The Australian Government has endorsed the second version of the WCAG Guidelines (Web Content Accessibility) for all government websites. This new standard replaces the previous WCAG 1.0 compliance mandate, and this standard is being upheld by businesses and non-government organisations as well. The full scope of the change as well as advice for meeting the standard is discussed on the Department of Finance website in a Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy (NTS) document.
The Significance of WCAG 2.0
The Financial Management and Accountability Act required agencies to meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA by December of 2014. Website accessibility requirements are mandated under government legislation, policy and commitments. The Online and Communications Council’s endorsement of WCAG 2.0 requires Australian governmental sites to meet WCAG 2.0 Level A guidelines, and many private sector businesess are following suit.
The Disability Discrimination Act of 1992 was created to help ensure that persons with disabilities would have access to the same services and information as non-disabled persons. In 2008, the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) was ratified by the Australian Government. This act recognizes that access to communications, services and information is a fundamental human right. This includes access to the Internet and its content.
What this Means for Businesses
Government agencies in Australia were required in recent years to update their websites to WCAG 2.0 compliance as specified under the NTS; they went from Level A (Single A) by the end of 2012, Level AA (Double A) by the end of 2014. Compliance meant all of the WCAG 2.0 requirements had to met.
It is now well into 2015, and reputable businesses and organizations are following suit. The WCAG 2.0 requirements include many guidelines that help to make Internet content accessible to those with sensory disabilities related to hearing, eyesight and perception. The following are some examples of how to become compliant with these rules and guidelines:
Expanding Online Perception
Businesses should strive to make both user interface components and the information provided accessible to as many people as possible. Alternatives to text such as audio can assist those who have vision issues. In the case of a “CAPTCHA” online verification, a non-text alternative is crucial for those who cannot see the test.
Alternatives for Time-Based Media
Alternatives to video-only or audio-only content should also be provided for users with vision or hearing issues. Captions or sign language alternatives should be offered as an option for those with hearing problems. Businesses should generally strive to create content presentation that doesn't compromise quality, structure or information.
Changing Color and Contrast
In both visual and audio media, taking steps to separate the foreground content from its background elements can make perception and assimilation easier for users. Dropping out background hiss or noise in audio content can assist users in hearing the main content more clearly. Adequate contrast in text and visual media can assist with perception as well. Text should also be resizable to at least 200% by the user.
Audio or video longer than 3 seconds should be controllable by the user so that they can pause, stop and start the media as needed in order to understand it fully. Volume control should also be provided. A mechanism for identifying abbreviations and also specific definitions of unusual text or jargon used online should be made available to those without easy access to such information.
Layout of Web Pages
Web pages should be laid out in logical and expected ways, as should navigational mechanisms and other components throughout a website. Context changes should be able to be initiated with a mechanism provided to the user or by user request. For web pages requiring information input, the submissions should be correctable and reversible. Content should be robust enough to be interpreted by a range of users, including those using assistive technology.
Compatibility with Assistive Technology
Compatibility with these technologies should be addressed in website building and upkeep in an ongoing way. Websites should be created in a way that allows them to be compatible with the highest number of assistive technologies possible. These include but are not limited to visual reading assistants such as screen magnifiers, screen readers (used by persons who are blind so that they can read textual information via Braille or synthesized speech), text-to-speech software, speech recognition software, alternative keyboards (such as those with head pointers, sip/puff usage, single switches, and other special input mechanisms), and alternative pointing devices (other than a mouse or touch screen).
Following the lead of the Australian government, businesses and other private sector organizations should ideally avoid technologies that are not conducive to being WCAG 2.0 compliant, unless they can be made accessible through augmentation of some kind.
Bringing the Internet to As Many Users As Possible
Content should preferably be created to help maximize and support accessibility to as many users as possible, regardless of their physical challenges. Users have varied needs, and not only is it the law to strive to create a level playing field for users with disabilities; it also just makes good business sense. While progressive enhancement is one approach to becoming compliant, other companies might find it prudent to recreate their Internet presence entirely from the ground up in order to be compliant across a range of operating systems and web browsers.
Why is WCAG 2.0 so important? Because it allows for users from a much wider range of ability levels to have access to the rich, vibrant and ever-evolving content landscape that is available on the Internet. While some users simply will not have access to all types of media online due to their specific physical or cognitive limitations, compliance with WCAG 2.0 allows for other alternatives that can act as a replacement and give them as much of the online experience as possible. All businesses and organizations should strongly consider taking steps to make their online presence WCAG 2.0 compliant.
WCAG 2.0 Level AA Compliance in the Elcom platform
Elcom is committed to supporting and maximizing accessibility for all web users. In the latest version of Elcom, AA accessibility compliance has been delivered to base administration screens, the core authoring experience and selected modules.
This is particularly beneficial to government departments requiring compliance with government regulations regarding the need for accessible websites.
This enables selected front-end screens, the authoring and administration interfaces within the Elcom platform to be accessible through the use of screen readers and other aids.
Users can now take full advantage of keyboard navigation and administration controls via keyboard shortcut commands:
- The Elcom platform together with the right user training, enables users to create content that is friendly to screen readers
- Employees with vision impairments now gain far greater access to websites and the content management and administration of the platform
For a full list of Elcom platform AA compliant features and modules, click here.
For more information about the Elcom CMS, click here.