The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) were developed by the W3C, the internet standard organisation also responsible for international HTML and CSS standards. It is a mandatory requirement that all websites owned and or/operated by the Australian government departments, as well as agencies under any domain, are compliant with WCAG 2.0 to a Level AA standard. This applies to external (public facing or private) and internal (closed community) websites, including intranet and extranet sites.
The goal of the WCAG is to provide a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organisations, and governments internationally. The current iteration of the guidelines is WCAG 2.0, implemented in December 2008. There was a recent update to the guidelines in June 2018 called WCAG 2.1, with additional success criteria to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. Web content refers to natural information such as text, images and sounds, as well as the code or makeup that defines the structure and presentation of a website. If digital content is not made accessible, your organisation may become vulnerable to litigation.
At TWMG, we are committed to creating responsive websites and content that comply with WCAG 2.1 AA or AAA standards, without compromising on the overall look and feel of the project. Keep reading to learn more about WCAG 2.1 and how to ensure your website is accessible:
The Importance of Digital Accessibility
Over 4 million (1 in 5) Australians are living with some form of disability. Therefore, the Australian Government has a responsibility to make websites, especially those that fulfil a public function, accessible for those with disabilities. Digital accessibility allows people with disabilities to effectively consume information from a website or web content. As more functions are optimised for digital platforms and business is increasingly conducted online, it is essential that no one is disadvantaged or excluded from participating.
Non-compliance with the WCAG can leave agencies open to legal action and possible prosecution. The issue of digital accessibility first became prominent in 2000 in the case of Maguire v Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games. Bruce Lindsay Maguire, a web user who had been blind from birth, made a complaint to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) alleging that the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) had discriminated against him by failing to provide an accessible website. The HREOC eventually ruled that the website was inaccessible to the blind with regards to the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992. The SOCOG was ordered to include ALT text on all images and maps links, and increase the accessibility of content on the website.Subsequently, the WCAG guidelines were adopted by the Australian Government, with requirements put in place for all agency websites to pass accessibility tests.
WCAG 2.1 Update
The WCAG 2.1 update, which was made an official W3C recommendation on June 5, 2018, includes 17 additional criteria addressing accessibility issues when using mobile technology, accessibility for people with low vision, and accessibility for people with cognitive and learning disabilities. As WCAG 2.0 was implemented before the rise of the mobile web experience, assistive tools for mobile technology were not considered. The new update corrects this oversight, understanding how digital devices can provide a crucial service to disabled users. WCAG 2.1 also address the internet needs of users with sight-related disabilities or low vision, as well as cognitive disabilities through the provision of motion-activated services and other accessibility tools. For all 17 additional criteria as well as the success criteria carried forward from 2.0, see the full WCAG 2.1 recommendation document.
Website Accessibility Checklist
The W3C intends that websites which conform to WCAG 2.1 also conform to WCAG 2.0, meaning that your website meets the requirements of any policies which reference 2.0, while also better meeting the needs to disabled users on the internet. Not sure if your website conforms to the current guidelines? Go through our website accessibility checklist below and see where your website can improve:
If your website is not accessibility compliant, contact the experienced team at TWMG! We are a full service web development and digital marketing agency in Sydney, with over 15 years experience in designing web solutions for government, corporate, not for profit and SME websites. Give us a call on 1300 911 772 or Contact Us today.