An Insight into the Principles of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

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An Insight into the Principles of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
An Insight into the Principles of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Discussions about web accessibility are gaining a lot of importance. It is because of the growing need for providing equal access to the web for all kinds of people, including those with disabilities. The aim is to provide equal opportunities to all in using the internet. A set of guidelines in the form is Web Content Accessibility Guidelines framed by the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) in 2018 forms the basis of taking suitable measures for removing barriers in web accessibility.  Implementing the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is mandatory. The inability to comply with it can lead to penalties and fines and even lawsuits because it infringes on the basic rights of individuals to access the web without any hindrance.

Against this backdrop, it is not just enough to incorporate suitable accessibility features into websites, but website owners and webmasters must continuously check the sites to ensure that these features function correctly. A wide range of testing tools and software like the Siteimprove WCAG checker are available that helps automated monitoring of web accessibility.  Creating content that is accessible to all is the first step in ensuring web accessibility. There are other aspects to address which you can know about by going through the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

To ensure conformity to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, you must understand the recommendations stated in the guidelines WCAG2.0 and 2.1 in the right perspective to be able to implement it correctly. Although the instructions are comprehensive, it contains too many details which makes understanding it quickly a bit difficult. To help in the smooth implementation of the guidelines, we have summarized the practical steps in this article.  It begins by understanding the principles used for framing the guidelines

The 4 principles of WCAG

Web accessibility revolves around incorporating some special properties to content that helps people with disabilities to enjoy it just like any other average person. By following the guidelines, you should be able to create content in a way that appeals to one and all and conforms to the principles underlying WCAG2.0 and 2.1.

The content must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust, which are the cornerstones of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

Perceivable

Users must be able to consume the content in their ways by using one or more of their senses. People with disabilities like blindness or low vision or hearing impairment can face challenges in consuming image-based content.

According to the WCAG recommendations, there must be text alternative to all images that convey meaningful content. In the case of complex charts and images, there must be some accessible alternative like text description provided either on the same page or have a link to it.   There must be a caption provided along with multi-media content like audio and video. All buttons related to User Interface (UI) controls must have text labels so that people can understand its purpose. Also, when using images for decorative purposes, you must ensure that it remains invisible to assistive technologies so that it does not confuse users.  Any pre-recorded audio or video media should have a transcript accompanying it and captions of videos presented on the web is also mandatory.

Operable

Users must be able to control elements of UI like keyboard, mouse, voice command, etc. The keyboard must provide access to all functionality except for some functionality like freehand drawing that does not require the keyboard. Users should have control on functions with time limits so that they can adjust the time limit and even turn it off except for real-time events which could get invalidated on applying time-limit.  Similar controls should be available for blinking/ moving content like scrolling texts and videos that last for more than 5 seconds so that users can stop, pause, or hide it.

The content design must take into consideration flashing content because it can cause seizures or physical reactions in users with conditions of epilepsy and should not contain any element that flashes more than 3 times per second. Moreover, there should be provision for disabling animations from interactions. A mechanism must be in place to allow users to avoid repetitive content and skip straight to the main content on that page.

Understandable

To make content understandable, it is essential to present content written in a language that suits users.  Using suitable codes that can detect the language should help to achieve the goal. When using technical terms/ jargons, slang or idioms, you must provide definitions for such phrases or words. Similarly, when using acronyms or abbreviations, mention its full form. Does the text require a higher reading level than the secondary reading level recommended for children between 11-14 years? Then you must provide supplementary explainer material to help people who cannot read it or provide another version written at the lower secondary level. When changing the setting or inputting data into control, it should not change the context unexpectedly.

Instant reporting of error committed by users when choosing between options or filling out a form is very important, and it must provide the form control related to the error. There must be clear instructions regarding data input.

Robust

Following well-adopted web, standards are essential to ensure that the content will work well across all browsers. A wide variety of assistive technologies and user agents should be able to interpret the content reliably. Adhering to the web-standards that are widely applicable and rigorous testing are the ways of ensuring that the content is compatible for all browsers.

Ensuring adherence to the guidelines

Using accessibility evaluation tools and checkers that conform to website compliance is the only way to ensure that there are nor barriers in accessing websites. The web accessibility checking tool offers automated scans of entire websites web applications, mobile applications, intranet and includes individual pages, white papers, PDFs, and any other materials that are supplementary to websites.  The tool automatically checks texts, images links, audio and video as well as site maps.

You can start with a free accessibility evaluation tool to see how much you have achieved in complying with WCAG guidelines.

 

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