August 3, 2009

Web content accessibility – WCAG2.0, Section 508, DDA and BS 8878

In December 2008, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) published version 2.0 of their Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the first major revision since 1999. These guidelines define how to produce Web content that is accessible to people with disabilities, including visual, auditory and physical, as-well as people with changing abilities due to ageing.

Version 2.0 of the W3C WCAG document is not too dissimilar from previous versions, but is far more comprehensive and includes more detail and explanation of how to tackle potential accessibility issues.

The recommendations are organised under four main principles:

  • perceivable
  • operable
  • understandable
  • robust

...each of which has a set of guidelines, success criteria and techniques.

The success criteria are divided into three levels of conformance:

  • "A" (single-A, lowest)
  • "AA" (double A)
  • "AAA" (triple A - highest)

Each criterion is explained in full on individual pages and a customizable quick-reference page of criteria and techniques is also provided.

Version 2.0 of the W3C WCAG can be found here:

In the UK, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) includes Web sites as an example of auxiliary aids and services provided.

The UK's Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was updated in 2005, but is still regards as being vague and open to interpretation

The Act does not define the minimum requirements for making a website accessible, and service providers are only required to make “reasonable” adjustments where a "policy criterion or practice" places a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage.

Despite being updated in 2005, the law in this regard is slightly vague and open to interpretation, and according to the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) there have been no test cases in the UK to date.

However, the RNIB do recommend that all Web sites achieve at least W3C ‘A’ (single A) level and aim for ‘AA’ (double A) level to avoid the possibility of legal action being taken.

The updated 2005 version of the DDA can be found here:

In the US, the Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act 1973 requires Federal agencies to make electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities

In the United States, the Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires that Federal agencies make electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities.

This is the US equivalent of the British DDA and covers broadly the same issues and technologies, although it only applies to Federal departments and agencies.

Further information about Section 508 can be found here:

In December 2008, the British Standards Institution (BSI) published a draft British Standard on Web accessibility – BS 8878. This Code of Practice (currently in draft) gives recommendations for building and maintaining Web experiences that are accessible to, usable by and enjoyable for disabled people.

The deadline for public comment is 31st January 2009 and the document has yet to be amended in light of the recent WCAG 2.0 recommendations. It is expected that this document will be published in its final form later in 2009.

The draft version of BS 8878 can be found here:

We'll keep you up to date with any further developments relating to accessibility as they are announced.


  • Accessibility
  • accessible
  • BS 8878
  • DDA 1995
  • DDA 2005
  • W3C WCAG
  • wcag20


Leave a comment

(Your email will not be publicly displayed.)
Captcha Code

Click the image to see another captcha.