Adopting WCAG 2
It is six months since the release of WCAG 2.0 and I thought it might be interesting to see how extensively it has been adopted as a bench mark for determining web content accessibility. Over this time, I have felt that the rate of adoption has been relatively slow and the number of countries and other regulatory authorities now using WCAG 2 is lower than I expected. Of course, this could just be the result of me having overly optimistic expectations.
At the outset, I would like to make it clear that I am a supporter of WCAG 2. Of course, like many other people concerned with accessibility, I have a few quibbles about some of the details, but overall I think the new guidelines and the move to technological neutrality are good.
In Australia, regulations relating to website accessibility are to a large extent determined by two bodies; the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO). At this time, it seems to me that AHRC are keen to move to WCAG 2, perhaps with a few conditions, but there is a certain inaction (or reluctance) on the part of AGIMO, which is primarily responsible for setting web standards for all Commonwealth (Federal) government agencies. As a result WCAG 1 is still the referenced benchmark for website accessibility. (World Wide Web Access: Disability Discrimination Act Advisory Notes)
In an attempt to find out what is happening in other countries I sent a request for information to the WAI Interest Group mail list. Many thanks to Harry, Denis, Christophe (P and S), Mike, Hiro, Cale, Bruce and Anthony for the information they provided.
The following is a brief summary of what I have found so far. Please note it may not be completely accurate and I take full responsibility for any mistakes it contains.
- In Canada, at the Federal Government level, the “Common Look and Feel Guidelines” incorporate an accessibility requirement which is based on WCAG 1 (Level AA). At this stage there appears to be no indication if or when they might move to WCAG 2. At the Provincial level, some provinces are reported to be actively moving to WCAG 2 and it is expected to be adopted at Level AA by at least a few by the end of the year.
- Within the European Union Commission there is a reported consensus that WCAG 2.0 provides an opportunity for a common approach to web accessibility across Europe, which should not be missed. However, there are differing views about which sites accessibility regulations should apply to and the processes for determining conformance. (Expert meeting on web accessibility in Europe and the implementation of WCAG 2.0)
- The Netherlands is currently in the process of updating its Web Quality guidelines to reflect WCAG 2.
- In the UK the official government policy remains WCAG 1 (AA). However, it appears that within Government departments there is a growing acceptance that websites under development should conform to WCAG 2 (AA), but I am not aware of the precise details.
- In Belgium web accessibility requirements are contained in a document called “Any Surfer” which appears to be primarily based on WCAG 1. However, I understand they are trying to follow the spirit of WCAG 2 with particular reference to the specific assistive technologies used in Belgium and within the constraints of available tools.
- Japan has just completed the working draft of a standard on Web content accessibility that is harmonized with WCAG 2.0.
I understand many other countries, including France, Germany, Spain and India for example, have regulations relating to web accessibility that are based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. I don’t know what moves, if any, these countries have made towards adopting WCAG 2 as the benchmark for determining website accessibility.
Please let me know if I have made some errors in this article or if you have any information regarding the adoption of WCAG 2 that you wish to share. I will update this article as I obtain new information.
Many thanks for the comments about the situation in other countries. Ginger has sent me an email asking me to include the following:
- In Germany we do not use the WCAG but they are incorporated in the BITV regulation, which need to be followed for all public websites. Currently, we are using the BITV v1 (incorporating WCAG 1.0). A new version has been written to adopt the new issues addressed by WCAG 2.0. But there is a problem in putting them into affect: Since Germany is a member of the European Union certain laws and regulations need to be passed by the Commission. When they found this out they decided to postpone this decision until we have elected a new government in September of this year. Federal departments are busy right now with the election and since all parties can ask the Federal departments for comments about certain topics in the election period, they are not able to handle the extra work of introducing BITV v2. In October they might think about introducing it, but if the Government changes they might want more discussions about BITV v2. We do not expect the WCAG 2.0 to be effective here before mid 2010.
See the comments below for information about the adoption of WCAG 2 in other countries.