The challenge interpreting WCAG

21 February 2020

The challenge interpreting WCAG

Understanding which accessibility guidelines apply when building digital services isn't easy. Differences in how two people interpret guidelines, differences in opinion with what constitutes a failure and even best practice accessibility principles all get combined into a lot of unclear approaches.

So, we created www.thisiswcag.com to help teams encourage testing against WCAG 2.1 success criteria using plain language. It's a deliberately catchy name to try and make it easier to understand how to interpret success criteria.

www.thisiswcag.com is a starting point when building against WCAG 2.1. Many of the tests have made arbitrary decisions for things which must be done to be conformant. Regular community feedback is shaping each of the tests to give sufficient guidance for people new to accessibility yet flexible enough for alternative techniques to be applied.

It’s a separate community effort where if you disagree with any of the tests there’s several ways to contribute to help make them better. We wanted to encourage teams to move away from statements of "I think it means this…" when discussing WCAG and to establish a consistent set of tests which are clear to understand and unambiguous.

These tests are based on the intent of the success criteria, not the sufficient techniques. Sufficient techniques are identified ways which describe how a success criterion can be passed, but by unpicking the intent means we get to the core of what each success criteria really means.

This establishes a baseline, and a common vocabulary of what WCAG means. This isn't replacing best practice accessibility; rather best practice includes building to WCAG consistently and then beyond.

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