WCAG Guidelines: How Important Are the New Website Content Accessibility Guidelines?
In order for your website content to be rich in functional accessibility, it must first be POUR – an acronym that stands for Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. This concept of “POUR” content actually comes from the four pillars of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which is the most widely accepted set of standards for website accessibility, and aims to ensure that every person who accesses a website, regardless of their level of ability, is able to utilize that website to its fullest extent. While these website content accessibility guidelines are not legally binding, they still remain a vital component of website design, and for good reason.
Why is web accessibility important?
Would you wittingly add a feature to your website that you knew 26 percent of your audience wouldn’t be able to use? Probably not. But that’s exactly what many businesses are doing when they build websites that don’t take the WCAG 2.1 accessibility guidelines into consideration. Whether they realize it or not, by not conforming to any sort of website content accessibility guidelines, these website owners are potentially locking out huge chunks of their customer bases from being able to properly access and utilize their sites.
Currently, as many as 61 million adults in the United States are living with a disability. That includes people with:
- Blindness or impaired vision
- Deafness or impaired hearing
- Motor difficulties
- Cognitive impairments or learning disabilities
- Neurological limitations
- Speech difficulties
- And more…
That’s more than a quarter of our adult population – many of whom require special tools and technologies to help them navigate the web. Designing a website that ignores those needs and denies full access to that many people is never a good idea. What is a good idea is learning how to design an inclusive website that is accessible to your entire audience – and that starts with understanding the basics of the website content accessibility guidelines.
Whether you’re designing a brand-new website for your business, or you’re looking to make accessibility updates to your current site, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines’ four principles – yep, POUR – should be your starting point.
To recap, POUR stands for Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. Each of the four principles is meant to work with the next so that, together, they help website owners create sites that are fully accessible to all individuals.
The first of the website content accessibility guidelines, perceivability refers to the ability of website content and certain interface elements to be identified by at least one of the senses. For many website users, perception is a matter of vision first and foremost. But for others, perceivability comes down to sound or touch. Bottom line, your site content can’t be invisible to all the senses.
Next, website users must be able to successfully operate all elements of the site – controls, buttons, overall site navigation and other interactive elements – not only via traditional mouse controls, but also by keyboard arrows and/or voice commands.
Website technologies are considered “understandable” when they are consistent in their presentation and formation, and predicable in their design. Websites should also be concise and easy to understand (both in terms of content and functionality), and there should be some sort of assistance available to help users avoid and correct mistakes.
This final pillar requires websites to be technologically advanced enough that they are compatible with all appropriate forms of assistive technologies.
While the above website content accessibility guidelines were developed to govern websites in particular, they can be applied pretty seamlessly to accessibility in other areas of business as well. Overall, your products and services should be simple enough to recognize, understand and operate, while being fleshed out enough for adaptability purposes.
For more information about the particulars of the website content accessibility guidelines, or to speak to one of our team members about our web accessibility services, contact us today. We look forward to helping you get your website on the road to full accessibility.