Nine years ago the World Wide Web Consortium’s working group for web accessibility issues, the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), produced a set of guidelines for web developers on how to build and publish content for disabled users.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide website authors and designers with a collection of best practice standards that should be applied to website development regardless of which user agent the end user views the final product with. The guidelines are aimed at promoting accessibility and generally improving web content for all users.
In the original specification (1.0) each guideline contained checkpoints and those checkpoints were assigned a priority. The checkpoints defined how the guideline should be implemented and the priority stated how important that particular checkpoint was.
- Priority 1 are checkpoints a web content developer must satisfy
- Priority 2 are checkpoints a web content developer should satisfy
- Priority 2 are checkpoints a web content developer may satisfy
In contrast to this, version 2.0 places each of the twelve guidelines into one of four principles which â€œprovide the foundation for web accessibilityâ€; perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Each guideline has a number of â€œsuccess criteriaâ€ which have levels (A, AA and AAA) associated with them which are used to indicate levels of conformance, similar to the priorities in the previous version.
In addition, all of the success criteria have two links from the document, the first provides methods for meeting the criteria and the second is background documentation for understanding the criteria or the guideline itself.
The WAI state that each success criteria is testable and has either a true or false result when applied to web content. This has caused a stir in the web development community and I can understand both sides of this coin however I do not want to comment quite yet on my opinion until I have had the time to study the final document in more detail.
I am strongly in favor of web standards and I think it is great to see WCAG 2.0 making it to the level of final publication. The question now remains, will the guidelines be followed? Time will tell.