The Importance and Application of WCAG To Online Community Software

Updated: Jun 29

Written by: Delaram Vaghei




Over the past few software releases, the developers at Insightrix Communities worked to have our Market Research Online Community (MROC) software comply with WCAG Level A and AA certification standards. Meeting these WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) certifications confirms that our MROC software is more accessible to people with disabilities.


What is WCAG?


WCAG is a stable, reference-able technical set of standard guidelines and recommendations that guide web content developers, web authoring tool developers and web accessibility evaluation tool developers to make their sites and tools accessible for people with disabilities. This includes people with visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities.


WCAG version 2.0 was published on 11 December 2008. WCAG 2.1 was published on 5 June 2018 (1). As explained by the World Wide Web Consortium website: “WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1 have 12-13 guidelines that are organized under 4 principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. For each guideline, there are testable success criteria, which are at three levels: A (lowest), AA (mid-range), and AAA (highest).”


What is Level A, AA and AAA in WCAG?


Level A


This is the lowest level and it outlines the minimum requirements needed for a site to be considered an accessible website.


For example: Item 1.1.1: Non-text Content is in Level A and dictates that all non-text content presented to the user must have a text alternative that serves an equivalent purpose. For example, if there is an image in your website, there needs to be an explanation for that image in the alt tag. Once in place, screen readers can read the text of the alt tag so users can learn what the image is about without viewing it. Or, say there is a chart, animation, or audio clip in the website. An alternative text like aria-label or aria-describedby tag could have text that describes the chart or the animation, or shows an immediate link to the transcript of that audio file. Another example of a Level A item is Item 1.4.1: Use of Color: Color should not be used as the only visual means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response, or distinguishing a visual element. This means, for example, that sites should not use only the colour green as an “ok” button, nor only the colour red button as a “delete” button. These also need to be accompanied by text to explain their purpose so that screen readers can identify them.

Level AA

This the middle level and the guidelines in this section are more specific and have more requirements for compliance.

For example, Item 1.4.3: Contrast (Minimum), dictates that the visual presentation of text and images of text should have contrast ratio of at least 4:5.

Level AAA


This is the highest level. Only sites that are very specialized comply with this standard level.

For example, Item 1.4.6: Contrast (Enhanced) meeting Level AAA standards dictates that the visual presentation of text and images of text should have a contrast ratio of at least 7:1, which is higher contrast than the guidelines set for Level AA of this same item.

Why is WCAG Important?

WCAG 2.0 is approved as an ISO standard: ISO/IEC 40500:2012. By applying the WCAG standards to the content of a website, users all around the world with disabilities can work with a website and access the all the same aspects of it as people without disability.


By applying the WCAG guidelines, your site works with screen readers, and users that are unable to operate a mouse can use regular keyboards or alternative keyboards to navigate the website. This is done with tab, shift + tab, space, enter and arrow keys.


Screen readers are software programs that allow blind or visually impaired users to read the text that is displayed on the computer screen with a speech synthesizer or braille display.


MROC Meets Certs of WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1 in Level A and Level AA


For our MROC software, this means that users are able to access contents of our sites via screen readers and participate in research activities without the use of a mouse. Online community members can therefore navigate the site, answer surveys, and participate in discussions by using the tab, shift, space, enter and arrow keys with no problem. When a user presses the tab key, the accessibility mode is enabled which changes the appearance of the site. Focused items appear with a border around them to indicate selection and to aid navigation. If a mouse is used, mentioned borders disappear, and the site resumes appearance free of the borders used in tab navigation.


Also aiding the navigation of our MROC software:


  • Text descriptions for every item on the user side of the platform. These descriptions are currently available in 6 languages: English, French, Arabic, Portuguese, Mandarin and Hebrew. Other languages are available upon request.


  • All items are accessible by keyboard and there are no keyboard traps. A keyboard trap is when a user accesses an element of a website by keyboard but can’t get out from that element by keyboard only. For example, a user clicks on the “add comment” button in an online discussion page to add a post to the discussion by keyboard. Once the “add comment” button is clicked, a modal opens but the focus (highlighted element with the border) of the keyboard wouldn’t go to that modal. In this case, the user is unable to close the modal nor are they able to work with main page from the keyboard. They are stuck in “the trap” until the page is refreshed.


  • Users can bypass blocks of content that are repeated when using the tab key. For example, users can bypass all items that are in the menu bar and go straight to the main content of page (in the case of our software, they would be able to go straight to a survey or discussion to add their contribution).


  • Borders with very high visibility on the item that is focused so users can easily identify their position on the screen (when not using a mouse).


  • User notifications for successes or error messages that are not focused (highlighted with border). For example, if a user tries to register but enters an invalid email address or mismatched passwords, a notification will display. Another example is when a user adds a post in an online discussion, a notification displays indicating the post was created successfully.


For more information about WCAG certifications, visit https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/


If you are interested in learning more about our online community software, please contact us!


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