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What is Triple ‘AAA’ Accessibility?

Accessibility is important in modern web development. The Web is intended for everyone, so it's important we can meet the different accessibility needs of all users. There are already some websites out there claiming to have the ‘AAA’ accessibility compliance rating, but what does it actually mean? How can you get this triple 'A' accessibility rating for your website? Fortunately, there are plenty of rich features in HTML to allow developers to do this and some detailed guidelines from W3C to detail what is needed.

THE ‘AAA’ CHECKPOINTS

‘AAA’ is a popular title for compliancy with Priority 1, 2 and 3 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG 1.0).

Here is a summary of these level three checkpoints:

  • 1.5 Until user agents can render text equivalents to client-side image map links (images in which regions can be clicked to navigate to various links), your website should provide redundant text links for each active region of a client-side image map.
  • 4.2 Your website should specify the expansion of each abbreviation or acronym in a document where it first occurs.
  • 4.3 The web page should Identify the primary natural language the document is written in.
  • 5.5 The web page should provide summaries for tables (for instance, using the “summary” attribute of the table element)
  • 5.6 Provide abbreviations for header labels (for instance, using the “abbr” attribute on the TH element.
  • 9.4 Create a logical tab order through links,  form controls, and objects (doing this allows the user to easily move between them in a logical sequence by clicking tab).
  • 9.5 Provide keyboard shortcuts to important links, including those found in client-side image maps, form controls and groups of form controls (for example, in HTML specify shortcuts via the ‘access key’).
  • 10.3 Until user agents (including assistive technologies) render side-by-side text correctly, the website should provide a linear text alternative (on the current page or some other) for all tables that lay out text in parallel, word-wrapped columns.
  • 10.4 Until user agents handle empty controls correctly, your website should include default, place-holding characters in edit boxes and textareas (for example, for text input or textarea elements within a form).
  • 10.5 Until user agents (including assistive technologies) render adjacent links distinctly, your website should include non-link, printable characters (surrounded by spaces) between adjacent links.
  • 11.3 Your website should provide information so that users may receive documents according to their preferences (e.g., based on the users language, device, content type, etc.)
  • 13.5 You should provide navigation bars to highlight and give access to the navigation mechanism.
  • 13.6 Your website should group related links, identify the group (for user agents), and, until user agents do so, provide a way to bypass the group.
  • 13.7 If search functions are provided, you should provide different types searches for different skill levels and preferences.
  • 13.8 You should place distinguishing information at the beginning of headings, paragraphs, lists, etc.
  • 13.9 Your website should provide information about document collections (i.e., documents comprising multiple pages.).
  • 13.10 You should provide a means to skip over multi-line ASCII art.
  • 14.2 Supplement text with graphic or auditory presentations where they will facilitate comprehension of the page.
  • 14.3 Create a style of presentation that is consistent across pages.

Satisfying each point will ensure that you meet the criteria for triple A accessibility. But point 11.3 deserves some attention. This point requires documents to be served according to user preferences, and gives an example of 'language'. Taking this literally, this would suggest  that all websites should be available in all languages, but this wouldn't be very realistic in many cases! 

The 'spirit' of this checkpoint is really that the document should be available in some other form than that which it was originally written, hopefully one that will significantly aid accessibility. In the United Kingdom, a good example of this might be offering the website in Welsh in addition to English for instance.

However, as is evident from a quick search, the majority of web sites sporting the ‘AAA’ badge don’t do offer something as simple as that. The reality is that ‘AAA’ is very difficult without significant resources and even ‘AA’ is often difficult to maintain on every page.

The Web is continually growing and while chasing the triple A accessibility rating may present several challenges to your website, clearly much can be done to make the Web more accessible for all.

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