The W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 defines how to make Web content more accessible to people with disabilities. Accessibility involves a wide range of disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities. Although these guidelines cover a wide range of issues, they are not able to address the needs of people with all types, degrees, and combinations of disability. These guidelines also make Web content more usable by older individuals with changing abilities due to aging and often improve usability for users in general.
WCAG 2.0 is developed through the W3C process in cooperation with individuals and organizations around the world, with a goal of providing a shared standard for Web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally. WCAG 2.0 builds on WCAG 1.0 and is designed to apply broadly to different Web technologies now and in the future, and to be testable with a combination of automated testing and human evaluation. For an introduction to WCAG, see the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Overview.
Web accessibility depends not only on accessible content but also on accessible Web browsers and other user agents. Authoring tools also have an important role in Web accessibility. For an overview of how these components of Web development and interaction work together, see:
The individuals and organizations that use WCAG vary widely and include Web designers and developers, policy makers, purchasing agents, teachers, and students. In order to meet the varying needs of this audience, several layers of guidance are provided including overall principles, general guidelines, testable success criteria and a rich collection of sufficient techniques, advisory techniques, and documented common failures with examples, resource links and code.
Principles - At the top are four principles that provide the foundation for Web accessibility: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. See also Understanding the Four Principles of Accessibility.
Guidelines - Under the principles are guidelines. The 12 guidelines provide the basic goals that authors should work toward in order to make content more accessible to users with different disabilities. The guidelines are not testable, but provide the framework and overall objectives to help authors understand the success criteria and better implement the techniques.
Success Criteria - For each guideline, testable success criteria are provided to allow WCAG 2.0 to be used where requirements and conformance testing are necessary such as in design specification, purchasing, regulation, and contractual agreements. In order to meet the needs of different groups and different situations, three levels of conformance are defined: A (lowest), AA, and AAA (highest). Additional information on WCAG levels can be found in Understanding Levels of Conformance.
Sufficient and Advisory Techniques - For each of the guidelines and success criteria in the WCAG 2.0 document itself, the working group has also documented a wide variety of techniques. The techniques are informative and fall into two categories: those that are sufficient for meeting the success criteria and those that are advisory. The advisory techniques go beyond what is required by the individual success criteria and allow authors to better address the guidelines. Some advisory techniques address accessibility barriers that are not covered by the testable success criteria. Where common failures are known, these are also documented. See also Sufficient and Advisory Techniques in Understanding WCAG 2.0.
All of these layers of guidance (principles, guidelines, success criteria, and sufficient and advisory techniques) work together to provide guidance on how to make content more accessible. Authors are encouraged to view and apply all layers that they are able to, including the advisory techniques, in order to best address the needs of the widest possible range of users.
Note that even content that conforms at the highest level (AAA) will not be accessible to individuals with all types, degrees, or combinations of disability, particularly in the cognitive language and learning areas. Authors are encouraged to consider the full range of techniques, including the advisory techniques, as well as to seek relevant advice about current best practice to ensure that Web content is accessible, as far as possible, to this community. Metadata may assist users in finding content most suitable for their needs.
Reprinted from Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 (W3C Recommendation 11 December 2008), which is Copyright © 2008 W3C (MIT, ERCIM, Keio), All Rights Reserved. W3C liability, trademark and document use rules apply.