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Information Technology Systems and Services

Guidelines and Standards

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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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)
  4. Robust
    • 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.

Success Criteria

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

The normative WCAG document is supported by an extensive set of informative 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:

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.