Navigating The WCAG 2.0 Documents
WCAG 2.0 has a very extensive and complex set of documentations. In many instances, just the volume of the documents intimidates developers. However, once you understand how to effectively use this documentation, it can become a very useful reference guide.
Before anything else, you need to understand that depending on your web site, much, or most of the documentation will not be applicable to you. First, always find out which areas apply to your particular question. This makes finding information much easier.
The Reference guide
When working with WCAG, your best friend will be the Reference Guide. (This link opens the Reference guide in a new window.) This guide links to all the WCAG related documentation. The Reference Guide is built around the structure of WCAG. On the top, you can customize the guide to your needs, and display as much or as little as you need from the guide.
Probably the first filter you can apply to the Reference Guide is the display of the conformance levels that you will be using. If you will conform with Level AA, check the Level A and Level AA success criteria.
Together with all guidelines and success criteria, you will find a link which says "Understanding", and the number of the guideline or the success criteria. Following this link, you will find a further explanation of the guideline or the success criteria, together with all related materials.
After the individual success criteria, you will find a set of techniques. These can be sufficient, and advisory techniques.
When you follow the sufficient techniques, it means that you will achieve the intent of a given success criteria. However, these techniques are informative, and you do not have to use them exclusively. Other solutions can provide a similar level of accessibility as well.
The advisory techniques in addition provide you with ideas and methods to increase the level of accessibility, it is always a good idea to follow these techniques, but it is not a requirement.
The techniques are divided into different groups to help you determine which one you may need. These groups are:
- HTML techniques
- CSS techniques
- SMIL techniques
- Client-side scripting techniques
- Server-side scripting techniques
- WAI-AREA techniques
The techniques are not part of the guidelines, rather, they are part of the supplementary documentation. While the guidelines are finalized, techniques can be changed, and additional ones are constantly included in the documentation. As a matter of fact, if you come up with a solution which is not listed among the techniques, you can suggest it yourself.
In addition to the techniques, after many success criteria, failures are listed as well. These failures discuss different scenarios where a particular implementation does not meet the intent of the success criteria.
You can see that a set of documents which is intimidating for the first sight, is really organized and manageable. Even before you get started on the project, you can select all the documentation you might potentially need. For example, you might not need the Level AAA criteria, ARIA or the server-side techniques. Under the given criteria, you can further narrow down the techniques and failures which are applicable to your work.