The W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 , level AA, serve as the Web accessibility standards for the University of Minnesota.
WCAG (pronounced "wuh-KAG") is a technical document that serves a number of purposes, primarily functioning as the definitive technical reference gathering together information on web accessibility.
WCAG is organized around 4 basic principles necessary for anyone to access and use Web content. They are:
- Perceivable - Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
- This means that users must be able to perceive the information being presented (it can't be invisible to all of their senses)
- Operable - User interface components and navigation must be operable.
- This means that users must be able to operate the interface (the interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform)
- Understandable - Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.
- This means that users must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of the user interface (the content or operation cannot be beyond their understanding)
- This means that users must be able to access the content as technologies advance (as technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible)
If any of these are not true, users with disabilities will not be able to use the Web.
Within these four Principles are 13 Guidelines.
Each Guideline contains a number of Success Criteria, which are testable statements that are not technology-specific. When these criteria are met, a Web site is conformant with WCAG. Typically success criterion needs to be considered under most guidelines, as they cover different areas of Web accessibility. However, it is likely that while some of the success criteria will be applicable to a site under most guidelines, still, many of the success criteria will not apply.
Level of Conformance
All together, there are 61 Success Criteria and each criterion is given one of three levels of conformance: A, AA, or AAA. As previously stated level AA is the University of Minnesota Standard. If a Web site conforms to Level AA, it means that it will be accessible for most people, under most circumstances.
Supporting Suite of Documents
Most people will use supporting documents when developing Web content. But depending on your Web site, much of the documentation may not be applicable. Taken as a whole, the documentation might seem somewhat overwhelming. However, to suggest that anyone has to read the whole set of documents to use it is a fallacy. One or two of the following documents will likely fit most needs. Included in the suite of documents are:
- WCAG 2.1 Overview - Provides an introduction to all WCAG documentation and aids in understanding the framework for all the available resources.
- How to Meet WCAG 2.1 - Lists all Guidelines, Success Criteria and Techniques. It is customizable, displaying as much or as little as you need from the guide. Set it to Level AA. You can rule out criteria that do not apply (i.e. if you don't use flash, you can hide the features that relate to flash). This document is very useful for designers and developers who want to get started with WCAG. The success criteria are the testable statements that define how Web content meets (conforms to) WCAG. Under each success criteria are a list of sufficient techniques and common failures.
- Techniques for WCAG 2.1 - Provides specific guidance on how to develop accessible Web content. It not only has general and technology-specific examples, including for HTML, CSS, scripting, and WAI-ARIA but also common failures on what to avoid.
- Understanding WCAG 2.1 - Details the rationale behind each Success Criterion, who it benefits, an explanation of key words, and links to Techniques. This document is useful for people involved in testing Web sites as it will aid in understanding what constitutes a pass or fail and it is useful for people who want to understand the guidelines and success criteria more thoroughly.
In addition to the W3C documentation, WebAIM provides a WCAG Checklist (updated for 2.1). It is simplified overview of the guidelines, which can help make it easier to get started using them.