Web accessibility makes it easier for people to use the web. It creates a better user experience for a wider audience, not just users with disabilities.

Accessibility standards for the internet are set by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These are the guidelines for making the web accessible to everyone, regardless of their needs or if they require assistive technologies to use the web. 

The internet has evolved beyond websites with basic images and text to include dynamic content, rich multimedia, and more complex user interfaces. Building an internet where every website is capable of meeting everyone's needs would be no small task.

With that said, any business or organization with a website should make every effort to keep their own content accessible. If you're  ready to make accessibility improvements on your site but unsure of where to start, that’s why the WCAG 2.0 guidelines exist. These principals are here to help you build a website everyone can use to access the information you want them to know.

As outlined in the ADA Compliance Requirements help article, The WCAG 2.0 guidelines are broken down into four primary principles:

  1. Perceivable
  2. Operable
  3. Understandable
  4. Robust.

Under each principle, there are specific goals a website should work toward. Under each section, there is now specific criteria that can be tested. Each of these criteria are graded A, AA, or AAA. In short, this grade shows how accessible a website is.

Understanding the Different Levels: A, AA, AAA

The Digital Accessibility Centre defines the different levels like so:

  • A (Single A) is viewed as the minimum level of requirement which all websites, apps, and electronic content such as documents should adhere to.
  • AA (Double A) is viewed as the acceptable level of accessibility for many online services, which should work with most assistive technology which is now widely available on both desktop and mobile devices, or which can be purchased as a third-party installation.
  • AAA (Triple A) compliance is viewed as the gold standard level of accessibility, which provides everything for a complete accessible offering, including all the bells and whistles which make the difference between a very good experience and an excellent one.
To sum it up, A is minimum competency, AA is a passing grade, and AAA exceeds expectations and creates the most accessible content and the best user experience for all users.

Lets Look At An Example

Text contrast is a great example. Its included in the Perceivable principle, defined as "Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive." Below, examples of each grade are explained as they relate specifically to color contrast. This shows the scope of compliance between grades A, AA, and AAA.

  • A: "Color is not used as the only visual means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response, or distinguishing a visual element."
    This is a general guideline. It can be met by using clear, consistent link colors so all users can easily identify them as links, using clear hover colors so users tabbing through links on a site can easily identify them as they navigate.
  • AA: "The visual presentation of text and images of text has a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1."
    This is a more specific requirement with a defined contrast ratio. It can be met by testing all content on the site to ensure that the text to background color ratio is above the 4.5:1 threshold.
  • AAA: "The visual presentation of text and images of text has a contrast ratio of at least 7:1."
    Again, this is a more specific requirement with a higher defined contrast ratio. It can be met by testing all content on the site to ensure that the text to background color ratio is above the 7:1 threshold.

How to Test

As you can see, as compliance levels go up, so do the requirements to meet them. Luckily there are some great online tools that can help test websites to ensure they're usable for everyone!

Chrome Dev Tools Accessibility Audit

The Chrome web browser now has accessibility tools included in a user-friendly dashboard that can highlight issues and provide suggestions for improvement.

To view the Accessibility Audit built in to Chrome:

  1. Click Command+Option+I (Mac) or F12 or Control+Shift+I (PC)
  2. Click the Audit tab, and select Accessibility
  3. Run Audit

When the results are complete, you can view the page's overall accessibility score and view suggestions for improvement. 

Read more about the Chrome Dev Tools Accessibility tools here.

WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool 

WebAIM, short for Web Accessibility In Mind, are industry leaders in online accessibility. They provide a suite of tools to help web you make your web content more accessible called WAVE, or Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool. WAVE cannot tell you if your web content is accessible. Only a human can determine true accessibility. But, WAVE can help you, as a human, evaluate the accessibility of your web content.

Read more about WAVE tools here