Understanding The Four Basic Principles of WCAG

A Clear Solution

Pop quiz! 

Do you know who or what W3C is?

Have you heard of WCAG?

Does the term Section 508 Standards ring a bell?


Well, if your business has a website (and if you’re reading this, it almost certainly does) you need to be able to answer “Yes” to all three of those questions.


Even though it sounds like a secret society from a Dan Brown novel, W3C is actually the World Wide Web Consortium, an international community that develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the web.


WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, a series of internationally adopted standards put together by W3C to address many of the problems facing web users with disabilities.

And at a government level, Section 508 Standards are the federally mandated accessibility standards that apply to electronic and information technology.


Fine, but what does all of that mean to you? 


Basically, it means that your website MUST be compliant with certain usability and accessibility standards relating to people with disabilities, including motor and mobility difficulties, sensory sensitivity, blindness and visual impairment.


"During the Summer of 2015 the DoJ (enforcement arm for ADA compliance) started enforcement actions against some prominent Universities for failure to comply with these guidelines.  Until that time, most businesses (and even the DoJ) had taken the position that these industry and federal government standards would not apply to them until regulations were passed.  Since the DoJ’s change in enforcement strategy, class-action plaintiff’s firms have ramped up their activities and are sending letters to owners of websites that they claim are noncompliant."

- Emily Duke, ESQ. Duke Law Office


Here at Irish Titan we’ve had some experience with a client who was the subject of legal action because their company website didn’t meet those usability and accessibility standards, and certain changes had to be made in order to adhere to the four basic principles of WCAG:

Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust…or POUR.


Perceivable = make it easier for users to see and hear content.

Provide text alternatives for non-text content.

Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia.

Create content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning.



Operable = help users navigate and find content.

Make all functionality available from a keyboard.

Give users enough time to read and use content i.e., no time limits.

Do not use content which has the potential to cause seizures.



Understandable = help users correct and avoid mistakes.

Make text readable and understandable.

Make content appear and operate in predictable ways.

Provide clear terms and simple instructions.



Robust = make your site compatible with third party technology.

Meet all recognized standards e.g., clean HTML and CSS.

Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools.



Beyond the obvious ethical reasons to provide website accessibility for people with disabilities, there’s also an increasingly legal imperative to do so. Lawsuits and demand letters targeting businesses accused of denying functional website access to visually impaired customers are becoming commonplace. The problem is real…the legal ramifications are severe…but fortunately, the solution is clear.