WCAG compliance checker

Checking that your business’ website meets WCAG guidelines not only ensures that you are protected from any legal repercussions, such as claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but also highlights your business’ commitment towards a more accessible internet for all. 

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As a business, wouldn’t you closely plan your store layout, restaurant, or office to make it accessible for people with disabilities. Then why should your website be any different?

Using an accessibility compliance scanner, like the WCAG Compliance Checker, checks that your website(s) meets the latest guidelines around accessibility as defined by W3C.

What does a WCAG compliance checker do?

  • Existing issues: The WCAG Compliance Checker reveals any existing issues on your web page, with respect to the latest WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 guidelines.
  • Analysis of issues: Apart from identifying any WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 issues present on your web page, this WCAG Compliance report also provides details on how they impact your users.
  • Recommended remediation strategy: The WCAG Compliance Checker offers actionable insights as to how you should fix issues, aligning them with the relevant techniques outlined in the WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 guidelines.

What is WCAG compliance?

In addition to the ethical and legal arguments for web accessibility, more attention is now being given to the business impact of having an inaccessible website. Recent research from Forbes reveals that 71% of people with disabilities will immediately abandon a website that is difficult to use. Another study by Nucleus Research uncovered that the US’s top 10 internet retailers were missing out on $6.9 billion worth of revenue because of their inaccessible websites.

wcag 2.0 compliance

In response to the growing importance of digital accessibility, WAI introduced WCAG as the universal shared standard for web accessibility, aimed at meeting the needs of individuals, businesses, and governments around the world. Meeting these accessibility standards with your website(s) is known as being WCAG compliant.

Not sure where to begin? The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), an offshoot of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), has authored a set of global standards known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines give organizations a clear starting point from which to build inclusive and easy-to-use websites that are accessible to all users.

How to ensure website WCAG compliance

Since its initial introduction in 1995, there have been multiple iterations of the WCAG guidelines to reflect the increasing functionality and changing nature of websites. The most significant updates were the publishing of WCAG 2.0 (2008), and WCAG 2.1 (2018).

Each iteration adds new requirements, also known as success criteria, for improving accessibility. All these success criteria fall under one of four main accessibility principles – perceivability, operability, understandability, and robustness.

WCAG 2.0 originally listed 61 different success criteria. WCAG 2.1 expanded upon these with 17 additional success criteria that acknowledged the increasing need for mobile accessibility, as well as recommending extra support for people living with low vision, and cognitive and learning disabilities.

A new update, WCAG 2.2 with a proposed nine additional success criteria, is expected to be published in 2021.

Difference between WCAG A, WCAG AA and WCAG AAA compliance

WCAG is divided into three levels of compliance – A, AA, and AAA. These levels provide web developers with an organized framework for tracking the minimal, acceptable, and ideal level of compliance that websites should work towards. The levels differ as follows:

  • WCAG Level A: This level indicates minimal compliance. If your website does not meet at least this level, then it means that it is exceedingly difficult for people with disabilities to use.
  • WCAG Level AA: This level indicates acceptable compliance, which means that your website is usable and understandable for the majority of people.
  • WCAG Level AAA: This level indicates optimal compliance, which means that your website is accessible to the maximum number of users, with or without disabilities.

Understanding WCAG compliance levels and the differences between them can help you better serve your digital audiences, whatever their needs may be. Even if some of the guidelines seem obscure or unimportant on the surface, ensuring that you meet as many of them as possible can help boost your online presence, improve your SEO, and prevent costly and reputation-damaging legal claims.

What are the WCAG 2.1 standards?

WCAG 2.1 is an expansion of the original WCAG guidelines. It includes 17 new success criteria which accounted for the evolving nature of websites over the decade. Some of the new features of WCAG 2.1, ranked in order of their importance, are explained below.

Level AAA compliance features:

  • Identify Purpose: Developers should identify the type and purpose of items on the page so that they can be personalized for people with cognitive disabilities.
  • Animation from Interactions: Websites should provide an option for users to disable any animated elements on the page.
  • Timeouts: In case the website uses timeouts, it should indicate to users what duration of inactivity would lead to a timeout.
  • Target Size: Developers should ensure that target sizes for various elements are large enough for users with limited dexterity to activate them, even when using smaller devices.
  • Concurrent Input Mechanisms: Websites should allow for people to enter information using various input mechanisms, for example – keyboards, touchscreen, stylus, or mouse.

