Chronicle

Why WCAG is not enough

It´s leaning towards legislation on web accessibility in the EU. More and more countries point out WCAG 2.0 level AA as the “right” level of accessibility. But what does conformance with these guidelines actually signify for the end user?

Susanna Laurin

Title: Chief Research and Innovation Officer

In many ways, the global web consortium W3C makes an excellent job in setting the lowest common denominator for accessibility. However, W3C is a consensus based organisation with many strong wills, which means that the development of WCAG is slow. If you are apt to believe in conspiracies, you might even criticise W3C for being governed by corporate interests.

Sweden and Norway, like most countries in the EU, are increasingly building their accessibility policies on WCAG 2.0 level AA. From a user point of view, this is crazy! WCAG is simply not enough to create a Web for everyone.

Some examples

One of the rules in WCAG states that there should be more than one way to find a certain page. A search function is suggested as a way to achieve this. What the WCAG doesn´t say is where this search function should be placed, how it should work or how the results should be presented. This is a general problem with the guidelines. They state that certain functions should exist, but say nothing about the quality of these functions.

The WCAG also states that users should be able to control the computer using a keyboard. This is certainly an important issue. However, the guidelines do not mention that interfaces should work with a mouse as well. Neither do they bring up the touch screen as a possible input device.

As a whole, the WCAG does not reflect the fact that a PC is just one way of accessing the Web today. Sure, there is a number of “best practices” for mobile interfaces in another document from W3C, but this document was published in 2008 (!), when the mobile phones had regular buttons and much smaller screens than the smartphones of today.

The WCAG contains very few guidelines concerning design and cognition, and the few advices that are given in this area are found at level AAA. In other words, the EU’s proposed directive does not include luxuries such as:

  • Being able to see where you are in the navigation structure.
  • Finding comprehensible information in different formats, such as text, illustrations, photos, audio and video.
  • Getting relevant feedback, for example when you’re filling in a form.

What moves the market

Many of our customers in Sweden have understood that accessibility is good for most people and necessary for some. What the policies state is less important; the point is to work towards high quality and happy users.

In Norway, there is already legislation on accessibility, and this has given us a lot of job opportunities. However, the question of how much our customers are “required” to do is often stirring beneath the surface. This problem is even worse in the US, where it seems as though the law is standing in the way of accessibility rather than helping it.

On the other hand, legislation is a way demonstrating the core values of a society. Laws can also contribute to changing people’s attitudes. The question is what legislation on accessibility may bring about when the bar is set so low?

As we carry out more and more projects internationally, policies and legislation become increasingly important factors to relate to. First, because different countries and regions have different legislation, but also because we can see that at present, everyone is moving in the same direction – and not necessarily the right one.

Related chronicles by Susanna Laurin

  • Accessibility is moving forward – believe it or not

    6 May 2019

    Sometimes progress is hard to spot if you are in the middle of the whole thing. It might be useful to take a step back and reflect on all the different things going on in our business. The evolution is quite impressive, says Funka's Research and Innovation Officer.

  • Focus on elderly users

    7 February 2019

    Funka's CEO Susanna Laurin reports from a debate in the European Parliament and international standardization that deals with the inclusion of elderly in IT development.

  • Thanks for another amazing year!

    29 November 2018

    Another year of accessibility work is coming to an end. Funkas’ Susanna Laurin writes about the importance of positive feedback and the need to give appreciation to those who do the right thing.

  • Between hope and despair

    14 August 2018

    Monitoring and possible fines can be a driving force for accessibility. But at the same time, threats can mean that services are taken down. How do we make sure that legislation increases accessibility?

  • Make sure accessibility is afloat

    29 May 2018

    Funka's Susanna Laurin sees similarities between working with accessibility and taking care of a wooden boat. Both activities require patience and the results can make many people happy.

  • Germany Inclusion Days in Berlin

    5 December 2017

    The International Day of Disabled Persons keeps us busy in all our markets. This year we contribute to the Inclusion Days program in Berlin, Germany.

  • It's time to put our feet down!

    8 November 2017

    A judicial precedent now allows for a tighter interpretation of the Swedish law on support and services for certain disabled people. This may mean that many people lose their right to personal assistance. Do we really want people to be denied a worthy life on equal terms with others?

  • Accessible summer greetings

    12 June 2017

    As the sun glistens in the ocean, the birds wake me up in the early mornings and life gets a little easier once sunshine and warm weather turn our latitudes into paradise, a report on digitization makes me even more happy.

  • Funka in the U.S.

    6 March 2017

    We are always interested in what is going on in our market. When two conferences on accessibility, gaming and assistive technology happens in the same week, the agenda is filling up.

  • The eternal question of cost

    7 February 2017

    Funka’s Susanna Laurin reports from an EU conference on accessibility and legislation in Brussels. The focus is, as usual, on the economy.

  • To recycle consultants

    6 January 2017

    Two of our very competent consultants have tried their wings with our clients and then chosen to come back to Funka. Naturally, we're very excited and we've asked Oskar and Karin to tell us a little bit about their experiences.

  • 10 years with the UNCRPD

    8 December 2016

    Funka’s Susanna Laurin ponders what we celebrate on the international day of persons with disabilities. Accessibility seems - more than ever - a moving target.

  • An international perspective on accessibility

    4 July 2016

    Funka’s Susanna Laurin is reporting on an exciting meeting of experts from all over the world, at the US Access Board in Washington.

  • Report from the European eAccessibility Forum in Paris

    17 June 2016

    The French association for the visually impaired, BrailleNet, arrange an annual conference on digital accessibility. The theme for the 2016 edition was the internet of things. Funka’s own Susanna Laurin is reporting from the conference.

  • The dangers of legislation

    10 March 2016

    An unsettling trend is happening in the U.S.: by using legislation as a battering ram lawyers are making money, but inaccessibility persist.

  • There’s hope for the future

    30 November 2015

    Susanna Laurin's reflections on the situation for people with disabilities face in the world today.

  • Integrity and culture

    11 September 2015

    Funka’s CEO Susanna Laurin reflects on cultural differences between Spain and Sweden, personal integrity and how badly things can get, even when you try your hardest to do the right thing.

  • While we are enjoying it

    18 June 2015

    Funka’s Susanna Laurin considers trends in accessibility and the fact that we no longer have much time to reflect.

  • When technology can make a difference

    18 March 2015

    Different safety and technology aspects are being brought up as arguments against e-voting, but these problems must be possible to overcome. Funka's Susanna Laurin takes some time to reflect upon the democratic perspective of e-voting and today's broad lack of accessibility.

  • A mutual admiration society

    29 October 2014

    Funka’s Susanna Laurin questions why accessibility and user experience experts are so eager to talk to people with similar opinions. Would it not be better to let different views and opinions meet to bring about change?

  • Sunny days, but no time to be lazy

    19 June 2014

    We look back at a hectic period and look forward to even more work. But first of all, we will enjoy the summer holidays.

  • Good for all...?

    25 February 2014

    Funka’s Susanna Laurin rejoices in the fact that design for all really works in our everyday life.

  • Funka Christmas letter 2013

    20 December 2013

    Susanna Laurin, Funka, sums up a busy year. A year of continued growth, continued expansion in Norway and a new office in Madrid.