WCAG 2.1 AA Training for Compliance

With so many new laws naming WCAG 2.1 AA as the technical standard for compliance, training your team on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines has become essential.

We highly recommend the WCAG 2.1 AA training created by Kris Rivenburgh on ADACompliance.net, but before you sign up for the WCAG Course or any other program, let’s go over our quick WCAG explained guide below so you have a better understanding of these technical standards.

We’ll also answer frequently asked questions on training including:

  • How long does it take to learn WCAG?
  • How difficult is it to learn WCAG?
  • Can you learn WCAG based on roles?

WCAG 2.1 AA for Compliance

There have been many recent 2024 updates to the laws requiring WCAG 2.1 AA as the technical standard. Just in the United States, WCAG 2.1 AA has been formally adopted under:

  • Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (HHS update)
  • Colorado HB21-1110

Let’s look at the official language:

Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability; Accessibility of Web Information and Services of State and Local Government Entities

Issued by the Justice Department (DOJ)

D. Overview of Key Provisions of This Final Rule

As will be explained in more detail, the Department is requiring that public entities comply with the WCAG 2.1 Level AA success criteria and conformance requirements.[12] The applicable technical standard will be referred to hereinafter as “WCAG 2.1.” The applicable conformance level will be referred to hereinafter as “Level AA.”

FederalRegister.gov

Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance

Issued by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Requirements for Web and Mobile Accessibility (§ 84.84)

Proposed § 84.84(b) required that recipients ensure their web content and mobile applications made available to members of the public or used to offer programs or activities to members of the public comply with the success criteria and conformance requirements of WCAG 2.1 Level A and Level AA within two or three years of the publication of this rule, depending on whether the recipient has fifteen or more employees, or fewer than fifteen employees, respectively.

FederalRegister.gov

Rules Establishing Technology Accessibility Standards, 8 CCR 1501-11

11.5 Technical Standards for Technology Accessibility

The technical standards for technology accessibility for ICT include the following to the extent that they would not require a public entity to take any action that would fundamentally alter the nature of its programs or services, impose an undue burden, or pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others:

  • (A.) W3C WCAG 2.1 conformance levels A and AA, as published on Sep. 21, 2023, not including any later amendments or versions, hereby incorporated by reference and available from the Office of Information Technology during regular business hours or at Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 (W3C).
OIT.Colorado.gov

Additionally, EN 301 549 is a European standardard for digital accessibility that applies to European Union states. EN 301 549 also references WCAG 2.1 AA.

This means having your staff trained on WCAG 2.1 AA is critical for not only becoming compliant with the law, but remaining compliant.

Who Created WCAG?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines were developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) under their Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).

The W3C is an international community that develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the web. The W3C is responsible for developing HTML and CSS among other standards. They initiated the WAI to improve the accessibility of web content for people with disabilities.

What is WCAG 2.1 AA?

WCAG is the acronym for the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines which are technical standards for web accessibility.

These technical standards tell us how to make our websites, web content, and other digital assets accessible through success criteria.

Version 2.1 is a version of WCAG that has 50 success criteria at conformance level AA.

Notably, version 2.1 builds on top of version 2.0.

For conformance level AA, version 2.1 actually only added 12 new success criteria to WCAG 2.0 AA.

WCAG 2.0 AA has 38 success criteria and when you add the 12 additional success criteria in 2.1 AA, you arrive at 50 total success criteria.

What are Success Criteria?

Success criteria are requirements for WCAG conformance. Think of success criteria as things to do or account for for accessibility.

Each success criterion specifies a condition that must be met for conformance. When audits are conducted, accessibility experts audit a website or other digital asset against all success criteria for a given version of WCAG, usually at Level AA.

Success Criteria Examples

  • 1.1.1 Non-text Content: Provide text descriptions for images, videos, and other non-text items so everyone can understand them.
  • 2.1.1 Keyboard: Make sure everything on the website can be used with a keyboard, not just a mouse.
  • 2.4.1 Bypass Blocks: Provide a way for users to skip over repeated content, like navigation menus, to get to the main content quickly.
  • 3.3.1 Error Identification: Clearly show users when they make a mistake in a form and explain how to fix it.
  • 4.1.2 Name, Role, Value: Ensure buttons, forms, and other interactive elements are readable and usable by assistive technologies.

What are Conformance Levels?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines have three levels of conformance: A, AA, and AAA.

Conformance levels are comprised of different success criteria with more foundational success criteria in Level A, more comprehensive success criteria in Level AA, and more stringent success criteria in Level AAA.

Here’s an outline to help you understand levels of conformance.

Level A

  • Basic Accessibility: This is the minimum level of accessibility. Level A covers the most essential features to help users with disabilities access content.
  • Examples: Making sure all images have text descriptions (alt text), ensuring all website functions are usable with a keyboard.

Level AA

  • Mid-Level Accessibility: Level AA includes all Level A requirements and adds more criteria to address common barriers for disabled users.
  • Examples: Ensuring sufficient color contrast non-text content and providing multiple ways of finding pages.

Level AAA

  • Highest Level of Accessibility: Level AAA includes all Level A and AA requirements, plus additional guidelines for the highest standard of accessibility. Level AAA conformance is extremely difficult to reach so it’s not commonly referenced.
  • Examples: Providing sign language interpretation for videos and an increased 7:1 color contrast ratio.

