The world of accessibility documentation can be a complex space with many businesses confusing different documents with each other or picking and choosing parts to make a ‘frankensteinian’ statement on accessibility. In this series of articles, we hope to make things a little clearer for you. We’ll break down the differences between conformance claims, accessibility statements and accessibility policies, taking a look at the purpose of each, where they should be used and what they should include.
Each piece of documentation has a place within the accessibility community. They can be used in conjunction with each other, but each has a different purpose and should have little crossover in their key content.
In this first article, we take a look at Conformance Claims.
A conformance claim outlines a website’s or web application’s conformance to a specific accessibility standard. This could be the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Section 508 or any one of a number of recognised standards. In this article, we will focus on conformance claims for WCAG 2.0, as this is the most popular standard recognised in the UK.
The following five conformance requirements exist for WCAG 2.0:
1. The conformance level must be achieved
For Level A conformance, the webpage(s) must satisfy all the Level A success criteria.
For Level AA, the webpage(s) must satisfy all the Level A and Level AA success criteria.
For Level AAA all Level A, Level AA and Level AAA success criteria must be satisfied.
2. Full pages
The conformance of a page cannot exclude specific sections within the page.
3. Complete processes
If the page is part of a process (such as a series of pages required to purchase an item), all pages within that process will have to conform in order for that page to conform.
4. Only Accessibility-Supported Ways of Using Technologies
Technologies should be used that have been designed in a way that allows assistive tools to access all content that is required to be presented to the user. Any content that is presented via a non-accessible technology must also be presented in a secondary way that is Accessibility-Supported. For example, a text alternative must be provided for images that contain content for the user (alt text).
Technologies that are not Accessibility-Supported may be used, but must not interfere with the provision of any information via Accessibility-Supported technologies. The webpage content must also be able to conform with standards under the following conditions:
- When any technology that is not relied upon is turned on in a user agent.
- When any technology that is not relied upon is turned off in a user agent.
- When any technology that is not relied upon is not supported by a user agent
If all five of these requirements are met then a conformance claim can be made for a full website, a single page, a series of pages or multiple related pages.
The claim itself should contain five key pieces of information:
- The date the website has been observed to conform to the claim.
- The guideline title, version and URL the claim refers to. So in the case of WCAG this would be “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 at http://www.w3.org/TR/2008/REC-WCAG20-20081211/”.
- The conformance level that has been achieved. With WCAG this would either be Level A, AA or AAA. Priority level 1, 2 or 3 should not be used within a conformance claim for WCAG 2.0.
- An accurate description of the web pages the claim is being made against and if this includes any sub-domains. A list of URLs is the most common way of presenting this.
- A list of the web technologies relied upon (any technologies that would cause content to no longer conform if turned off or not supported).
Additionally, an accessibility conformance claim can include:
- A list of success criteria the website meets beyond the current level.
- Details of technologies that are used but not relied upon.
- A list of the technologies used to test the content.
- Information on any additional steps that have been taken to go beyond the success criteria.
For websites where additional third-party content may be added at a later date, a conformance claim cannot be made. Instead a ‘Statement of partial conformance’ may be used. This would cover websites that contain aggregated articles or content, websites that allow user contributed content, and websites that contain automatically inserted content from third parties e.g. advertisements. A statement of partial conformance is considered acceptable in these situations as the website owner does not know what the uncontrolled content is when authoring the statement.
Two options are available for a statement of partial conformance:
- If the pages where third-party content is added can be monitored and non-conforming content can be updated to be brought into conformance or otherwise removed, then a claim of conformance can be made.
- Alternatively, a statement of partial conformance can be made if the page would conform when certain elements of the page are removed. In this instance the statement will be “This page does not conform, but would conform to WCAG 2.0 at level “X” if the following parts from uncontrolled sources were removed.” For this to be true the ‘uncontrolled sources’ must be clearly identifiable to users as areas that are not under the author’s control.
A ‘Statement of partial conformance due to language’ can also be made when accessibility support only exists for specific language selections. In this instance, the statement will be “This page does not conform, but would conform to WCAG 2.0 at level “X” if accessibility support existed for the following language(s)”.
A Claim of conformance, or statement of partial conformance, can be displayed on a website by itself or can be included as part of an accessibility statement as a clearly titled component.
At Zoonou, compliance claims can be offered as part of our accessibility testing service. In order for this to occur, a stable version of the website being tested would need to be observed to meet all success criteria for the required claim to be valid. Any success criteria failures would need to be fixed and pages they affect retested for regression issues. During this time it would be expected that no updates are made to the website, preventing any further regression issues.
Please see Part 2 of our articles on Conformance Claims, Statements and Policies, where we take a look at accessibility statements and policies in more detail.
If you’d like to discuss accessibility with one of our in-house specialists, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our team will get back to you. Please see our Accessibility Testing page for more information on the services we provide. If you’d like to get in touch about anything else, please head over to our Contact page.