We have all heard about website accessibility and compliance for many years now, actually 20, to be exact. When the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) were first published, it was a total game-changer for web accessibility.
As it stands now, and for the foreseeable future, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not officially have a stance on which guideline(s) we should follow for accessibility compliance. However, a recent decision concluded the court can order compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, potentially answering the question the ADA has not.
The web community, both domestic (unofficially) and international (officially), has already adopted WCAG as the defacto guideline. So, while the courts and the ADA try to figure this out, those in the industry have proactively taken a clear position on this: adhere to WCAG 2.0, with consideration for including WCAG 2.1.
You may have noticed above that I mentioned both WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1. To better understand this, let me provide a brief history of WCAG.
WCAG was first published on May 5th, 1999 as version 1.0. Back then we didn’t have touch screen devices or mobile websites. As technology advanced, WCAG 1.0 no longer was able to address accessibility in the manner in which it was originally intended.
On December 11, 2008, WCAG 2.0 was published. It was as complete rewrite of version 1.0 and targeted towards advancing technologies. Four years later, in October 2012, it was accepted internationally and today is recognized as the law by several countries.
Fast-forward a decade or so later and noticeable gaps in WCAG 2.0 were apparent, namely current mobile technologies and users with low vision and cognitive disabilities. To resolve this, two solutions were decided upon.
The first is a short term solution, WCAG 2.1, published on June 5th, 2018. It is an “add-on” to WCAG 2.0. If you comply with WCAG 2.1, you will also be compliant with WCAG 2.0.
The second will be called “Silver” and will be a completely new rewrite from the ground up. No timetable has been set for its release.
WCAG is a baseline for accessibility compliance. Its guidelines are the minimally acceptable published standards. We can always do better.
So, should you adhere to WCAG 2.0 or WCAG 2.1? Personally, I would recommend following the guidelines for WCAG 2.1, but some do not officially recognize it yet. Eventually, everyone will adopt it just as they had previously with 2.0. It is only a matter of time.