What is WCAG - Your Questions Answered

Online accessibility is being talked about more than ever and, in our opinion, certainly needs to be in the spotlight. Everybody should have access to the internet regardless of health and ability, whether to educate themselves, purchase products and have them delivered to their doorstep, stream TV shows and films and more.

Benefits of making an accessible website

For a website owner, there are multiple benefits to ensuring that your site is fully accessible, including:
  • Reaching more people interested in your products
  • Better optimised websites focusing on usability and engagement - a must for SEO
  • Gaining a competitive advantage
  • Avoiding potential lawsuits
And more.


What is WCAG Compliance?

WCAG is an acronym for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. It is a joint effort that aims to provide a single standard for accessibility across the globe. Essentially, it’s a worldwide approach to ensuring that all web-based content meets the needs of individuals, organisations and governments.

In this instance, the term ‘content’ refers to more than the words you publish. It encapsulates text, sounds, images, code and markups.

A global approach to accessibility not only promotes equality but also works to reduce breaches in law. For example, if a UK-based company wanted to expand their online reach overseas, they would have to learn and adhere to equality law in the country they are hoping to operate in. However, the more countries that work to the same guidelines, the less chance of costly lawsuits.

The latest variation of WCAG is WCAG 2.2, which was published this year. Consisting of 12-13 guidelines, the idea is to ensure that all websites and apps are:

  • Perceivable
  • Operable
  • Understandable
  • Robust

Each of these come with testable criteria, of which the results can be A, AA or AAA.

Who is WCAG for?

When it comes to who is responsible for ensuring a website is fully accessible, the duty does not lie with one person. Instead, everybody should work towards a more inclusive internet. Therefore, WCAG guidelines are helpful for developers, site designers and page authors.

Is WCAG 2.0 a legal requirement?

The UK operates under the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, which builds on the Equality Act 2010.

However, the government website states that the measurement of a website or mobile app accessibility is the same as WCAG 2.2, in that it must be perceivable, operable, understandable and robust.

Additionally, the document states that UK-based websites must also publish an accessibility statement and meet the international WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility standards.

How do I comply with WCAG 2.0 AA?

The government website states that your site only has to be WCAG 2.1 AA compliant, but we recommend working towards a WCAG 2.0 AA standard.

The good news is that you don’t need to test every page of your website or mobile app. Instead, you need to check a sample, and any problems found should be fixed across the entire platform.

The government website recommends that you:

  • Perform a detailed audit.
  • If you don’t have a staff member with the competency to do this, you should invest in a third party to carry out an audit.
  • If the cost of this is unaffordable, you can claim it to be a disproportionate burden and carry out a non-technical audit.

Once your audit is complete, you need to create a roadmap to resolve any accessibility issues and specify a timeframe to resolve the problems identified. You should prioritise your fixes so that those with the most significant impact are resolved first.

From here, you should review your processes, budgeting and long-term plans to ensure accessibility doesn’t become an issue again further down the line. Next, you must publish your accessibility statement that addresses:

    1. Whether your site or app is entirely, partially or not at all accessibility compliant.
    2. Explain why parts of the website or app are not accessible (such as being exempt or a disproportionate burden).
    3. Specify alternatives so users still have a positive and accessible experience.
    4. Identify who a user should contact to report further accessibility issues and how to get in touch. It’s an optional extra, but you could also include how accessibility was measured.

    Finally, you should ensure that any new additions to the website or mobile app are fully accessible. You can find out more on the government website.

    Is Shopify WCAG compliant?

    It’s no secret that we have a soft spot for all things Shopify, and the fact that they are dedicated to providing the tools that all new Shopify websites need to ensure that they are WCAG 2.0, Level AA compliant, only makes us love them more.

    There’s a lot more information directly from Shopify on the subject, which you can read here.

    Ensuring that everybody has an equal opportunity to access your website and have an enjoyable experience is something we, at Blend Commerce, wholeheartedly endorse. We are committed to helping our clients build and manage the best Shopify websites possible.

    This post does not constitute legal advice, and you should seek legal counsel where appropriate.

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    Adam comes from a Management Consulting and Digital Marketing background. Previously holding Directorships in Sales and Marketing at some of the UK's fastest-growing tech businesses, Adam has a deep strategic understanding of Marketing.

    As CEO and Head of Partnerships, Adam focuses on ensuring that Blend continues to provide the highest level of service to Blend clients by understanding the needs of the market. Adam frequently presents at national and international conferences on Shopify and Digital Marketing.

    Published: July 08 2021

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