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Mar 31 2021
Mar 31

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a series of specifications developed and maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) for the purpose of ensuring that websites are accessible for people who have disabilities. Due to technological advances and evolving perspectives on web accessibility challenges that individuals disabilities face, the WCAG is regularly being updated and revised. The current version of WCAG 2.2 was issued on Nov. 30, 2020, and the WCAG 2 Series is coming to an end with a new WCAG 3.0 under development.  

WCAG 3.0 will not undo the previous versions, but will extend and provide greater clarity concerning current guidelines. 

The following are some of the questions that I get asked most frequently concerning the upcoming shift to WCAG 3.0. 

 

What’s the current status of WCAG 3.0?

On January 21, 2021 the W3C published the first working draft of what will become WCAG 3.0. This is just a draft and there is the opportunity now to suggest revisions as the W3C works toward a final version. At this point, there is no set date for the publication of the final draft. 

 

Why are ongoing revisions to WCAG standards considered necessary?

The W3C changes the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) for a few reasons. One is to apply the guidelines to new technologies. Technology changes over time so the WCAG needs to change with it. Another is to move toward guidelines that are easier to understand and allow for greater flexibility. Finally, the W3C is committed to broadening the scope of the guidelines to expand web accessibility by covering a greater depth and breadth of disabilities. 

 

Are there features of WCAG 3.0 that could potentially simplify compliance?

One of the goals of the WCAG 3.0 is to increase understanding of the guidelines. This is accomplished by replacing success criteria with outcomes, techniques with methods and understanding documents with how-tos. While I would argue this is not really a simplification of the WCAG, I do believe by replacing the “grey areas” of WCAG 2.2 with expected outcomes, methods and how-tos the overall feel and functionality of WCAG 3.0 will lead to  guidelines that are easier to understand and apply. 

 

FREE Webinar! Register now for WCAG Now and What’s Next. Get insider insights into what to expect with WCAG 3.0.  April 20, 2021, 11 a.m. CST.

What is Promet’s position on the direction the revised standards appear to be moving in?

The revised standards appear to be trying to place less importance on any one rule, while at the same time attempting to create a more balanced picture of any website in comparison to all of the standards. Rather than the current pass/fail system, WCAG is moving toward a score-based system. Here at Promet, we see this as an important step toward increasing accessibility for all by allowing for a better picture of the true accessibility of a site and drawing attention to any aspects of the site that would make the site completely inaccessible to certain segments of the population. 

If we've achieved Level AA WCAG compliance, will we need to have another accessibility audit? 

It is always recommended that audits be conducted on an annual basis. Websites are rarely static entities, and if content is being added to a site or changes are being made, then an audit for accessibility is advisable -- regardless of the status of WCAG or whether a revised version is being issued. It is important to point out, however, that any content that conforms to the current version of WCAG will continue to conform to the new standards under WCAG 3.0.  

 

At this point, should we just just wait until we see what’s in WCAG 3.0 before testing or remediating our site for accessibility?

While the standards are changing it is always best to do as much as possible now to ensure accessibility. The foundational WCAG concepts (Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust) are not changing, and remain the basis for both WCAG 2.2 and 3.0. Any accessibility upgrades completed today will be a step toward ensuring alignment with the new standards once they are released. 

At Promet Source, we're passionate about opportunities to make web experiences engaging and inclusive for all. Let us know what we can do for you!
 

Jan 27 2021
Jan 27

It has become increasingly common to find located in the footer of many websites a link to their Statement of Accessibility. In a few cases you will find some sites with a VPAT (Voluntary Product Accessibility Template) and Statement of Accessibility linked. What are these documents? What is their purpose and should your site have one or both? 

VPAT vs. Statement of Accessibility

A Statement of Accessibility is a document that defines the current state of accessibility for a website. It provides an area where the site owner can let a user know they are working on the accessibility of their site and provide a method for the user to contact the site owner regarding accessibility issues.

A VPAT explains how a website, service or product meets the Revised 508 Standards, which refers to the law that requires that the federal government procure, create and maintain technology that is accessible, regardless of whether a particular site is actually a federal government site.

A Statement of Accessibility is a general statement on a site's accessibility and a declaration that the owner of the site is working to remediate any identified inaccessible features. A VPAT specifically notes any accessibility issues within a site as they relate to WCAG, Section 508 or even European accessibility guidelines. 

The Statement of Accessibility has basically says "we are working on our accessibility and here is a way to contact us with questions," whereas VPAT lists all of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and whether the site is in compliance point by point. Here are examples of a VPAT and a Statement of Accessibility:

Often organizations are asked for their VPAT if they are receiving funds or working with the federal government in any capacity. It is Federal Government requirement to have a VPAT as part of the accessibility process.  Creation of this document can be time consuming and requires a full accessibility audit. 

Demonstration of Due Diligence

While these documents are similar in subject matter they are different in purpose. The Statement of Accessibility demonstrates to uses that you care about accessibility and the needs of those who require assistive technologies to access your content.  It helps to provide the user with information about the accessibility of content and demonstrates a commitment to accessibility and the community the website serves. 

The purpose of a VPAT can actually be more of a requirement than a voluntary statement. The VPAT is required for any business or service which fall under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, primarily those that do business with the federal government or receive government funds. The VPAT is intended to communicate to the wider procurement community the accessibility level or degree of conformance of the website, service, or product. 

So should you add a Statement of Accessibility and a VPAT to your site? While neither of these documents are guaranteed to protect your organization from legal action, they do help show that your organization is aware of any accessibility issues and is working to resolve them. It is appropriate to add a VPAT if there is any chance your organization will be subject to Section 508 regulations.

VPATs can take considerable time to create and if the need is there, it is advisable to have one in place. 


Looking for clarification concerning whether your website requires a Statement of Accessibility and/or a VPAT? We’re happy to help and if necessary, move forward with pursuing this documentation. Contact us today.

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