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The challenges of WCAG 2.0 compliance

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines provide a series of recommendations for making websites more accessible. The purpose is to ensure that people who are physically challenged or who have cognitive or learning disabilities can access web content on an equal footing with everyone else. The WCAG guidelines also improve usability in general and promote a quality web experience.
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Accessibility testing is a combined automated and manual process.  While there are tools that can help you determine if a  website passes the automated WCAG tests, it still requires human interaction to truly comply with WCAG 2.0 guidelines.  For example, it's possible to automatically test if an alt-attribute exists, but it requires judgment to determine whether or not a particular alt text string is sufficiently descriptive of a particular image.  Automation can detect the presence of WCAG compliance, but not the quality of that compliance.

It should be remembered that WCAG guidelines don't directly address particular usability issues.  These issues may be system or site dependent and must be addressed on an ad-hoc basis by human beings. Such issues are not always readily apparent, which is why it is vitally important to involve the people who will actually use the  website in the process of usability testing.  When it comes to usability the ultimate arbiter is the end user.

Mobile accessibility is also growing in importance.  The majority of smartphone owners now use those phones to make purchases and surf the Web.  In fact, mobile devices are becoming so prevalent that the number of accessibility tools for testing mobile interface is increasing.  Even so, it may sometimes be necessary to test websites using particular mobile devices.

Testing against WCAG guidelines can be challenging.  Websites must be tested using a variety of different operating systems, versions and types of browsers.  It also requires testing a number of diverse elements such as flash and CSS, as well as server side scripting.  And the guidelines themselves are not always specific.  While ordinary problems and correct techniques are indicated in the guidelines,  there's still a lot of room for individual interpretation.  This means that a fresh set of eyes may be required to ensure compliance.  WCAG compliance isn't always easy, but it is being accomplished every day.  It's a matter of having high quality testers who know what they're doing and know when to use and not use automation.

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