When first learning about ADA compliance and web accessibility, there’s a lot of unfamiliar and sometimes confusing terms. That’s why I created this reference page to make it easier to get acquainted with the industry jargon. I’ve listed each term out alphabetically for quick lookup. Please let me know if I missed anything!
508 compliance: referring to the 1998 amendment of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation act, all Federal agencies must make their websites and other electronic content accessible to people with disabilities. 508 compliance in regards to websites generally follows WCAG 2.1, Level AA conformance. In addition to applying to Federal agencies, it can also apply to private websites that are under contract or receiving funds from a federal agency.
A11y: An abbreviation for “accessibility” since there’s 11 characters between the starting ‘a’ and the ending ‘y’. It’s an industry standard shorthand term meaning accessibility for all, including those with disabilities.
ADA compliance: based on the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, businesses are prohibited from discriminating based on disability, including through business websites and apps. While ADA compliance for websites is not fully defined by the act, lawsuits have generally defined compliance as adherence to the WCAG, specifically the WCAG 2.1, Level AA standard. Any business with a public website found to not be in compliance can risk expensive lawsuits.
WCAG: Standing for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, it “is a set of guidelines for making web content more accessible to people with disabilities.” Generally speaking, WCAG (specifically WCAG 2.1, Level AA) is used as the standard to evaluate whether websites comply with ADA or Section 508 legal requirements. More info can be found at A Quick Primer on the WCAG 2.0 Accessibility Standard.
WCAG 2.1: The latest published version of WCAG that came out June 5, 2018 and according to w3.org “covers a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible.”
WCAG A, WCAG AA, WCAG AAA: referring to WCAG 2.1 (see above), there are three levels of ADA compliance with Level A being the easiest to obtain but offering the least amount of accessibility for those with disabilities. Level AAA provides much greater accessibility but can be quite difficult to implement. For ADA and Section 508 compliance, the general requirement is adherence to WCAG 2.1, Level AA.
Website accessibility: according to w3.org, “Web accessibility means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them.” Extending this definition further, website accessibility encompasses more than just complying with the ADA requirements. It is a strategy and approach that produces a truly comparable experience for people with disabilities.