Level AA compliance features:

  • Orientation: Websites should be viewable in portrait as well as landscape mode, as preferred by the user.
  • Identify Input Purpose: Developers should ensure that the purpose of website forms used to gather user data can be programmatically determined, which makes filling forms easier, especially for people with cognitive disabilities.
  • Reflow: Websites that require users with low vision to zoom into text on the screen should ensure that zooming does not result in having to scroll in multiple directions for readability.
  • Non-Text Contrast: Active non-text elements on the website, such as controls and graphics, should be distinguishable by users with low vision.
  • Text Spacing: Users should be able to override text spacing (line, word, character spacing, etc.) on a website to improve their reading experience.
  • Content on Hover or Focus: Any content activated by using an on-page hover or focus should be easy to bring up or dismiss without interrupting a user’s page experience.
  • Status Messages: Messages that provide users information on the outcome or results of an action taken on-site should be perceivable, yet, non-intrusive.

Level A compliance features:

Character Key Shortcuts: User with limited mobility should be able to easily deactivate commands initiated by the hitting of character keys.

Pointer Gestures: Content on the site should be able to be controlled with a range of pointing devices and assistive technologies that may not necessarily be 100% accurate in their range.

Pointer Cancellation: Users who erroneously provide wrong input via pointing devices should be able to cancel the action easily.

Label in Name: Words used to visually label website elements should be the same words associated with the element programmatically, so that people with disabilities can rely on labels to interact with the elements.

Motion Actuation: Functions triggered by moving around a device should also be able to be operated by more conventional user interface inputs, since users with disabilities may not be able to carry out these actions.

How to automate your WCAG compliance checks

Siteimprove’s WCAG Compliance Checker simplifies the process of working towards digital compliance by automatically testing that any page on your website meets key WCAG 2.0 success criteria. The WCAG Compliance Checker runs checks against these common accessibility issues:

  • Orientation
  • Identify Input Purpose
  • Label in Name
  • Reflow (partially automated)
  • Non-text contrast (partially automated)
  • Text spacing (partially automated)

The Siteimprove WCAG Compliance Checker also checks for the following success criteria through a manual checking process that uses multiple input devices:

  • Identify Purpose
  • Content on Hover or Focus
  • Character Key Shortcuts
  • Timeouts
  • Animation from Interactions
  • Pointer Gestures
  • Pointer cancellation
  • Motion Actuation
  • Concurrent Input Mechanisms
  • web accessibility icon in a mobile device

WCAG compliance Frequently Asked Questions

Is WCAG 2.1 a legal requirement in the US?

Yes and no. While federal and government agencies – and their contractors – in the US are legally required to comply with WCAG 2.0 guidelines, private businesses have a greater degree of flexibility. Their websites need to be accessible, but not necessarily WCAG 2.1 compliant.

The key regulation concerning accessibility in the US is the ADA, which prohibits discrimination based on disability in places of public accommodation (the definition of which legally includes websites). However, the ADA does not mention a specific accessibility standard to which companies need to comply. Therefore, as long as your website is reasonably equipped to serve people with disabilities, you may still be protected from legal repercussions.

However, as the most widespread and well-known standards for accessibility, WCAG is the golden standard that most businesses choose to comply with.

Check out our ADA compliance website checker for more information on this regulation.

Is WCAG 2.0 still valid?

Since WCAG 2.1 is nothing but an extension to WCAG 2.0, the original (WCAG 2.0) is still considered valid. Essentially, any content that conforms to WCAG 2.1 must, by definition also conform to WCAG 2.0.

When was WCAG 2.1 published?

WCAG 2.1 was published on 5 June 2018.

Are there new WCAG 2.2 guidelines?

Another extension to the guidelines, WCAG 2.2 is expected to be published in 2021. The draft proposal for the new guidelines has been released by the W3C and outlines nine key additions to the existing success criteria. These include, in order of importance:

Level AAA compliance features:

Focus Appearance (Enhanced): People with mobility impairments who use alternative input devices besides a mouse, as well as low vision users, should be able to clearly view the current point-of-focus on a website.

Level AA compliance features:

  • Focus Appearance (Minimum): Similar to Focus Appearance (Enhanced), the aforementioned user groups should be able to easily identify the point of focus.
  • Dragging: Any functionality that requires the use of a dragging movement should be able to be carried out through alternate means, since certain users may not have the dexterity that this requires.
  • Pointer Target Spacing: Users with disabilities should be able to click or select any elements without activating adjacent elements.
  • Hidden Controls: Controls needed to execute an action or progress in a process should be easily discoverable by people with cognitive disabilities.

Level A compliance features:

  • Fixed Reference Points: Websites should be built to ensure that users with disabilities can find references to content based on printed versions of documents, to enable easier cross-referencing.
  • Findable Help: Users should be able to easily find help for carrying out any actions on a website. The help feature should be prominently and consistently visible.
  • Accessible Authentication: Apart from passwords, which may be harder to remember for people with disabilities, websites should have an accessible, easy-to-use, and secure method to log in and access content.
  • Redundant Entry: Input fields that are repeated in multi-step processes should either be auto-filled or removed, to assist users with cognitive disabilities with form filling.