How Does WCAG Certification Work?

In this guide, we’ll discuss the exact steps to receive documentation that certifies your website or other digital asset is conformant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

If you are interested in a student certificate for our WCAG Course, read our guide on website accessibility training.

Note that your website can receive certification for different versions of WCAG:

  • WCAG 2.0 AA
  • WCAG 2.1 AA
  • WCAG 2.2 AA

For the purposes of this guide, we’ll use WCAG 2.1 AA.

Step-by-Step Process for WCAG 2.1 AA Certification

Audit

The first step to certification involves a formal manual evaluation of your website by a technical accessibility expert. During the audit process, your website will be graded against the WCAG 2.1 AA standards to identify instances of non-conformance. An audit report will be delivered to the client at the conclusion of the audit.

Remediation

The next step is remediation. Here all issues identified in the report are fixed.

Re-Audit

If remediation is conducted by a party other than the accessibility agency who audited the website, a re-audit is conducted to verify that all issues have been resolved. If the website passes this re-audit with no outstanding issues, then it will be declared WCAG 2.1 AA conformant.

Secondary Remediation (If Necessary)

If the re-audit identifies any remaining issues, a secondary remediation phase is necessary to resolve the outstanding issues.

User Testing (Optional but Recommended)

Optionally, the website can under go user testing. During user testing, a professional with one or more disabilities (typically a professional who is blind or visually impaired) will relay their practical experience in using the website.

Additionally, user testing typically involves the use of assistive technology, such as a screen reader. This practical testing phase provides real user feedback and is highly recommended as an additional to ensure that no technical or practical issues have been missed.

Certification Documentation

There are a few different documents that may be in play depending on the client’s circumstances. Let’s discuss each one.

Statement of Conformance

A statement of conformance is a sterile document that states the listed assets, pages, screens, etc. are fully WCAG conformant. This document is a construct of the W3C and therefore follows the rules for a statement of conformance named by the W3C. The document will include the following details:

  • Version and conformance level
  • Date of issuance
  • Scope of the audit

Statement of Partial Conformance

If parts of your website (such as embedded advertisements) are not under your control and are non-conformant, a statement of partial conformance can be issued. This document states that all controllable elements of your website are WCAG conformant.

Provider Certification

This certification is similar to the statement of conformance, but provide can include additional details beyond the statement of conformance, including evaluation methodologies.

This document can add benefit to the client because it highlights the rigorous evaluation process and investment made.

User Testing Certification

Although not quite WCAG certification, documentation of user testing is extremely valuable as it demonstrates that your website has been tested by an accessibility professional. Optimally, testing occurs after remediation has been made so that the tester deems the website to have no issues.

Accessible.org not only provides a document of attestation by the user tester, but also a recording of the actual user testing. Read our accessibility services page for more details.

VPAT / ACR

Another potential document in play is an Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR). Although the term VPAT is frequently used in requests, a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) is the blank template that’s filled in to create the ACR.

Multiple versions of VPATs can be used to demonstrate WCAG conformance, but it’s important to note that, when completed, the resulting ACR is merely an accounting of the accessibility of a digital product or service. In other words, an ACR is an official document that brings forward the audit results in a specific format.

If the audit returns issues, those issues will show on the ACR. However, if the audit is clean, the ACR will provide evidence of full conformance.

Summary

WCAG 2.1 AA certification is the result of a thorough process that usually involves an audit, remediation, re-audit, and secondary remediation. There are multiple ways to provide evidence of WCAG 2.1 AA conformance and clients are not limited to just one. Additionally, we highly recommend user testing as this goes beyond conformance with technical standards and demonstrates practical accessibility.

If you would like to certify your website or other digital asset as WCAG conformant, contact us for a quote. To make a preliminary estimate, visit our pricing page.

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