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.

  • The first country to adopt WCAG 2 as a general requirement appears to be New Zealand, where Government Web Standard 2.0 that was released in March 2009 incorporated WCAG 2 (Level AA) as the standard for accessibility. When it comes to the issue of what technologies might be consider “accessibility supported” and “relied upon”, New Zealand has taken what could be described as a minimalist approach that is similar to WCAG 1. Content must be accessible without JavaScript and/or CSS support and, with a few specified exceptions, a HTML alternative has to be provided for all other content formats including Flash, PDF and Word.
  • 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.

I would be very interested to know how different countries and organisations are dealing with the issue of determining which technologies developers can consider to be ‘accessibility supported’. For example, is it possible to use JavaScript (assuming it is used in a way that is accessible) without having to also provide a non-JavaScript alternative?


  1. Markus Ladstätter

    In Austria there is a “dynamic link” addition to the Bundes-Behindertengleichstellungsgesetz (anti discrimination law) that says web sites (in some cases) have to be usable for people with disabilities without any help. Accessibility has to be state of the art according to WAI standards, that seems to be WCAG 2.0. (german, not the law itself, but a governmental site)

  2. In Spain, website accessibility for government and large businesses is covered by legislation. Where the legislation specifies any rules it refers to a national standard, UNE 139803:2004 which is based on WCAG 1.0 level AA (with three tweaks of priorities). As far as I know there is no regulation oriented toward WCAG 2.0 as yet.

  3. “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.”

    Quebec, Canada here. I am one of the co-authors of our accessiblity standard and the one who provided the canadian info to Roger. In order to complete the info provided, here in Quebec, we’re actively moving to WCAG 2 lvl 2 with a custom-made standard called SGQRI 008. It is declined in three normative documents that cover websites (SGQRI 008-01), downloadable documents (SGQRI 008-02) and multimedia (SGQRI 008-03). We are one of the provinces – if not the only one – who should be adopting its mandatory standard by the end of this year. We have decided to adopt an approach similar to Section 508 in the sense that the expectations related to the standard are also transferred to the web providers: if web agencies want to keep working with the government, they WILL have to comply to the standard. Period. This will lead the developers to change the way they’re building the web and that is an extraordinary improvement for the various disabled communities in Quebec. We’re expecting this to have a tremendous effect on our industry. For the past year, we’ve been actively working with many web agencies who want to improve on how they’re working in order to be able to meet the requirements. This means training, coaching and support. The standard is expected to take place over the next three years and, if we play our hand right, is expected to have a positive influence on other provinces as well who might want to take a similar route.

  4. Hi,

    I think there is evidence that the situation in the UK is more strongly heading down a WCAG 2.0 route than you say.

    We have a new British Standard in draft form currently which says, “This draft was released for public comment on 1 December 2008, at which time the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) is a “candidate recommendation”. It is not possible to include reference to guidelines that have not reached full “recommendation” stage. It is predicted that WCAG 2.0 will become a “recommendation” during the DPC (draft for public comment) period. This being the case, this draft will be amended prior to final publication to include references to WCAG 2.0 where appropriate.”
    from Draft BS 8878:2009 Web accessibility. Building accessible experiences for disabled people. Code of practice.

    I’d be happy to read of more UK evidence supporting WCAG 2.0 too.


    PS How about Italy and the Stanca Act and USAs 508?

  5. PAS 78, the precursor to BS 8878, was never formally adopted into “The Guidelines for UK Government websites”. It should also be noted that BS 8878 is not intended as a specification in itself, but rather as a set of guidelines (based on other specifications and guidelines). It may or may not become the standard for UK Government websites. As of February 2009, the conditions for use of domain remains the “Guidelines for UK Government websites” or “Framework for Local Government websites”.
    Suggesting therefore that the UK is heading towards WCAG 2.0 as a standard may be premature; though Government departments i have worked with since December when WCAG 2 became a formal recommendation, are ready to accept guidance and have shown a willingness to develop services to conform with WCAG 2.0.

  6. I find it hard to imagine a situation where we have a British Standard for accessible websites that is not followed by the UK government!

    The British Standard very clearly expresses an intention to point at WCAG 2.0 as per the quote I pulled out.

    Surely the EC moves in this direction are also unlikely to be ignored by the UK government.


    – PAS78 seemed to pull back from becoming guidelines from websites and instead became guidelines for procurement of websites. Less helpful.

  7. This is quite a helpful read on the EU position – it seems fairly clear to me.

    “The adoption of the second version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) provides the necessary technical specifications.” (Council of the European Union (2009))

    Council of the European Union (2009) Council Conclusions on accessible information society. 2935th Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council meeting. Brussels 31st March 2009

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