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What You Need To Know About Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

What You Need To Know About Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

It's possible you've seen the acronym "WCAG" floating around recently. It stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines — and it's something that any brand with a website (that's every brand, in other words) needs to get up to speed on. Here's a quick rundown, put together with help from our friends at Fahlgren-Mortine. 

What Is WCAG? 

WCAG is developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and aims to ensure that web content is perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust for all users, including those with disabilities. For nuts-and-bolts info, go to the Web Content Initiative site

Why Is WCAG Important?

  • Adhering to WCAG guidelines is essential to creating an inclusive and accessible online environment for everyone.
  • It’s becoming a global standard. Many countries and organizations worldwide have adopted WCAG as the standard for web accessibility, making it a globally recognized framework.
  • It’s also good for business. Compliant sites cost no more to build or maintain when we all do our small part. Accessibility often means a better UX, which encourages more visitors and longer time on site, which increases search rankings (SEO). Finally, non-compliant sites can cause legal trouble, especially for tax funded DMO sites.

WCAG Principles

WCAG is based on four guiding principles known as POUR:

  • Perceivable: Information and user interface components must be presented in ways that users can perceive, regardless of their disabilities.
  • Operable: Navigation and interaction must be feasible for all users, including those who use assistive technologies.
  • Understandable: Content and operation should be clear and easy to comprehend.
  • Robust: Content must be designed to be compatible with current and future technologies.

Levels of Conformance

WCAG guidelines are organized into three levels of conformance: A, AA, and AAA.

  • Level A addresses the most basic accessibility requirements.
  • Level AA provides a higher level of accessibility.
  • Level AAA represents the highest level of accessibility, which can be challenging to achieve in all cases.

Accessibility Guidelines

Some of the key guidelines covered in WCAG include:

  • Providing text alternatives for non-text content (images, video, multimedia).
  • Making content adaptable by providing semantic structure.
  • Offering sufficient color contrast for easy readability.
  • Implementing keyboard accessibility for users who can't use a mouse.
  • Providing clear and consistent navigation throughout the website.
  • Ensuring readability and comprehensibility of content.

Alt Text

  • An image caption is not sufficient — images should also contain descriptive alt text, which can also contribute positively to SEO.
  • Alt text should be highly descriptive visual alternatives for screen readers to achieve WCAG compliance.
  • Shouldn’t be ads, keyword-stuffed or “replaced” with a caption.
  • A DE&I Note: Describing race, gender presentation, religious attire, etc., in alt text should be relevant to understanding the image or to achieving client goals. If it’s not relevant, it shouldn’t be included.


  • Captions, for individuals with auditory disabilities; also great for ESL.
  • Transcript, for individuals with auditory/visual disabilities; should include descriptions.
  • Audio description, for individuals with visual disabilities.


Implementing WCAG not only improves accessibility for users with disabilities but also enhances usability and user experience for all users. It also promotes inclusion, compliance with accessibility laws, and broader audience reach.


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