The Australian Government have announced their plan to adhere with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. All Government websites will require Level A compliance by 2012, and Double A by 2015. The new standard replaces replaces WCAG 1.0, which was introduced as a mandated requirement for agencies in 2000.
Lindsay Tanner, Minister for Finance and Deregulation, said:
This is an important step in making democracy more open, accessible and accountable for all Australians.
The Australian government is progressively implementing new online technologies and looking to connect with more people online. These new standards will improve the ability of people with a broad range of disabilities to take up those opportunities and engage with the Government via the Internet.
Bill Shorten, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, added:
People with disability still face too many barriers that stop them participating in work, education and other areas. This initiative will help ensure that people with disability are not left behind by the rapid growth of the Internet.
It’s an ambitious project. Although many governments have accessibility legislation, few understand the implications or follow them through to implementation.
It’s a daunting read, especially if you’re used to following the WCAG 1.0 guidelines. Much of the original document was specific to HTML mark-up, e.g. don’t use tables for layout, ensure content can be read without stylesheets, avoid popups, etc.
WCAG 2.0 is based on a broader set of guidelines. It is not necessarily concerned with the technology, but how it is used. There are four basic principles:
- Information and UI components must be perceivable — they can’t be invisible to all a user’s senses.
- UI components and navigation must be operable.
- Information and UI components must be understandable.
- Content must be robust so it can be interpreted by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
Each principle contains 12 guidelines, with each guideline containing a number of success criteria pertaining to A, AA or AAA conformance.
Fortunately, there are a number of supporting documents and tools which make it easier to follow the guidelines:
- How to Meet WCAG 2.0 — a customizable document describing how to meet A, AA, or AAA conformance for HTML, CSS and other technologies.
- Understanding WCAG 2.0
- Techniques for WCAG 2.0
- How WCAG 2.0 Differs from WCAG 1.0
- Comparison of WCAG 1.0 Checkpoints to WCAG 2.0
- How to Update Your Web Site from WCAG 1.0 to WCAG 2.0
If looks as though Australian developers have a little bedtime reading. But developers from other countries shouldn’t be too complacent — your Government will almost certainly adopt WCAG 2.0 if they haven’t already!
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.