Web accessibility can be easy to grasp and implement. Especially if you know when your organisation actually satisfies the requirements laid out by the European Parliament.
For example, it is important to be aware of the different levels of web accessibility. Different requirements apply depending on whether you are a public organisation, public funded or a private company. A large portion of the population is dependent on assistive technology such as screen readers to use the Internet or read documents and PDF’s. Being dependent on a screen reader can make it extremely difficult to carry out everyday tasks such as checking one’s digital mail or store hours, or filling in a contact form. That’s why, mandatory or not, all websites, documents and PDFs should be made web-accessible – so no one is left out.
Besides public bodies, the law applies, for instance to unemployment funds, because they are public-funded organisations and have a bearing on labour market issues.
It also means, however, that private companies do not have to comply with WCAG 2.1, strictly speaking, but to do so has enormous benefits, as it makes websites and documents available to a large portion of the population that would otherwise be excluded.
WCAG 2.1 is the standard for web accessibility, and it builds upon four basic principles. A website and its content must be:
These four main principles each have a series of criteria for success, which are divided into three levels. A, AA and AAA conformance.
Take, for example, an audio-visual on your website. According to success criterion 1.2.2, captions are required for pre-recorded audio and video, in order to live up to compliance level A. You satisfy level AA (1.2.4) if you also have captions for live audio. To satisfy AAA-level compliance (1.2.6), you must also provide sign-language interpretation, and not just captions, for all pre-recorded audio and video. It is important to remember that AAA compliance can be difficult to achieve and therefore is not expected. Making the extra effort, however, will be viewed positively.
AA requirements, on the other hand, are mandatory for all public and public-funded organisations. Most organisations subject to the WCAG Standard should at least live up to both A and AA requirements. The reason organisations are not required to live up to AAA requirements is because it can limit their ability to communicate their message correctly and precisely. For example, specialised and technical texts would not be able to satisfy success criterion 3.1.5 as regards reading level. That is because the text has to be at lower secondary education reading level to be considered AAA-compliant.
If you are a public organisation or public funded, AA-level compliance is mandatory
As such, you can start by studying A and AA requirements and find out how to optimise your organisation, to ensure WCAG compliance at both A and AA levels. It is also a good idea to look at AAA requirements, to understand the limitations one will experience, even when you satisfy AA requirements.
If you are a private company, it does still pay off to incorporate web accessibility. As much as 20% of the population needs accessible documents and websites – which translates to a larger audience. Private companies that work with public bodies or produce software solutions for them need to ensure that the solution they are delivering is WCAG-compliant.
If you are left thinking that you have done what you can, but you still have questions about whether you satisfy WCAG requirements, it can be a good idea to acquire software that easily ensures your websites and documents are web-accessible.
Niels B. Johansen