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If you are a developer in the modern internet landscape, it is essential to understand what the WCAG is, why it was created, and the value of following the guidelines when developing websites. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a set of guidelines created and published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) as part of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). W3C is an organization designed to produce international standards for internet content development. There have been several iterations of WCAG, but each was created with the goal of making web content more accessible. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are a comprehensive set of recommendations and guidelines intended for developers and creators. These guidelines provide web developers with useful technical guidelines that can enable them to create more accessible online environments. 

The Web Accessibility Initiative was enacted primarily to address the needs of internet users who live with either disabilities or impairments. Users with certain disabilities, such as visual impairments, can often find it challenging to navigate the online landscape. However, following WCAG guidelines does not only improve usability for users with disabilities but also improves user experiences for all users. This is what makes the WCAG such an important and powerful tool for all web developers. By understanding the WCAG and following it closely, developers can improve their process, content, and overall product. 

The Web Content Accessibility guidelines continue to change over time as more is learned about improving web accessibility. As new versions of the WCAG are released, they supersede past versions of the guidelines. When new versions of the WCAG are released, they often provide additional guidelines to build upon the already existing recommendations put forth by the W3C. For this reason, it is important for developers to understand the history of accessibility guidelines, how the guidelines have been improved over time, and what is in store for the future of web accessibility. With this information, developers will be able to create more accessible content and create an improved online space for all users. 

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A History of Accessibility Guidelines

WCAG 1.0

The first Web Content Accessibility guidelines recommended by W3C were published on May 5th, 1999. The original WCAG 1.0 included 14 guidelines to address the principles of accessible web design. Each of these 14 guidelines addresses a fundamental theme of web accessibility as well as information on how to technically apply the guidelines. The 14 guidelines of the WCAG 1.0 are the following: 

  • Guideline 1: Provide equivalent alternatives to auditory and visual content
  • Guideline 2: Don’t rely on colour alone
  • Guideline 3: Use markup and style sheets, and do so properly
  • Guideline 4: Clarify natural language usage
  • Guideline 5: Create tables that transform gracefully
  • Guideline 6: Ensure that pages featuring new technologies transform gracefully
  • Guideline 7: Ensure user control of time-sensitive content changes
  • Guideline 8: Ensure direct accessibility of embedded user interfaces
  • Guideline 9: Design for device independence
  • Guideline 10: User interim solutions
  • Guideline 11: Use W3C technologies and guidelines
  • Guideline 12: Provide context and orientation information
  • Guideline 13: Provide clear navigation mechanisms
  • Guideline 14: Ensure that documents are clear and simple

Also included in the WCAG are priority levels for each of the accessibility checkpoints. Checkpoints can be found within each of the guidelines, with a total of 65 for the entirety of the WCAG 1.0. Priority level in this context refers to the overall impact a particular guideline has on web accessibility. According to the WCAG 1.0, priorities are defined as the following:

[Priority 1]

A Web content developer must satisfy this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it impossible to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint is a basic requirement for some groups to be able to use Web documents.

[Priority 2]

A Web content developer should satisfy this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it difficult to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint will remove significant barriers to accessing Web documents.

[Priority 3]

A Web content developer may address this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it somewhat difficult to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint will improve access to Web documents.

WCAG 2.0

WCAG 2.0 was published on December 11th, 2008. The format of WCAG 2.0 differs from that of WCAG 1.0. Under these recommendations, there are twelve guidelines organized under four principles (perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust). Also, rather than priority, each guideline has “success criteria.” There are 61 total success criteria within the WCAG 2.0. Based on the success criteria, three levels of conformance (A, AA, AAA) can be awarded to web content. Since the release of WCAG 2.0, amendments released as WCAG 2.1 have been made, making WCAG 2.1 the current standard for online accessibility. 

WCAG 3.0

WCAG 3.0 is currently in the proposal stage and is published as a draft document. This means the WCAG 3.0 is not yet endorsed by the W3C. Because of this, WCAG 2.1 is still the official accessibility guideline at the moment. The WCAG 3.0 outlines a potential new model for web accessibility guidelines. WCAG 3.0 is designed to succeed WCAG 2.1 but will include many differences. According to W3.org, “Content that conforms to WCAG 2.2 A & AA is expected to meet most of the minimum conformance level of this new standard, but since WCAG 3.0 includes additional tests and different scoring mechanics, additional work will be needed to reach full conformance.” 

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Universally Accepted Standards For Website Developers

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are the universally accepted standard for website developers. For this reason, it is essential to make yourself familiar with these comprehensive guidelines. Using the WCAG as a reference for your website designs ensures content is both user-friendly and accessible. As a developer, the WCAG guidelines will prove to be a powerful and useful tool for any project you work on. 

Partnering With Accessibly To Improve Web Compliance For Developers

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are comprehensive and complex. While these guidelines are designed as a tool to help developers and agencies, it can often feel overwhelming attempting to achieve compliance. Accessibly was created with WCAG guidelines in mind and is a wonderful solution for accessibility needs. As a developer, accessibility solutions like Accessibly can help alleviate the challenges of addressing web accessibility. By partnering with Accessibly, you can seamlessly improve web accessibility compliance for any website you design. Accessibly has over a dozen accessibility tools and features, all included in an easy-to-use widget. We also offer this incredible accessibility tool for an affordable price and with several branding capabilities. Accessibly is an excellent tool for any developer, so sign up today and find the plan that works for you!

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