Should the ADA Require WCAG 2.0 Level AA Conformance?

Monday (January 24) is the deadline for submitting comments related to the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) proposed rulemaking related to web accessibility and the Americans with Disabilities Act. See the Instructions for Submitting Public Comments and the proposal.

In their proposal, the DOJ has specifically asked 19 questions on which they're seeking feedback. A key question is question #1:

Should the Department adopt the WCAG 2.0´s "Level AA Success Criteria" as its standard for website accessibility for entities covered by titles II and III of the ADA? Is there any reason why the Department should consider adopting another success criteria level of the WCAG 2.0? Please explain your answer.

In Jim Thatcher's Response, he argues that "level AA is too strong, too complicated, too much." Instead, he recommends that the DOJ require Level A conformance, plus just one Level AA success criterion, 2.4.7 (visible indication of current keyboard focus). He says the DOJ should recommend all of WCAG 2.0, but not require it.

To make it easier for readers to digest his recommendation, he provides a list of all 26 Level A success criteria. I think it's equally important though to list the success criteria that would be missing if the DOJ were to go with Jim's recommendation. So, the following is a paraphrased list of WCAG 2.0 Level AA success criteria. In my opinion, many, if not all, of these success criteria, are just too important to not be required.

WCAG 2.0 Level AA Success Criteria

  1. 1.2.4 Live captions for real-time online events
  2. 1.2.5 Audio description on prerecorded video
  3. 1.4.3 Minimum foreground/background contrast of text and images of text
  4. (includes exceptions for large text, incidental content, and text within logos)
  5. 1.4.4 Text resizable up to 200 percent without loss of content or functionality.
  6. 1.4.5 Use text rather than images of text
  7. 2.4.5 Multiple Ways to locate a Web page within a set of Web pages
  8. 2.4.6 Headings and Labels
  9. 2.4.7 Focus Visible for keyboard users
  10. 3.1.2 Human language identified
  11. 3.2.3 Consistent Navigation on multiple Web pages within a set of Web pages
  12. 3.2.4 Consistent Identification of components that have the same functionality within a set of Web pages
  13. 3.3.3 Error Suggestion if an error is detected (e.g., alerting user to required fields or specific data formats)
  14. 3.3.4 Legal or financial form errors are either reversible after submission, or the user can check or confirm their information prior to submission

3 comments on “Should the ADA Require WCAG 2.0 Level AA Conformance?

  1. My feeling is that Mr. Thatcher (with all due respect) is ready to settle for much too less. Anyone serious enough about accessibility will agree that AA is the absolute minimum to go for if one wants to make a real difference. The problem is not the number of success criteria. The problem is the lack of interest from developers to work with accessibility in mind. If the government can't make a stand on the appropriate level of conformance to ensure an inclusive society where every citizen has a fair chance to contribute according to his or her own potential, I wonder who will...

  2. I personally agree that "level AA is too strong, too complicated, too much" for the complexity and diversity of Web sites we have in higher education.

    I don't know if you have an institutional repository at the University of Washington but if you do I'd be interested to know how you address the accessibility of PDFs in the repository - and note that WCAG 2.0 makes it clear that it is format-neutral and applies to, for example,PDF content.

    In the UK, where I am based, a pragmatic Code of Practice has been approved by the British Standards Organisation: BS 8878. I have written a blog post about how one might apply BS8878 for repositories - see http://ukwebfocus.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/web-accessibility-institutional-repositories-and-bs-8878/

    I'd welcome your thoughts on how one might apply accessibility guidelines to content held in repositories.

    Brian Kelly, UKOLN, University of Bath, UK

  3. Thanks Terrill, for stimulating the discussion.

    Just a note about your paraphrasing; 3.1.2 is Human language of parts; the requirement of Human Language of the page is Level A. Also excluding 2.4.6 may sound like I excluded Headings and Labels. Definitely not! There are Level A success criteria that require Headings and Form Labels.

    Jim Thatcher