WCAG 2.1 Guidelines
The first step taken to fight the injustice and inequality on behalf of individuals with disabilities was the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of religion, age, gender, or race. The ADA also developed requirements for effective communication, which can play a role when it comes to the practical use of telecommunication devices such as computers or phones.
The ADA wasn’t the only agency to ensure equal opportunity protection. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was also developed with this effort; to ensure world-wide cooperation, the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines were implemented to mandate electronic and information technology’s (EIT) accessibility to individuals with disabilities.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are intended for use by web authoring tool developers, web accessibility evaluation tool developers, web content developers (such as page authors, site designers, etc.) and also for others who want or need a standard for web accessibility.
Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust
WCAG guidelines implement four main principles to ensure web content is more accessible to individuals with disabilities. First, by being perceivable, services and assistive technologies such as screen readers are available to all the senses, such as vision and hearing. Second, by being operable, interaction with all elements and controls can be performed using assistive devices or a keyboard. Third, by ensuring it is understandable, clean content is provided with limited complications. Lastly, by being robust, a wide range of technologies allows users to access the content easily and efficiently.
Web content can also consist of natural information, including sounds, images, or text and it can also consist of markup or code that defines presentation and structure. WCAG is consistently evolving, with the WCAG 2.1 publication in 2008 and more recently, the WCAG 2.1 publication in 2018. All previous requirements are included in the newer 2.1 version and additional requirements have been added. It is important to remember that even though your website was considered compliant with WCAG standards 20 years ago, it might not be the case today.
As websites age, some content may include archived material not yet accessible to the public. That pre-existing, aged content may pose a liability risk to your organization, which could take the form of a letter of complaint or even a lawsuit. Your risk grows significantly if your organization is a public school, college, or state government institution. For these types of organizations, WCAG compliance is critical – it’s the law. Also, even if your organization is not within the United States, many international laws also address web accessibility. This is a global issue, affecting a much larger population.