The Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) explain how to make websites accessible for all. The guidelines are written by accessibility specialists, volunteers and disabled people at the World Wide Web Consortium W3C. In this article, we will outline why DDA compliance is important and what the WCAG 2.1 entails.
Why does your website need to be Accessible?
Making a website accessible means making sure it can be used by as many people as possible. This includes those with impaired vision, motor difficulties, cognitive impairments or learning disabilities, deafness or impaired hearing. For example, someone with impaired vision might use a screen reader (software that lets a user navigate a website and "reads out" the content), braille display or screen magnifier. Or someone with motor difficulties might use a special mouse, speech recognition software or on-screen keyboard emulator.
1 in 5 people has a disability which makes it all that much more important that websites can be accessed by everyone. Accessible websites also tend to be faster and easier to use, and appear higher on search engines.
4 in 10 local councils' homepages failed basic tests for accessibility. Common issues include:
- Can't be navigated using a keyboard
- Inaccessibe PDF forms that can't be read out on screen readers
- Poor colour contrast that makes text difficult to read, especially for visually impaired people
What are the Guidelines?
The WCAG 2.1 has 12 guidelines that can be grouped into four principles as explained below.
Your website must present information in ways people can recognise and use, no matter how they consume content (by touch, sound or sight for example).
Guideline 1.1: Provide text alternatives
Guideline 1.2: Provide alternatives for time-based media
Guideline 1.3: Create content that can be presented in different ways
Guideline 1.4: Make content easy for people to see and hear
Your website must be navigable and usable no matter how someone operates it (without a mouse, with voice commands, or with a screen magnifier for example)
Guideline 2.1: Make functionality work with a keyboard
Guideline 2.2: Give people enough time to read and use content
Guideline 2.3: Do not cause seizures
Guideline 2.4: Provide ways to help people navigate and find content
Your website must make information understandable, and make it easy for users to comprehend how to complete tasks.
Guideline 3.1: Make text readable and understandable
Guideline 3.2: Make things appear and behave in consistent ways
Guideline 3.3: Help people avoid and correct mistakes
Your website must work with different browsers and assistive technologies in use now, and use technologies in ways that will make your website operable with the browsers and assistive technologies of the future.
Guideline 4.1: Make content compatible with different browsers and assistive technologies
So, what do you need to do?
You will need to have an accessibility statement on your website which covers:
- which parts of your website does not meet accessibility standards and why
- how people with access needs can get alternatives to content that’s not accessible
- how to contact you to report accessibility problems - and a link (to be confirmed) to the government website that they can use if they’re not happy with your response
And if someone requests it, you must provide an accessible alternative within a reasonable time for content that doesn't meet the standards.
How long do you have to do this?
For websites created after 23rd September 2018, you have until the 23rd September 2019.
For websites created before 23rd September 2018, you have until the 23rd September 2020.
For mobile apps, you have until 23rd June 2020.