The European Accessibility Act and WCAG
To provide some clarity around web accessibility, the WWW Consortium (W3C) developed the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): a list of 78 success criteria, divided into 3 performance levels:
- Level A refers to the default standards (the bare minimum). For example, your website should be navigable with just a keyboard, pre-recorded audio includes a transcript, etc. These success criteria don’t have a big impact on the overall website design or structure.
- Level AA is more specific. For example, you’ll have to ensure that all text meets certain color contrast requirements, content should be organized in a logical order using clear headings (H1, H2, H3, etc.), and navigation elements should be consistent across the site.
- Level AAA criteria are very strict and specialized. Most websites don’t reach this level. Examples include sign language translation for pre-recorded video content, extended audio descriptions for pre-recorded videos, and a text-background contrast ratio of at least 7 to 1.
According to the European Accessibility Act (EAA) of 2016, all websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies and most private companies in the EU should conform to WCAG level AA. So far, however, the legislation has not been fully enacted. This will change on July 28, 2025, when it must be enforced by all EU member states.
While that might seem far off still, the 2023 WebAIM Million reports that 96.3% of inspected home pages currently still have WCAG failures. That’s only marginally better than in 2022 (96.8%). So there’s still a long way to go.