Working together for standards The Web Standards Project

After 9.5 years of work, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 have reached W3C Recommendation status. On behalf of the WaSP Accessibility Task Force, I’d like to welcome WCAG 2 officially into the pantheon of Web standards.

I think this tweet by caledoniaman sums up the level of anticipation:

WCAG 2.0 and a new Guns ‘n’ Roses album in the same year. What’s the world coming to.

Interesting comparison. They’ve each had about as many pre-releases. In any case, I can say, having spent over 8 years with it, that WCAG 2 is not as entertaining as Chinese Democracy. But I do think that it’s better equipped to stand the test of time.

If I had to pick one thing I’m most happy about, I’d say it’s that the HTML- and text-centrism in WCAG 1 is largely gone. In its place is a much more flexible (dare I say robust?) concept of accessibility-supported technology. So when newer technologies can show themselves to be directly accessible, they too can be used in WCAG 2-conformant content.

Over the years, many people have conflated “WCAG-conformant” with “accessible,” and that’s led to people making statements like: “Don’t use JavaScript–it’s inaccessible.” That’s bad for everyone, from users with disabilities who actually can work with JavaScript (which is to say, the vast majority), to Web designers and developers, to policymakers, to those developing new technologies.

With WCAG 2, “Don’t use x” is no longer valid. (Was it ever?) It is now up to you, the developer, to work on the direct accessibility of your content, no matter what technology you choose. I believe we’re about to experience a new wave of accessible design techniques, as a result.

But first, we need to flush “Don’t use x” out of our system. Some are accustomed to saying it about anything they’re not comfortable with. That’s only holding accessible design back. It’s time to learn what’s out there, today, and use it in everyday Web design. It’s time to make everyone’s Web more accessible. Have a look at the WCAG 2.0 Recommendation, and its supporting material. Then, start thinking about what a more accessible Web could be. We still have a lot of work to do.

Your Replies

#1 On December 12th, 2008 4:01 am Davide replied:

HTML, CSS & C. validation is no longer required? Is it a joke???

#2 On December 12th, 2008 8:06 am WCAG 2.0 replied:

[...] WCAG 2.0 is a W3C Recommendation (Web Standards Group) Tags: accesibilidad, estandares, W3C, WCAG | [...]

#3 On December 12th, 2008 10:48 am WaSP Member mattmay replied:

@Davide No, no joke. Remember what this is: it’s a guide for addressing the needs of people with disabilities, not an HTML enforcement document.

There are two things you need to understand here. First, valid content can be highly inaccessible, and invalid content can be highly accessible. Since that’s the case, you can’t tie one to the other, no matter how much you want validity. And second, if you make validity a sine qua non for WCAG conformance, then you necessarily reduce the market for WCAG’s application to people who have already adopted standards-based development. One thing we’ve seen is that, despite a decade of education on both fronts, we’re still in the minority. And limiting WCAG’s applicability to a minority of all Web content is not helping people with disabilities. So, it’s out.

Believe me, this was discussed at great length. I know lots of people feel strongly about this. Remember that nobody is saying that validity is any less important today than two days ago. If you think it’s wrong to produce invalid content, please continue not to produce it. But WCAG is there to aid accessibility, not validation.

#4 On December 12th, 2008 1:30 pm Wayne State Web Communications Blog » Blog Archive » [Friday Links] The TGIF Edition replied:

[...] WCAG 2.0 is a W3C Recommendation [...]

#5 On December 13th, 2008 7:19 am Xavez replied:

What a wonderful progression in the world of accessibility “validation”, to be technology-independent! I’ve got some reading/catching up to do on this subject… :-).

#6 On December 13th, 2008 8:19 pm nortypig » Blog Archive » WCAG 2.0 is now Published replied:

[...] May has a little to say about this on the Web Standards Project, [...]

#7 On December 13th, 2008 10:18 pm Do You Make Web Sites? Use WCAG 2.0 and Make Your Web Sites Accessible « Oatmeal Stout - Justin Thorp’s Web 2.0 blog replied:

[...] Matt May has a good post about WCAG 2.0 being done at the Web Standards Project. [...]

#8 On December 14th, 2008 5:46 am Laura replied:

Matt wrote, “But WCAG is there to aid accessibility, not validation.”

That cuts both ways. With the way HTML5 is shaping up, validation won’t be there to aid accessibility either.

