Why you should learn the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

“This is for everyone” tweets Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web at the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. The exact reason for these words changed every interview I’ve read. I like to believe Tim Berners-Lee wanted to remind us that the internet should be accessible to everyone from everywhere.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee live-tweets during the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, with a NeXT Cube by his side — ZD Net

People with disabilities get discriminated against by most websites. Of course it can’t be expected that every website is completely optimised for blind people or every video has an available transcript, or can it?

How hard is it really to conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)?

The WCAG are composed and published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and are part of their Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). Five requirements have to be met before content can be classified as conforming to WCAG 2.0.

Principle 1 — Perceivable

Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.

Guideline 1.1 — Text alternatives

Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.

Guideline 1.2 — Time-based Media

Provide alternatives for time-based media.

Guideline 1.3 — Adaptable

Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.

Guideline 1.4 — Distinguishable

Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.

Text alternatives for non-text content is a very easy way to make people feel more included. Time based media is a fancy term for video- and audio only files, it’s important to provide an alternative for people who are blind, deaf or have trouble with motion or light. A good way to do this is provide captions to videos or transcripts. Adaptable and distinguishable content helps the user experience for abled users as well.

Principle 2 — Operable

User interface components and navigation must be operable.

Guideline 2.1 — Keyboard Accessible

Make all functionality available from a keyboard.

Guideline 2.2 — Enough Time

Provide users enough time to read and use content.

Guideline 2.3 — Seizures

Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures.

Guideline 2.4 — Navigable

Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.

The guidelines belonging to this principle will not only help disabled users’ enjoyment of your website but also your overall user experience and decent human being karma points (see guideline 2.3).

Principle 3 — Understandable

Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.

Guideline 3.1 — Readable

Make text content readable and understandable.

Guideline 3.2 — Predictable

Make Web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.

Guideline 3.3 — Input Assistance

Help users avoid and correct mistakes.

These guidelines also help with user experience on your website, why wouldn’t you conform to these guidelines?

Principle 4 — Robust

Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.

Guideline 4.1 — Compatible

Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.

This is somewhat harder to do and might mean you will need to hire an expert on screen readers and other assistive technology. But you should see this as an investment, by making your website more accessible it will get a bigger audience.


W3C. (2016). Understanding Conformance. Geraadpleegd op 22 februari, 2017, van https://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/conformance.html

W3C. (2016, 16 september). How to Meet WCAG 2.0. Geraadpleegd op 23 februari, 2017, van https://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/quickref/

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.