Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Conformance

WCAG is the global standard in digital accessibility guidelines. It enables all organizations to measure the accessibility of content, sites, and apps against documented success criteria for all people, including those with disabilities.

    What is WCAG?

    The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG – often pronounced “wuh-cag”) were developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and are widely accepted as the go-to standard for digital accessibility conformance. They serve as the basis of most accessibility regulations worldwide and are applicable across all current and future digital technologies.

    WCAG  has three levels of conformance: A, AA, and AAA. Level A refers to the lowest level of conformance (minimum) and Level AAA is the highest (maximum). Most organizations set their standards at level AA because it is both achievable and meaningful, without being too disruptive to the design and development process.

    In June 2018, the W3C released WCAG 2.1 – the first major update to WCAG requirements in a decade. This update introduced 17 new success criteria improving WCAG coverage for cognitive disabilities, low vision disabilities, and mobile accessibility.

    The shorthand for the principles underlying WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 is “P.O.U.R.”: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robust.

    Although the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are not enforceable requirements by themselves, there are many accessibility regulations worldwide that do require conformance with WCAG success criteria (WCAG 2.0 A and AA criteria being the most widely adopted requirements). For example, Section 508, AODA, CVAA, and the Australian DDA are based on WCAG 2.0 Level A and AA success criteria. The EU Accessibility Directive has taken one step ahead by already adopting WCAG 2.1 Level A and AA.

    If you don’t have specific accessibility regulations that apply to your organization but want to avoid legal risk, WCAG 2.1 level A and AA compliance is a safe bet.

    How to take action and conform to WCAG

    Here are some actions you can take to ensure that your websites and applications are accessible:

    1. Have a complete accessibility audit performed on your site and apps to determine your current level of accessibility.
    2. Determine which parts of your site or app need to be prioritized based on usage and the severity of the accessibility barriers. It may be helpful to consult with accessibility experts to ensure you’re starting with a strong remediation strategy.
    3. Train your developers, testers, and content creators in accessibility concepts and techniques and provide support to help them fix your accessibility issues.
    4. Equip your development teams with tools to integrate accessibility testing into all stages of the development process going forward.

    Illustration of four individuals working together in an office setting

    Benefits of Section 508 Compliance

    Serving a wider audience

    Accessible content will widen your available target audience opening new revenue opportunities.

    Decreased legal risk

    Organizations who actively pursue accessibility excellence are better positioned to address claims and avoid costly violations.

    Increased Search Presence

    Providing page titles, semantic heading structure, alternative text for images and transcripts for audio visual files makes your content more discoverable by search engines.

    Better overall user experience

    Studies show that optimizations made in UI/UX for accessibility also benefit people without disabilities.

    How Deque Can Help

    Deque accessibility experts have the knowledge and skills today to help you with WCAG 2.1 conformance. Because we helped define WCAG 2.1 and were actively involved in implementation testing, we’re among a small group of accessibility professionals ready to help you now.

    Additionally, Deque services, training, and tools are continually updated with the latest in WCAG requirements. With immediate support of WCAG 2.1 across our services and training and inclusion of automated rulesets in the next release of our accessibility testing library axe-core, your team will be equipped to achieve its compliance goals. Contact us if you’d like help with WCAG 2.1 now.

    Artboard 65


    Most accessibility projects begin and end with an audit – they assess the current state of your site or application’s accessibility resulting in a clear accessibility report.

    Learn More about accessibility audits


    Accessibility Fundamentals: Disabilities, Guidelines, and Laws. This course provides an overview of important web accessibility concepts, suitable for both technical and non-technical audiences.

    Learn More accessibility training

    Contact Us

    If you’re looking for help with the latest WCAG 2.1 update, we’re available to help now.

    Contact us

    axe Testing Tools

    The axe DevTools, axe Auditor and axe Monitor products enable accessibility experts and development to test and maintain accessibility end-to-end.

    Learn More about the axe Suite