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Web Accessibility Standards: What Are They?
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
People with disabilities must be able to operate the website, provided with operable interface and navigation components.
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.
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.
In preparation for the release of WCAG 2.2 in December 2022, EqualWeb has already updated its web accessibility technology to meet the new guidelines, ensuring its clients are ready in advance for future requirements and regulations.
Web accessibility certification is used for internal legal purposes to expound on the remediation process the website has undergone.
In a web accessibility certificate, also known as a certificate of performance, you will receive verification of the standards the website was remediated against, a list of the accessibility modifications that the web accessibility solution provider performed on the website, and the accessibility functions that exist on the website and may be used by visitors.
Note: a web accessibility certification should not be confused with an accessibility statement, which is required to feature on a website in accordance with the law. While similar, the accessibility statement is more of a general summary of the accessibility enhancements that feature on the website, although there are some functions that overlap between the two.