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Protect your business against frivolous lawsuits. Show your customers you care. Comply with ADA and WCAG guidelines for web accessibility.

What is Universal Web Design (and WCAG Compliance)?


Many businesses tend to overlook website accessibility when designing and developing an online presence. It’s not until a company receives customer complaints or gets slapped with an accessibility lawsuit that it begins to realize what it could’ve done better by way of a Universal Web Design. Truth be told, a lot of companies don’t even have the slightest idea what a Universal Web Design is about.

What Does Universal Web Design Mean?

There are millions of people living with disabilities in the United States. These people have the right to access the internet as efficiently as people without disabilities can, and a Universal Web Design intends to aid companies in developing a website that caters to that idea.

A Universal Web Design aims to ensure that all information and communication technology (ICT) found online can be easily understood, accessed, and utilized to the greatest possible extent by every user, no matter if he (or she) is disabled or not, and regardless of the extent or kind of disability.

Any company website should adhere with the accessibility standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) through the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0 & 2.1). Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 also covers accessibility requirements that should be met by any business in launching a digital presence, and the Universal Web Design acknowledges both of these guidelines for compliance purposes.

Do the WCAG Standards Apply to Everyone?

The WCAG applies not just to private companies and businesses. In fact, all organizations, including federal and state agencies, educational institutions, and public establishments are required to follow the standards set by the WCAG. Contractors of US federal and state agencies are also covered by the WCAG, as third parties dealing with the US government are required by law to follow the same measures regarding accessibility.

The WCAG isn’t limited to the territories of the United States. Several countries as well as international bodies and organizations have adapted the qualities set by the WCAG in requiring accessibility compliance. There are three levels of compliance as categorized by the WCAG, identified as follows:

  • A – the minimum level of compliance
  • AA – the typical level of compliance required (includes A requirements)
  • AAA – the highest level of compliance (includes A & AA requirements)

While the highest level of compliance is ideal, many business websites are satisfied to break through the minimum level requirements simply to avoid potential legal issues. As such, it becomes even more appropriate to mandate a Universal Web Design that can serve as a guide for website creation and development. By requiring all companies to use a Universal Web Design, there’s a greater chance of developing higher quality websites that offer better levels of compliance with the WCAG.

What are the Do’s and Don’ts of Universal Web Design?

There are several do’s and don’ts when considering a universal web design. You want to ensure that your website provides full accessibility options to people of every disability, and as such it can be quite overwhelming to consider all disabilities at once.

To give you a better idea of the most common disabilities and how you can design a website that can better provide them with an optimized internet experience, the following are some tips to keep in mind when creating an online site for your business:

The Do’s

  • Make sure that the visual elements on the website have a contrast ratio of at least 3:1, and for the text contrast ratio to be at least 4.5:1 (AA standards) or 7:1 or more if possible (AAA standards).
  • Organize your web content in a meaningful sequence by using appropriate heading tags in each section.
  • Utilize HTML instead of CSS when placing emphasis on a web element or text (ex. boldface or italicization).
  • Ensure that the entire website can be completely navigated by using only a keyboard. The user should have multiple options to browse different web pages, and can decide when to pause scrolling or automatic content as necessary.
  • There should be a strategy to show the user’s current location within your website at all times, such as visual cues during navigation or an easy-to-find site map.
  • The visual elements should always have alt text to allow people with visual disabilities to have an alternative option of understanding them.
  • Language attributes should always be specified using HTML.To signify a link, an error or a change in a form, visual elements such as asterisks (*) or underlines (_) should be utilized.

The Don’ts

  • Don’t lock orientation (portrait or landscape) to a single view only.
  • Don’t use color alone to show links or form errors.
  • Don’t use text coding that becomes unreadable when zoomed to 200%:
  • Don’t create popups or modals that use limited height properties without scrolling access.
  • Don’t set any kind of time limit for all user interactions on the site.
  • Don’t use effects that flash more than three times in a one second duration.
  • Don’t turn off visual focus indicators using CSS (ex. :focus {outline: none}).
  • Don’t add non-decorative images using CSS. For non-decorative content, refrain from using :before or :after.

A Final Word on Universal Web Design

Designing and developing a website that gives complete accessibility to all kinds of disabilities can prove to be challenging, especially without a universal web design to work with. There are several kinds of disabilities, each requiring a particular modification in programming to assist with.

Still, it’s important to make sure that you do your best to make a website as accessible as possible to show your customers how much you care about providing equal access to everyone. Additionally, you’ll be able to protect your business against accessibility lawsuits if you’re able to design your website in compliance with the WCAG.

If you need help developing a website that can pass WCAG compliance, you can always turn to Access-A-Pal for professional assistance. Access-A-Pal covers a wide range of disabilities, and can assist you in designing an online page that can provide optimal accessibility for people of different conditions and needs. By using advanced machine learning and computer vision technologies, you can count on Access-A-Pal to develop a website that will have no less than 100% compliance with the ADA and WCAG guidelines.