The guidelines (global) which advise online accessibility

Throughout this training I have mentioned guidelines relating to digital accessibility and you’ve probably been wondering where I was getting these guidelines from and when I was going to discuss them in more detail. Well the answer to those questions in order is ‘They are from The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines’ and ‘Now’


The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a very comprehensive set of guidelines which seek to provide a single shared worldwide standard which could be used to advise content providers in the best practices for making their content accessible to everyone including people with disabilities. These recommendations cover all areas of digital content including content on the web, digital documents and social media and are constantly being updated to keep up with the ever changing face of digital communications. They were first released with the WCAG version guidelines 1.0 in 1999 and as of March 2023 they are on WCAG version 2.1 with version 2.2 to be released later this year.


The WCAG guidelines are produced by the World Wide Web Consortium and maintained by a consortium of experts from all over the world including Tim Berners Lee (the man who invented the World Wide Web).

Although they are only advisory in nature they can provide the framework for actual legislation.  An example of this would be that they provide the framework for the United Kingdoms Public Sector Accessibility laws mentioned in the Additional Info section.


The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines break down their multitude of recommendations into 4 requirements.  These 4 requirements are that online content must be perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. We will take a look at each of these requirements along with examples of where the strategies we have discussed throughout this course might fit into them.



The definition of perceivable is to be able to interpret or regard something properly.


Some examples of how this could be achieved in web accessibility are as follows:


  • Content uses appropriate colour schemes so that it is perceivable by people with disabilities who may be affected by certain colour schemes

  • Content displays appropriate contrast levels so that it is perceivable by people with disabilities who may be affected by certain contrast levels

  • Video content is captioned so that it is perceivable by people with hearing impairments or neurodivergent conditions where audio levels can be an issue

  • Content has text and paragraphs which are formatted accessibly so that they are perceivable by people with visual impairments, learning difficulties, learning disabilities and cognitive impairments amongst other disabilities.

  • Images and non-text element have alt-text applied to them.

  • Content doesn’t use colour or shape as the only way of explaining something

  • Content works well with assistive technologies

  • Content does not use images of text as opposed to actual text as images of text cannot be read by a screen reader.




The WCAG 2.1 guidelines state that online content should be operable or usable from a technical point of view


Examples of how this could be achieved are to ensure that content:


  • Allows users enough time to read content such as captions or that audio-visual content can be paused to allow more time for reading

  • Includes seizure Awareness (don’t use strobing images)

  • Has easy navigation (uncomplicated menu systems)

  • Works with assistive technology such as switches

  • Allows for content to be fully accessed with a keyboard if necessary

  • Uses appropriately descriptive titles for pages and page elements





Content should be understandable:


Examples of how this could be achieved include ensuring that content:



  • Is jargon free or that an Easy Read version is available

  • Includes guidance given when filling in online forms

  • Is consistent and predictable (eg buttons should all have a consistent design and it should be obvious what they do from their name or description




Robust in this context means that the content should be compatible with future working practices


Examples of how this could be achieved include:


  • Making sure that if a plug-in or software is required to access content that the plug-in or software is likely to remain available. Examples of required software could be internet browsers for websites or phone operating systems for apps.

  • Make sure the language that your website or app is written in (eg HTML or Javascript) is using the most up to date and therefore compatible version of the language.



The WCAG guidelines are a weighty and comprehensive piece of work so I have tried to give a very brief and simple overview of the main points here.  The full guidelines are available at the website. (link in additional resources).