Why An Accessibility Level AA Checklist Can Guide You Toward Making Your Digital Property Compliant

  • 26.05.2023

What is accessibility level AA?

Accessibility level AA is the mid-range level of conformance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG conformance levels are categorized into three levels in order to meet the accessibility needs of different groups and different situations. The lowest accessibility level is A, while the highest conformance level is AAA.

The accessibility levels A, AA, and AAA are usually pronounced as ‘single A’, ‘double A’, and ‘triple A.” Level AA is the most common level of conformance to obtain and is recommended for all web-based information and communication technology products and services.

Conformance at higher levels usually indicates conformance at lower levels. For example, by conforming to AA, a website or web-based application meets both the A and AA conformance levels.

Whereas conformance level AAA is the highest level of accessibility for a website or web-based application, most organizations set their standards at level AA because it is both achievable and meaningful without being too disruptive to the design and development of a website or web-based application.

WCAG accessibility levels and Section 508 compliant websites

A website or web-based application cannot be considered Section 508 compliant if it does not meet the WCAG criteria as established in the Section 508 accessibility criteria.

Suffice it to highlight that WCAG deals with websites and web-based applications while Section 508 deals with all consumer technologies, including websites and web-based applications.

Since January 2018, the U.S. government has modified Section 508 to include WCAG guidelines for accessibility levels A and AA. This decision has made conformance and compliance with 508 accessibility requirements a bit easier, as compliance to WCAG ‘A’ and ‘AA’ standards is now accepted towards 508 compliance. Achieving WCAG A and AA compliance is now counted towards Section 508 compliance.

Why accessibility level AA makes your website or web-based app compliant

WCAG Level A enables organizations to cover the mere basics of WCAG 508 compliance, while WCAG Level AA goes further toward making web content accessible for users in a wider variety of contexts.

It is for this reason that most accessibility experts, like the ADACP, recommend this conformance level toward making an organization’s digital property Section 508 compliant as well as compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

At WCAG Level AA, websites, web-based applications, and the content therein would meet the WCAG 508 compliance checklist for Level A and Level AA accessibility success criteria.

Making your digital property WCAG Level AA Section 508 compliant

To be compliant with WCAG Level AA, your website or web-based application should align with the following WCAG Section 508 compliance checklist:

  • Provide text alternatives for all non-text content.

  • Provide alternatives to video-only and audio-only content.

  • Provide captions for all videos that include audio.

  • Use more than one sense for all the instructions provided.

  • Not use presentations that rely solely on color.

  • Make all functionalities accessible by keyboard only.

  • Ensure that users have control over time limits.

  • Provide user controls for all moving content.

  • Provide ‘skip to content’ links.

  • Use clear and helpful page titles.

  • Present items or content in a logical order.

  • Make the purpose of every link clear from its content.

  • Ensure that all page elements do not change when they receive focus input.

  • Clearly identify input errors.

  • Ensure that the contrast ratio between text and the background is at least 4:5:1. Ensure that all text on the digital property can be resized to 20% without loss of content or function.

  • Not use images of text.

  • Offer clear ways to find pages.

  • Use clear headings and labels.

  • Ensure that the keyboard focus is clear and visible.

  • Inform users when the language on a page changes.

  • Use all menus consistently.

  • Use all icons and buttons consistently.

  • Suggest fixes when users make errors.

  • Reduce the risk of input errors for sensitive data.

Best practice in attaining level AA conformance for a digital property

While the specific standards for website 508 accessibility remain somewhat vague, WCAG 2.0 provides a set of guidelines to help website and web-application teams ensure that their digital properties are WCAG Section 508 compliant. Despite the existence of a robust 508 compliance checklist that you can follow to ensure that your digital property is WCAG Level AA 508 compliant, it is highly advisable that you consider the following in your quest for Section 508 WCAG Level AA compliance for your digital property:

  1. Choose a trusted level AA accessibility expert who you can work with

Achieving Section 508 WCAG Level AA compliance calls for the need to decide on the person, either in-house or externally, who would be best suited to support your accessibility efforts. The individual you choose can mean a huge difference between being compliant and ending up in court due to numerous accessibility lawsuits.

That is why entities that are astute about making their digital property WCAG Level AA Section 508 compliant are careful about making the decision about who to entrust with the leadership of accessibility conformance issues.

We advise that when you consider the individual or agency you want to give this responsibility to, you should include, among other responsibilities, a comprehensive familiarity with all aspects of WCAG Level AA requirements, a high level of skill in all aspects of website and web application development, and an understanding of your website or web application content management system. An extensive experience in training others on your accessibility team will also be a desirable requirement for the individual or agency.

  1. Hire a website or web-application accessibility consultant

Not many organizations will have the in-house expertise to deliver accessibility for their digital property alone. If you find yourself in such a situation, you should seriously consider hiring a consultant with deep experience in both WCAG testing and remediation.

The consultant should be able to work closely with your in-house team so that the team fully understands the programming behind your website or web-based applications, as well as your content management system. The consultant you hire should be ready and willing to contribute to the training of your in-house team as an assurance of ongoing WCAG 508 compliance.

  1. Regularly perform WCAG 508 compliance audits

To ensure that your digital property remains accessible, you should perform regular accessibility tests to enable you to undertake remediation efforts to deal with the accessibility issues established through the tests.

There are several automated 508 compliance tester tools to assist you in conducting a robust WCAG Level AA 508 compliance audit of your website and web-based applications and identifying all areas that require remediation. Ensure that the automated audits you undertake are able to capture as many accessibility issues in your digital property as possible, provide you with the guidance you need to undertake manual code reviews that help you catch the issues missed during the automated testing, and conduct an assistive technology review to test how assistive technology works on your digital property.

Get help with attaining WCAG Level AA Section 508 compliance

ADACP can help you achieve WCAG Level AA Section 508 compliance for your digital properties, including websites and web-based applications. All you need to do is call (626) 486-2201 to find out how we can assist you.