Is WCAG Required for Compliance with the Law?

Published July 20, 2023

Is WCAG a legal requirement?

Can you be sued or face legal repercussions if your website isn’t WCAG conformant?

In this article, we’ll answer these questions and more, including the following:

  • What is WCAG?
  • When is WCAG required by law?
  • Why WCAG conformance is best practice
  • How WCAG training can help your organization

Let’s start with a quick overview of WCAG.

Overview

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are technical standards for web accessibility that have been issued by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) through their Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).

There are different versions of WCAG including 2.0, 2.1 (the present version), and 2.2 (expected future version) with conformance level AA being the most widely accepted conformance level. With each additional version and conformance level, more success criteria or requirements for accessibility are added.

Think of success criteria as considerations for increasing the accessibility of a website.

These guidelines have been incorporated into some laws which effectively makes WCAG conformance a legal requirement for compliance in some instances.

Where WCAG is Required

Section 508 (accessibility requirements for U.S. federal agencies), AODA (accessibility standards for organizations in Ontario), and EN 301 508 (standards for digital accessibility for ICT products and services in the European Union) are all laws pertaining to accessibility that have formally incorporated WCAG.

There are current and future laws that may also incorporate WCAG so be sure to consider all regulations, laws (and amendments) that apply to your organization.

No Explicit WCAG Requirement

However, the primary law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability in the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), does not explicitly address modern digital accessibility and does not incorporate WCAG.

Nevertheless, the Department of Justice (DOJ), the regulatory and enforcement agency of Title II and Title III of the ADA has mandated WCAG conformance in settlements resulting from private enforcement actions against entities the DOJ has deemed to be in non-compliance.

Common Reference

Moreover, WCAG is commonly referenced in the U.S. legal landscape as a guide in determining whether a website is accessible.

Additionally, plaintiffs law firms almost invariably invoke WCAG as technical standards that must be met by defendant websites.

For these reasons and more, full WCAG 2.1 AA conformance is best practice for ADA compliance for websites.

The problem for many organizations is that reaching full WCAG conformance takes a significant amount of time – in some cases several months.

Thus, it’s best to address website accessibility in a strategic manner, with the accessibility issues most likely to lead to a demand letter or lawsuit addressed first.

Training

The ADA Compliance Course is specifically designed for website owners to give to their team so they can quickly find and fix the most commonly claimed accessibility issues by plaintiffs law firms.

With this training, team members will not only improve website accessibility (and thus make the website conformant with more WCAG success criteria) but also reduce risk of litigation as they go through the course.

To reach full conformance – and optimize user experience, the WCAG Course is the perfect complement to the ADA compliance training.

Whereas the ADA Compliance Course is focused on training your team how to improve accessibility so that you don’t get sued, the WCAG Course helps your team learn and understand the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

With this firm grasp on accessibility, your team can implement accessibility into existing processes to ensure accessibility and lower incidences of issues.

While WCAG conformance is only required by some accessibility laws, it’s always best practice to be fully conformant with the present version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

This will ensure that your website is accessible to people with disabilities and material compliant with applicable accessibility laws.

Summary

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are extremely important technical standards that, when implemented, make your digital assets accessible to people with disabilities.

While not incorporated into all accessibility laws, WCAG conformance is best practice not only when it comes to providing access but also to ensuring compliance with current and future laws.

This makes training your entire team – staff, employees, volunteers, contractors – a complete win. By learning and understanding WCAG, your team can become mini experts in accessibility and not only ensure your digital assets are accessible but also compliant with current and future laws.

 

Closed Captioning Services - Free Online Event!

Join us on Tuesday, February 27th, at 1 PM ET for a free online event to explore how to evaluate and select a closed captioning vendor for your business. Click here to learn more about this event and to register.

Click here to see our Events Calendar.

Accessibility.com's 2024 events will utilize the Zoom Events platform, offering a virtual expo hall for attendees to meet with prospective vendors. If your company is interested in being part of the expo hall, don't hesitate to get in touch with Amanda@Accessibility.com.

Vendor Directory

Accessibility.com now offers an impartial listing of digital accessibility vendors.  Search for products and services by category, subcategory, or by company name.  Check out our new Vendor Directory here.

Comments