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As you start to become familiar with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and the principles and concepts that make it up, it might be helpful to know how you can properly gauge success.
Unlike marketing or even some web development projects, success when it comes to web accessibility doesn’t take time.
You’re not waiting for results.
Unless you’re waiting for specific feedback from an approved WCAG authority, you can easily gauge success by referencing the WCAG itself.
The guidelines clearly map out three tiers of success — A, AA, and, AAA — that web developers, designers, writers and marketers should try and attain, with AAA being the peak of web accessibility.
But whether it’s due to design or because your business runs a certain way, it may not always be possible to earn a certain designation for every principle and concept mapped out in the WCAG. There may be certain limitations that prevent you from the outcome you want, but it doesn’t mean you can’t find other ways to be accessible.
Here’s what you should know about the WCAG success system so that you can develop your website with the proper expectations.
The most basic form of web accessibility, an A rating ensures that the principle and concept you’re designing for is adhering to the fundamental laws of web accessibility.
This is the rating that every website should adhere to, as failure to do so indicates your site is simply not designed for proper web accessibility. Although some websites are fine with making this their preferred ranking, it’s best if you look past it.
An A ranking indicates that, while your site is technically web-accessible, it is doing the basic things necessary to ensure so. Although users will likely have no problems with your site, there will be those that do encounter some issues, and that’s not something you want them to experience.
You want your user experience to be smooth and seamless, regardless of the disability they’re dealing with, and that’s not guaranteed with an A rating.
The next rating in the WCAG rating scale, the AA rating is the ideal target that all websites should aim for. When a website carries a AA rating, that indicates that the website is accessible to most people.
So, why should you target an AA accessibility rating?
Well, the AA rating allows more people to use your site without having to worry about accessibility issues. Ideally, you want more people to use your website and do so with limited or no restrictions at all. The AA rating ensures exactly that, all while showcasing you and your website as a bigger ally.
And you always want more people to be using your website, right?
The AA rating is also the highest rating most websites can achieve, as a site’s structure or the specific way they do business may prevent certain principles or concepts from achieving a AAA rating.
For example, it might be a lot harder for an e-commerce site to achieve a AAA rating than a blog site, solely because there are certain accessibility concepts that are harder to implement without disrupting the base functionality or security of the e-commerce site.
That doesn’t mean the site was built poorly.
It simply means their mode of doing business prevents them from achieving the top ranking. And since some of the expectations that come with an AAA rating are harder to achieve, it may not be realistic for all websites.
By showcasing an AA rating, it indicates to users that your site is working hard to maintain and exceed basic levels of accessibility.
The highest accessibility rating a website can earn per principle and concept, the AAA rating is also the hardest to achieve depending on the type of business you provide through your website.
If we’re being honest, there are times that achieving a AAA rating is unrealistic. And we’re here to tell you:
As you’ve seen with the four principles and the concepts tied to them, there are some AAA standards that are completely unrealistic depending on your business.
Maybe you’re an e-commerce or banking site. When it comes to accessibility, following the AAA concepts tied to certain principles can be hard or even impossible to achieve. Certain security standards, such as logging someone off after a prolonged period of inactivity, can hinder a site’s ability to be AAA accessible.
And that’s no fault of your own, as proper site security is important.
Although we always ask our clients, peers, and fans to do their best when working to achieve an AAA rating, we also emphasize that only reaching an AA is ok. As long as your site is incorporating accessibility features for all the principles and concepts, you are doing your part in making the internet a more accessible space.
And if your site is able to achieve a AAA rating?
Well, you’re one hell of a developer.
What rating are you trying to achieve? Looking to earn the vaunted AAA rating?
Or are you happy with an A or AA rating?
We’d love to hear or even help you create a fully accessible website that’s right for you and your business. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, as we’re always happy to chat about web accessibility.