Free WCAG 2.0 AA Checklist and Guide for Beginners

Many people search WCAG for dummies because they think they’re the only ones that can’t understand WCAG 2.0 AA.

It’s not just you. Reading through and understanding WCAG 2.0 AA is quite a feat. The language is vague and overly technical. The whole document does a bad job conveying the accessibility measures it’s asking website owners to implement.

But WCAG is a set of technical standards so it’s somewhat understandable.

Seeing so how ADA Website Compliance lawsuits (as well as California Unruh Act and other state law lawsuits) reference WCAG 2.0 AA as a reference point to decide whether a website is accessible, I invested dozens of hours into reading WCAG documentation and then explanations and videos of WCAG documentation.

Ultimately I was able to create both a checklist and a 2020 guide to website accessibility. Here is the quick checklist:

WCAG Checklist

Section 1: Alternatives

Alt text (1.1.1): All images and non-text content needs alt text (there are exceptions)
Video & Audio alternatives (1.2.1): All video-only and audio-only content has a text transcript. Transcripts are clearly labeled and linked below the media.
Closed captioning (1.2.2): All video with sound contains accurate closed captioning.
Audio description (1.2.3): For any video, add an alternative video that includes an audio description of information not presented in the original video’s soundtrack (exceptions) or include a text .
Live captions (1.2.4): Any live video presentations must have closed captions.
Audio description (1.2.5): An audio description is optional under 1.2.3 level A but not in 1.2.5 AA.

Section 2: Presentation

Website structure (1.3.1): Use proper markup techniques to structure your website’s content (e.g. use correct heading tags and HTML for ordered and unordered lists)
Meaningful order (1.3.2): Present content in a meaningful order and sequence so that it reads properly.
Sensory characteristics (1.3.3): When providing detailed instructions, make it so they aren’t reliant on a single sensory ability.
Use of color (1.4.1): Do not rely on color alone to convey information.
Audio control (1.4.2): Any audio must be able to be paused, stopped, or muted.
Color contrast (1.4.3): There must be a color contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 between all text and background.
Text resize (1.4.4): Text must be able to be resized up to 200% without negatively affecting the ability to read content or use functions.
Images of text (1.4.5): Do not use images of text unless necessary (e.g. logo).

Section 3: User Control

Keyboard only (2.1.1): All content and functions on a website must be accessible by keyboard only (i.e. no mouse).
No keyboard trap (2.1.2): Keyboard-only users must never get stuck on any part of the website; they must be able to navigate forwards and backwards.
Adjustable time (2.2.1): If there any time limits on a website, users have the ability to turn it off, adjust it, extend it.
Pause, stop, hide (2.2.2): If there is content that blinks, scrolls, moves, users must have the ability to pause, stop, or hide it.
Three flashes or below (2.3.1): Web pages do not contain anything that flashes more than three times in any one second period.
Skip navigation link (2.4.1): A “Skip to Content” or “Skip Navigation” link allows users to bypass the heading and go straight to the main content.

Section 4: Understandable

Page titles (2.4.2): Each page of a website needs to have a unique and descriptive page title.
Focus order (2.4.3): Users must be able to navigate through a website in a logical sequential order that preserves meaning.
Link anchor text (2.4.4): The purpose of each link should be clear based on its anchor text (e.g. don’t use “click here”)
Multiple ways (2.4.5): There are multiple ways to access different pages/information on a website (e.g. search bar, nav menus, sitemap, breadcrumbs, helpful links after content).
Descriptive headings and labels (2.4.6): Headings and programmatic labels must be clear and descriptive. They do not need to be lengthy.
Focus indicator (2.4.7): Any “user interface control” that receives focus from a keyboard user should indicate that focus on the current selected element (e.g. add a visible border around a text link).
Website language (3.1.1): Set the language for your website.
Language changes (3.1.2): Indicate any language changes for an entire page or within the content.

Section 5: Predictability

No focus change (3.2.1): Nothing changes merely because an item receives focus; a user must actively choose to activate an item (e.g. hit enter to submit) before a change takes place.
No input change (3.2.2): Nothing changes just because information is inputted into a field (e.g. form doesn’t auto submit once all fields are filled out).
Consistent navigation (3.2.3): Keep navigation layout consistent throughout all pages of the website (e.g. same links in the same order).
Consistent identification (3.2.4): Components that have the same function within a website are identified consistently (but not necessarily identically) (e.g. two check marks can indicate two different things as long as their function is different — one indicates “approved” on one page but “included” on another).
Error identification (3.3.1): Make any form errors easy to identify, understand, and correct.
Form labels and instructions (3.3.2): Programmatically label all form or input fields so that a user knows what input and what format is expected.
Error suggestions (3.3.3): If an input error is automatically detected, then suggestions for correcting the error should be provided.
Error prevention on important forms (3.3.4): For pages that create legal commitments or financial transactions or any other important data submissions, one of the following is true: 1) submissions are reversible, 2) the user has an opportunity to correct errors, and 3) confirmation is available that allows an opportunity to review and correct before submission.
Parsing (4.1.1): Make sure HTML code is clean and free of errors, particularly missing bracket closes. Also, make sure all HTML elements are properly nested.
Name, role, value (4.1.2): For all user interface components (including forms, links, components generated by scripts), the name, role, and value should all be able to be programmatically determined; make sure components are compatible with assistive technology.

WCAG for Beginners Guide

You can download WCAG guide for free on Accessible.org.

You can also download the Kindle version on Amazon for $9.99.

This guide (“Kris’s WCAG Guide”) contains the easy explanations you are after and breaks down each WCAG success criterion into what to do and then, where applicable, gives resources on how to technically implement each of the guidelines.

I’ve received reviews from people around the world thanking me for creating this guide. Here’s one from LinkedIn the other day:

“Its good to connect with you, Currently my project started to adapt accessibility on their website, Being an QA i have to perform testing. While going through the WCAG document i was almost clueless of what to do but somehow after reading the PDF file from Accessible.org it was almost clear. A great stuff by you, Just connected in linkedin to appreciate you for your work.”

In my Medium WCAG for beginners article, I include a brief background on the creators of WCAG, W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).

If you need help figuring out what WCAG is asking for, definitely read my guide. If you need personal assistance, feel free to reach out.