Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are crucial for building modern websites for a number of reasons:
The most important reason to consider WCAG is inclusivity. When you build a website in accordance with WCAG, you're ensuring that it is accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities. This includes people with visual impairments, auditory impairments, physical disabilities, cognitive impairments, and more.
Many regions have laws and regulations requiring websites to be accessible. In the United States, for example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been interpreted by courts to apply to websites, meaning businesses can face legal issues if their websites are not accessible.
Aside from the ethical and legal reasons to follow WCAG, there are also practical benefits. By making a website accessible to everyone, we're expanding the potential audience and customer base. Accessible websites can also improve Search Engine Optimization performance, as many of the best practices for accessibility overlap with those for SEO.
Making a website accessible often involves making it more usable for everyone, not just those with disabilities. For example, good contrast ratios make a website easier to read for those with vision impairments, but they also make it easier to read for everyone else, especially in challenging conditions like bright sunlight.
Accessibility considerations often go hand-in-hand with good web standards and practices, meaning that by following WCAG, it is more likely that we are building a website that is robust, reliable, and compatible with future technologies and standards.
Website developers have a social responsibility to make sure that the content is accessible to all users. This not only enhances the inclusivity and diversity of the audience but also demonstrates our commitment to fair practices.
In summary, WCAG is a critical part of modern web design. It not only ensures that the websites we are building can be used by as many people as possible but also has several other benefits, including legal compliance, better user experience, and improved SEO. It's a set of guidelines that every web designer and developer should be familiar with.
The WAVE tool
So how are tackling all these issues to align with WCAG? The WAVE (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool) tool can be an excellent solution.
It is a free online tool developed by WebAIM (Web Accessibility In Mind) that helps to identify accessibility issues on the websites we are building. WAVE analyses web pages for WCAG 2.0 and Section 508 compliance.