What Disabilities Does WCAG Take Into Account?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines take a wide range of disabilities into account. This means once your website, web content, and other digital assets are conformant, your digital assets are conformant, your content will be much more accessible to people with one or more disabilities including the following.

Visual Disabilities

  • Blindness: Ensuring content is accessible via screen readers.
  • Low Vision: Providing scalable text, high contrast, and adjustable color settings.
  • Color Blindness: Ensuring color is not the sole method of conveying information.

Hearing Disabilities

  • Deafness: Providing captions and transcripts for audio content.
  • Hearing Loss: Ensuring that important sounds are also available visually or through text.

Motor Disabilities

  • Limited Fine Motor Control: Ensuring that all interactive elements are keyboard accessible.
  • Paralysis: Allowing for voice-controlled navigation and other assistive technologies.
  • Muscle Fatigue: Minimizing the need for precise movements or extensive navigation.

Cognitive and Learning Disabilities

  • Dyslexia: Using clear, simple language and avoiding complex layouts.
  • Attention Deficit Disorders: Providing content in a logical, predictable order.
  • Memory Issues: Offering ways to save progress and avoid repeating actions.
  • Language and Communication Disorders: Using symbols and images to supplement text.

Neurological Disabilities

  • Epilepsy: Avoiding content that can cause seizures, such as flashing lights or patterns.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder: Using consistent, predictable navigation and reducing sensory overload.

Speech Disabilities

  • Speech Impairments: Ensuring that interactive content does not rely solely on voice commands and providing text-based alternatives.

Is WCAG Hard to Learn?

No, even though the W3C’s official WCAG documentation is extremely long and hard to read (it gets very technical), the best WCAG 2.1 AA training programs are going to simplify all of the success criteria into bite size, easy to understand requirements.

Some of the success criteria are more technically advanced and require a web development background to implement. However, understanding the requirement behind the success criteria is possible even for non-technical beginners who are new to accessibility and unfamiliar with coding.

What is the Best Way to Learn WCAG 2.1 AA?

The best way to learn WCAG 2.1 AA is through beginner friendly training that explains each success criterion in plain English.

We recommend training that includes:

  • video explanations
  • text explanations
  • illustrations
  • code examples

The WCAG Course includes all of these items along with cheatsheets to help you absorb the material better. You can sign up for the WCAG Course at ADACompliance.net.

The WCAG Explained guide you are reading currently is an excellent primer before you start training. This gives you context and an understanding what the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are and what they’re for before you get into specifics.

How Fast Can I Learn WCAG 2.1 AA?

You can have a good understanding for WCAG 2.1 AA in 3 hours. This means you would be able to pass an exam on the basics for all 50 success criteria.

However, proficiency takes 1-3 weeks as learning WCAG takes repetition, putting the requirements into practice, and ultimately experience.

Knowing the requirements is one thing – and excellent knowledge – but putting WCAG into practice takes some time.

Can I Learn Success Criteria for a Specific Role?

Absolutely. The prime example of learning certain success criteria for a specific role is content editors learning only the content related success criteria for text, images, video, and audio.

This way content creators and content managers can focus in on only what success criteria applies to role.

The WCAG Course at ADACompliance.net segments out success criteria by content editor, designer, and developer roles so students know exactly what roles would be responsible for different success criteria.

This specialist approach is an excellent way to start training.

Can Non-Technical People Learn WCAG?

Yes, even if you’re non-technical, new to accessible, or don’t understand how to code, you can easily learn WCAG with plain English WCAG 2.1 AA training.

One of the best ways to think about WCAG is you’re only learning what is required for conformance, you don’t actually have to put it into practice yet.

And for the parts that are technically advanced, these would be reserved for someone with a web development background.

Is There a WCAG 2.1 AA Checklist I Can Start With?

Yes, the Accessible.org WCAG 2.1 AA Checklist gives you a lightning quick overview of all 50 success criteria so you can get a feel for the different requirements in less than 5 minutes.

What WCAG 2.1 AA Training Tips Will Help The Most?

Having studied the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines for months, here are key recommendations for learning the material:

  • Know before studying that WCAG is fairly easy (only a few success criteria are tough). The official documentation is very technical, but you don’t need to worry about that.
  • Study each success criterion by itself.
  • Think about what each success criterion means in practice and how it helps accessibility. The practical application will help you remember what’s required.
  • Study at your own pace and have a companion checklist to review each lesson.
  • Don’t worry too much about the exceptions and extended details at first. Just focus on the key takeaway.

What is the WCAG Course?

The WCAG Course is a beginner friendly course created by Kris Rivenburgh, the founder of Accessible.org, to help make the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as easy as possible for anyone to learn.

The course contains:

  • Video and text lessons
  • Plain English explanations
  • Curated resources
  • Accessibility workflows based on role
  • Modules for each version
  • Sortable Excel spreadsheet checklist
  • WCAG in Chunks cheatsheet
  • Certificate upon course completion

Everything you need to learn WCAG is inside the course.

Summary

Training your staff, employees, and contractors on WCAG 2.1 AA is essential to not only making your digital experiences accessible, but becoming compliant with the law.

The good news is that new and updated laws mandating digital accessibility have chosen WCAG 2.1 AA as the technical standard for compliance so when your website and other digital assets are WCAG 2.1 AA, you can be confident knowing that you’ll have met material compliance for many different laws, both in the United States and internationally.

If you need help with accessibility, Accessible.org provides the audit, remediation, and user testing services you need to be fully WCAG 2.1 AA conformant.

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WCAG 2.1 AA Training

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