What is WCAG 2.1

05 October4 min read
What is WCAG 2.1

With all the complexities in building a website, accessibility has often been overlooked. This has made it difficult for people with disabilities to access content on the Internet. The new WCAG 2.1 standard introduces guidelines to improve the accessibility of websites. These guidelines cater to the needs of people with physical or intellectual limitations, as well as the elderly who might find it harder to find what they’re looking for. 

What is WCAG?

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is a global organization that creates standards for the World Wide Web. As Internet usage progresses, the W3C updates the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) that websites have to comply with. The contributors to these guidelines are individuals, governments and organizations from around the world. Based on how websites meet these guidelines, they are awarded the levels A, AA or AAA, in increasing order of compliance. 

About WCAG 2.1

The latest set of guidelines is WCAG 2.1, released in 2018. WCAG 2.1 builds on WCAG 2.0 with the addition of implementing website accessibility. W3C periodically updates their website with new success criteria that will get included in upcoming WCAG releases. 
WCAG 2.1 is applicable to Poland, which means that Polish companies and organizations have to meet the new accessibility standards on their mobile apps and websites. Nevertheless, it is a good practice to implement these guidelines on any website to comply with the success criteria. 

The new guidelines take into account several types of disabilities and limitations that might hamper someone from browsing a website. They also have specific guidelines that cater to the needs of elderly users or those with cognitive limitations. This includes issues with understanding content, retaining attention and remembering the content. As most users today access the web through their phones, websites also need to be mobile-friendly and adaptive to most devices. 

Who is responsible for website accessibility?

The organization is responsible to ensure that its website and applications are accessible. The tasks would ideally be divided among the UI/UX designers and developers, content writers, and editors. 

The UX designers would need to ensure that all the features and tabs on a website are usable and accessible, while the UI designers have to adapt these with the requirements. Designers also have to maintain the minimum contrasts between neighboring elements to aid color-blind people. The writing and editing of content are also crucial tasks, especially with respect to adding captions and alt texts to images or transcriptions to audio files. Meanwhile, the developers also need to maintain clean codes so that the content is easily interpreted by screen readers. 

Finally, you’ll also have to do thorough testing of your website to make sure that all texts, buttons and elements are accessible. The testers will have to check if the screen readers are reading the prompt and texts correctly, the media files have alt texts or transcriptions and also that all the visible elements on the page are accessible with just the keyboard. 

Principles of accessibility

To be compliant with the accessibility guidelines stated in WCAG 2.1, your website has to meet the following success criteria: 

1. Perceivable - The content on the website should be made available to every type of visitor. This is not only applicable to text, but also to images and other media.

2. Operable - Users should not have to rely on just a mouse to navigate the website. For example, most web pages allow for easy scrolling using arrow keys on the keyboard while the tab key moves the cursor between the different buttons on the screen.

3. Understandable - The content should be presented in such a way that it is easy to understand for the target user.

4. Robust - The overall website code should be safe and consistent, ensuring reliable performance and availability.

 Based on how a website complies with the WCAG success criteria, websites are categorized as level A (minimum conformance), level AA (average conformance) and level AAA (highest level of conformance). 

To conclude, by complying with the WCAG guidelines, you make your website more accessible so that more people are able to view and use your website. By ensuring good accessibility, your content becomes inclusive and can reach more people.