For instance the img element section in the editor’s HTML 5 draft allows instances where the img element may have no text alternative, not just a null alt attribute for eye candy, but no text alternative for content. The current wording in the editor’s draft is Option F (a variation of John Foliot’s proposal). On August 26, 2008 in a message to the HTML5 working group, the editor explained the proposal saying, “We could say that for these key content without alt text cases, we have the alt=”" attribute omitted, but there must be at least one of the above, and the first of the above that is present must include sufficient information to orient the user.” The example he gave:

* title=”" attribute on the itself
* of the that contains the
* heading of the section that contains the

This idea has several ways of providing alternative text, which don’t have to come from the alt attribute. That is fine. It’s the user agent’s job to provide that information through accessibility architecture, so it could be made to work.

If the general phrase “key content without alt text” is changed to “images without alt text”, “Option F” could work, as it requires that there must be at least one of the options. But “key content” is subjective and open to abuse.

The HUGE residual issue in Option F is that it doesn’t specify that if no accessible option can be determined, then the resulting structure should be considered non-compliant. The real issue of ensuring that images have an accessible alternative is not addressed in HTML5. Any page that lacks a text alternative for an image by at least one of the proposed methods needs the validator to flag the error and declare the page invalid. This is the missing point in the Option F idea. Requiring the text alternatives by at least one of the proposed methods is needed.

This issue is detailed in theESW W3C Wiki.

#9 On December 14th, 2008 3:14 pm Joe Clark replied:

“Classic” HTML validation, i.e., structural validity, is still required under WCAG 2 – for example, DIV must end in /DIV. What the spec does not care about are things like unencoded ampersands. It indirectly requires good semantics, but you could probably mark everything up as a SPAN and still pass at Level A.

#10 On December 19th, 2008 8:05 am Richard Morton, Accessible Web Design replied:

This is going to make things really interesting. Having taken so long to get to this stage I really hope that this will be seen as a valuable tool (I know it isn’t a tool) in making information more accessible.

#11 On December 19th, 2008 10:28 am WebDev - Terra replied:

[...] [...]

#12 On December 27th, 2008 4:40 am 赵奇军 replied:


#13 On December 27th, 2008 12:39 pm WaSP Member Henny Swan replied:


现在没有. 有中文的资源. WCAG的翻译在 在 “Translations of WCAG 2.0″.

#14 On January 1st, 2009 2:39 am Merry Christmas (and a few links) ~ intangiblestyle replied:

[...] WCAG 2.0 becomes a W3C Recommendation. At last web accessibility takes a big step forward from version 1.0. [...]

#15 On January 2nd, 2009 2:45 am Rob van der Willigen replied:

I’ve designing a web page since 1998, but never could make it good enough to put it on the web.
Recently I have been reading a fascinating book: Everything You Know About CSS Is Wrong!
I was amazed how elegant and concise XTHML and CSS could be.
As a scientist I can’t quite grasp why web designers have put up with ill posed web browsers.

So I would suggest to all concerned with the web: “stop arguing; start building” &
“be thankful that some of us have set a standard that we all can use!”

#16 On January 7th, 2009 12:37 am Preston replied:

“WCAG is there to aid accessibility, not validation.”

It’s great to hear that it’s official now, since so many big websites have completely ignored validation (and placed browser-testing, and other things in it’s place) already.

Mr. May, what would you say some of the biggest advantages of validation are now? That is, if the website has been, say, already tested in multiple browsers. I still like being valid, but I’m curious. : )

#17 On January 8th, 2009 3:46 am Winsoftware replied:

I’ll hope all browser interpret the code in the same way. It is still hard to code a website, that works with every browser, isnt it?!

#18 On January 11th, 2009 8:20 am Jamie Rumbelow replied:

Surely whole point in web standards is that the document can render in the largest number of situations – and that it is browser, platform and disabled abstract. By not enforcing standards, we firstly are promoting sloppy coding, and then making a hypocrisy of what the WaSP stands for!

Beside this, it’s good to see that momentum is starting to build in the W3C, and I’ve been working with the new guidelines for about three months, and I much prefer them to WCAG1.

#19 On January 16th, 2009 12:24 pm John replied:

I’m delighted to hear that WCAG 2 made it to the front burner and has reached W3C Recommendation status……thank goodness !

#20 On March 4th, 2009 10:18 am Philippe Onezie Domingue replied:

XHTML,DHTML,XML and other.

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