Understanding WCAG 2.0

A guide to understanding and implementing Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0

Editor's Draft June 2010 -- Diff-marked Version

This version:
Latest version:
Previous version:
Ben Caldwell, Trace R&D Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Michael Cooper, W3C
Loretta Guarino Reid, Google, Inc.
Gregg Vanderheiden, Trace R&D Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Previous Editors:
Wendy Chisholm (until July 2006 while at W3C)
John Slatin (until June 2006 while at Accessibility Institute, University of Texas at Austin)


This document, "Understanding WCAG 2.0," is an essential guide to understanding and using Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 [WCAG20]. It is part of a series of documents that support WCAG 2.0. Please note that the contents of this document are informative (they provide guidance), and not normative (they do not set requirements for conforming to WCAG 2.0). See Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Overview for an introduction to WCAG, supporting technical documents, and educational material.

WCAG 2.0 establishes a set of Success Criteria to define conformance to the WCAG 2.0 Guidelines. A Success Criterion is a testable statement that will be either true or false when applied to specific Web content. "Understanding WCAG 2.0" provides detailed information about each Success Criterion, including its intent, the key terms that are used in the Success Criterion, and how the Success Criteria in WCAG 2.0 help people with different types of disabilities. This document also provides examples of Web content that meet the success criterion using various Web technologies (for instance, HTML, CSS, XML), and common examples of Web content that does not meet the success criterion.

This document indicates specific techniques to meet each Success Criterion. Details for how to implement each technique are available in Techniques for WCAG 2.0, but "Understanding WCAG 2.0" provides the information about the relationship of each technique to the Success Criteria. Techniques are categorized by the level of support they provide for the Success Criteria. "Sufficient techniques" are sufficient to meet a particular Success Criterion (either by themselves or in combination with other techniques), while other techniques are advisory and therefore optional. None of the techniques are required to meet WCAG 2.0, although some may be the only known method if a particular technology is used. "Advisory techniques" are not sufficient to meet the Success Criteria on their own (because they are not testable or provide incomplete support) but it is encouraged that authors follow them when possible to provide enhanced accessibility. Another support category is "Common Failures", which describe authoring practices known to cause Web content not to conform to WCAG 2.0. Although failures provide advisory information about certain authoring practices, authors must avoid those practices in order to meet the WCAG 2.0 Success Criteria.

This document is part of a series of documents published by the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) to support WCAG 2.0. This document was published as a Working Group Note at the same time WCAG 2.0 was published as a W3C Recommendation. Unlike WCAG 2.0, is expected that the information in Understanding WCAG 2.0 will be updated from time to time. See Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Overview for an introduction to WCAG, supporting technical documents, and educational material.

Status of this Document

This document is the internal working draft used by the WCAG WG and is updated continuously and without notice. This document has no formal standing within W3C. Please consult the group's home page and the W3C technical reports index for information about the latest publications by this group.

This draft includes revisions that have been made since the 30 April 2008 Candidate Recommendation was published. Please refer to the latest public version of WCAG 2.0 for information about the status of WCAG 2.0 as well as information about submitting comments to the working group.

History of Changes to WCAG 2.0 Working Drafts

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