After much deliberation, pulling of hair, and no doubt many sleepless nights, the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) has finally officially published WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) 2.0.
Yesterday’s press release from W3C states that trial implementations of the new standard have shown that most web sites which already “conformed to WCAG 1.0 did not need significant changes to meet WCAG 2.0″, so many developers may be breathing a sigh of relief. But it is also likely that there will be pressure for developers to ensure that their web content conforms to the new standard. Does this mean that what was “accessible” yesterday is not “accessible” today?
WCAG 2.0 is different in many aspects to WCAG 1.0, so for a while there may be a two-tier level of conformance (although the A, AA, and AAA conformance levels are still in place). Some of new aspects covered include:
* semantic markup using ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Application) – once this specification has reached “recommendation” status;
* recommendation that an alternative is provided for any text that requires a reading ability more advanced than the lower secondary education level (how will online academic papers be dealt with?);
However, WCAG 2.0 comes with several other resources to help with its implementation:
The WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative) have tried hard to give developers as much information as possible to help with the implementation of WCAG 2.0. They have gone beyond simply defining what one can and can’t do, and include additional information around conformance, failure testing, conformance policies, etc. Perhaps this level of assistance with implementation should be considered by other standards bodies.
In any case, WCAG 2.0 is finally here. Whether developers and users will see it as a welcome Christmas present or something they’d rather take back to the shops in January remains to be seen. Let’s hope it helps rather than hinders.