Pretty Simple: web, digital, social

In June 2008 Central Office of Information (COI) produced the Delivering Inclusive Websites guidance:

These guidelines are for public sector website owners and digital media project managers wishing to deliver inclusive, accessible websites. This document sets out the minimum standard of accessibility for public sector web content and web authoring tools. It recommends a user-centred approach to accessibility, taking account of user needs in the planning and procurement phases of web design projects.

These guidelines currently make reference to WCAG 1.0, so I wanted to know what would happen once WCAG 2.0 is approved. There is a paragraph which refers to this, but it is a little vague:

At the time of writing, version 1.0 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is the current standard for web accessibility. At such time that version 2.0 becomes a W3C Recommendation, this policy will be reviewed within six months. Consideration will be given to the adoption of version 2.0 as the minimum standard for public sector websites.

Our organisation is currently looking at options for a new web content management system. As such a procurement would be a long-term commitment, I’m keen to know that the goalposts are not going to move halfway through implementing a solution. Whilst it’s true that sites built to conform to WCAG 1.0 should meet WCAG 2.0 without too many problems, I feel it is crucial that the minimum standards are recorded in black and white in any requirements documentation.

I have therefore submitted the following enquiry to the COI:

With WCAG 2.0 currently at Proposed Recommendation stage, and due to be approved by Christmas, what plans are there to modify the information provided as part of the “Delivering inclusive websites” guidelines? What are the timescales involved i.e. how soon should the public sector be building websites according to WCAG 2.0 instead of WCAG 1.0?

and will post the reply here when received.

Update 16th Nov

Reply from COI:

We plan to review adoption of WCAG 2.0 with the public sector community. It is unclear at this stage whether doing so is in our best interests. For example, the new AA requirement for audio description and subtitles for every video would mean that we Level-A would be the only realistic option – and then the risk is that no-one implements the other Level-AA requirements.

We would also like to see what the European Commission thinks about the new standard. Anything we do would have to be in line with their thinking.

I don’t think there’s anything stopping people building to WCAG 2.0. Am I right in thinking that any website that’s AA according to version 2.0 is automatically v1.0 compliant?

An extract from my response is as follows:

Unfortunately I don’t think it is the case that WCAG 2.0 compliant sites will meet WCAG 1.0, at the equivalent conformance level, by default. There are many WCAG 1.0 checkpoints with the ‘until user agents’ caveat that WCAG 2.0 have now omitted, due to the conditions being met. Plus there are obvious changes such as no longer requiring Accesskeys or metadata to add semantic information to pages, or not being required to avoid deprecated features. If you therefore designed according to WCAG 2.0, I would imagine that you might fail against WCAG 1.0 on these sorts of points.

Regarding your point about unrealistic levels of compliance – I know it has been suggested elsewhere that a phased approach might be most appropriate, to account for the cost, time and expertise required to, for example, produce compliant time-based media. There may also be potential to describe the transitional approach in the conformance claim statement (which is required for any site claiming WCAG 2.0 conformance).

Hopefully we’ll see some new guidance soon.

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