What are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provides a technical standard for web content accessibility. Web content deals with information in a web page or web application and includes:

  • text, images, and sound
  • code or markup that defines structure, presentation, etc.

What is WCAG 2.0/2.1?

WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 is an international standard for web accessibility and provides a more comprehensive approach to web accessibility than the current Section 508 standards. WCAG 2.0 was published in 2008 and 2.1 was published in 2018. Both contain the same criteria and adhere to 12 Guidelines under the following 4 Principles of Accessibility:

  • Perceivable: users must be able to perceive the information being presented (it can't be invisible to all their senses)
  • Operable: users must be able to operate the interface (the interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform)
  • Understandable: users must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of the user interface (the content or operation cannot be beyond their understanding)
  • Robust: users must be able to access the content as technologies advance (as technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible)

For each of the guidelines there are a set of success criteria. In order to make our content accessible to as many people as possible criteria is used to assist in evaluation.

View the WCAG Principles and Guidelines.


Success criteria detail what must be achieved to "conform" to a standard under which they fall. The criteria are assigned varying levels of conformity. The levels are:

  1. Level A (this is the minimum level of conformance)
  2. Level AA (conforms to all of Level A and AA success criteria)
  3. Level AAA (conforms to all Level A, AA, and AAA criteria of success).

In the United States we are required to conform with the first two, Level A and Level AA.

View the WCAG Success Criteria Checklist.

View a complete list of the WCAG 2.1 Guidelines.

Quick Links to Accessibility sections

Continue to next section: How can we Create Content that better meet these Guidelines?


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