clinton signed into law amendments to the Rehabilitation Act, enacting Section 508. Section 508 requires access to electronic and information technology provided by the Federal government.

Section 508 stipulates that its standards “ensure access for people with physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities.” For achieving those standards, the legislation labels WCAG 2.0 Level A and AA as the conformance standard for digital accessibility.

Web accessibility AODA

AODA stands for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, enacted by the Ontario Government in 2005. The AODA explicitly states that its accessibility standards apply “to every person or organization in the public and private sectors of the Province of Ontario.”

The legislation notes: “By January 1, 2020, all internet and intranet websites and web content must conform with WCAG 2.0 Level AA.” This applies to the Government of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly, as well as “public sector organizations and large organizations.”

Compliance with AODA standards is required of all organizations and businesses listed in the Ontario province.

Web accessibility EN 310549

The European Union Web Accessibility Directive issued bill EN 301 549, which is the European standard by which the Directive must be implemented. The goal of EN 301 549 is to help remove barriers for people with disabilities and/or others.

EN 301 549 stipulates the WCAG 2.1 Level AA as the minimum standard to comply with. This puts European government entities at the leading front of international digital accessibility standards for individuals with impairments.

Although the Directive is not aimed specifically at the private sector, the increasing cooperation between private organizations and governmental agencies means they do have to comply with WCAG 2.1 standards.

EN 301 549 stipulates that it applies to government agencies, government-funded bodies, and third-party contractors who provide services to the government. Furthermore, noncompliance may result in exceeding penalties, as mechanisms for complaint were put in place by the legislators.

WCAG standards


The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are the world’s most comprehensive and robust guidelines for making your website accessible to disabled individuals.

Developed by the W3C, WCAG is a major component in the organization’s aim to provide protocols and guidelines that ensure the long-term growth of the Internet for all.

WCAG is the ultimate standard for web accessibility guidelines, providing a single shared standard that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally. Governments across the globe have endorsed the WCAG standard in various forms, court rulings included, which places WCAG as the primary and safest standard for web owners, developers, and designers. If your website conforms to WCAG, it is safe to say that you are compliant with the law, and even more importantly, it is fully accessible to individuals with impairments.

The 4 WCAG principles

WCAG is organized around the four following principles, which are the absolute fundamentals of accessibility provision on the Web.

  1. Perceivable
    If the disabled are to gain equal access to the Web, all information and user interface components must be perceived by at least one or more of their senses.
  2. Operable
    People with disabilities must be able to operate the website, provided with operable interface and navigation components.
  3. Understandable
    If those with impairments don’t understand what your website is offering, then it is inaccessible to them. Users must understand the information as well as the operation of interface components.
  4. Robust
    When the content is robust, users have more options, and a wide range of disability issues can be answered. Those with disabilities must be able to access the content as technologies advance.

Staying true to these essential principles will render the opportunity to access and use web content to everyone.

WCAG 2.2 standards

The W3C is deep into the work on WCAG 2.2, which is scheduled for official publication by December, 2022. We at EqualWeb are following the W3C’s proposals and are already incorporating the new standards into our accessibility and remediation systems. All of our clients will be WCAG 2.2 compliant once the guidelines are published.

Standardize your website according to WCAG 2.1 now

Your digital presence can be accessible equally to everyone, regardless of disability or personal limitations. EqualWeb is the only web accessibility technology that combines full WCAG 2.1 compliance with an intuitive and seamless browsing experience for all, even as your site evolves and grows.

Contact us now for further information here or at info@equalweb.com, or visit our Plans & Pricing page.

What are the new guidelines of WCAG 2.2? How can you ensure your website is still accessible and compliant with the new updates? What does EqualWeb cover from the WCAG 2.2 requirements and what it does not? What has changed from WCAG 2.2 and what remained the same? We compiled all the answers in the following article.

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From now on, users can access accessibility functions like Voice Navigation, Color Adjustments, and Image Descriptors, among others. The Fnac website is now more accessible for users with different types of disabilities, including seniors.

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Closed captions for videos and audio content enable people with hearing impairments to understand the content. EqualWeb has become the first web accessibility vendor to provide a video and audio closed captions option for people with disabilities as part of its automatic services.

The unique benefit of the function is that it’s entirely automatic. Moreover, as the website owner, you can modify the automatic generic text if you find a mismatch between the video and the text (the AI may miss a few words here and there), using the Captions Editor in your dashboard.

The closed captions function includes a simple on-and-off activation button, a rating vote for feedback purposes, a new transcription window over the video or audio element, and a captions download option. The captions’ font conforms to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.2 standards for easily accessible fonts.

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