WCAG 2.0 Level A/AA/AAA versus Section 508

The folks at W3C and GSA do a great job of TMI (too much information) such that it is confusing to know and do the right thing as it relates to making your website accessible to all people.

To simplify things for executives and to speak in plain language so everybody can understand, I would like to offer this basic guidance:

What is the difference between WCAG 2.0 Level AA and Section 508

Generally speaking:

  • WCAG 2.0 harmonizes with Section 508
  • WCAG 2.0 Level AAA is Section 508 compliant
  • WCAG 2.0 Level AA is a reasonable standard to strive for
  • WCAG 2.0 Levels are prioritizes based on time, money, audience, importance
  • Priority 1 = Level A is required, you must do it
  • Priority 2 = Level AA is preferred, it would be great if you did it
  • Priority 3 = Level AAA is optional, it would be nice to have (but required for government use)
  • WCAG 2.0 Level AAA is equivalent to Section 508 compliance, it is the government standard

How to know if your website is accessible

  • Photos should have meaningful alternative text.  Every photo needs to have an alternative text description so if somebody with visual disabilities (somebody who is blind) visits your site with the use of a screen reader or translator then that person can understand the meaning behind the photo that she (or he) cannot visually see.
  • Audio should have captions or transcripts.  Every audio clip or movie clip or animation that you use that includes voice that would normally be heard through the computer speakers needs to be accompanied by a transcript or translation of that message so the person with hearing disabilities (somebody who is deaf) who visits your website with the use of translation device can understand what words are being spoken.
  • Colors should have contrast and alternatives.  Every color that is used on your website should be sufficiently contrasted, using primary colors, and should not rely on colors as a visual indicator so that people who are color blind and visit your site are not in any way hindered or prevented from using the site, understanding its content, or accomplishing their goals on that website.
  • Tabs should be ordered.  The tab order of your website should be such that if somebody does not have the sufficient dexterity to physically navigate your site then they can quickly navigate the site using only the tab and enter keys.
  • Anchor text should be meaningful.  The links and anchor text that you use on your website should enable somebody to know what content they should expect to see on the other side of that click so they don’t have to guess at what pages they will arrive at if they click on that link.

If you would like to see if your website passes the test for accessibility.  Try this website accessibility checker: achecker.ca

If you are responsible for ensuring that a website is accessible to people with disabilities and are seeking clear guidance on how to make that happen … good luck.  The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) makes it pretty difficult to understand and get a clear answer.  While the W3c WAI tries to give you quick reference guides and techniques (http://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/quickref/), its still pretty confusing.  They have even put out a set of guidelines (http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG/).

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