After many years of fudging responses to the common question “when are the new global accessibility guidelines coming out?” – I can finally give the the answer – it is today (11th December 2008) see the Press Release and WCAG 2.0 Introduction for more info.
The new standard is called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (or WCAG 2.0), it replaces WCAG 1.0 – the previously recognised global standard which had been in place since 1997 (that’s eons in ‘Internet time’)
What does the new accessibility standard mean for you?
If your site is already accessible – not much to worry about
If you have a site that is already accessible according to the previous guidelines (see Accessibility Conformance Explained for an explanation) then you probably don’t have much to worry about – in the short term you might want to look at the new standard (or get advice from specialists) – and over the coming months look at transitioning what you say about your site’s accessibiltiy in terms of the new standard.
If you are commissioning a new site or site redesign – refer to WCAG 2.0 in your requirements
In all your documentation make sure you update any sections on accessibiltiy conformance or standards and compliance (these should be in there! – see PAS 78 for more advice on what should go in tender documents) to reflect WCAG 2.0 – but any decent agency should know the implication of this – if they don’t then perhaps they aren’t one – so push them on the point.
What accessibility conformance level should you go for?
This is a little tricky at the moment – the safe minimum is single A conformance to WCAG 2.0 – but you might want to specify double A (with a few caveats depending on specific conditions) – I’ll write an update post on this in the near future.
** STOP PRESS ** January 2009: for UK public sector the current advice from the Central Office of Information (COI) is to specify ‘the WCAG 2.0 equivalent to WCAG 1.0 double A’ – they are looking into more specific recommendations in the coming months.
If you are getting an accessibility audit – audit against WCAG 2.0
If you don’t know how accessible your site is at the moment you should get it audited, and if you are going to get it audited then it should be against the new and current standard.
At Bunnyfoot we currently (in fact have been for the last 6 months for some clients, even before WCAG was formally published) give accessibility audit and accessibility user testing results referenced against both WCAG 1.0 and WCAG 2.0 – this makes it easier for clients to understand the new standard and benchmark against where they were before. We will continue to do this for the next 6 months at least.