The icing on the cake: The difference between AA and AAA compliance



Achieving a level of compliance for your app or website means that as far as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are concerned, your offering is accessible to as many user groups as possible who require assistive technology to get online. The term assistive technology, and even accessibility can mean different things to different people, and here at the Digital Accessibility Centre (DAC) we offer level AA and AAA accreditation for our clients depending on their requirements.

What do the different levels mean?

  1. Single A is viewed as the minimum level of requirement which all websites, apps, and electronic content such as documents should adhere to.
  2. Double A is viewed as the acceptable level of accessibility for many online services, which should work with most assistive technology which is now widely available on both desktop and mobile devices, or which can be purchased as a third-party installation.
  3. Triple A compliance is viewed as the gold standard level of accessibility, which provides everything for a complete accessible offering, including all the bells and whistles which make the difference between a very good experience and an excellent one.

In his post called Why do we need WCAG Level AAA? (External link), Luke McGrath points out that problems may occur and cause a failure for some AA criteria when attempting to reach AAA. Trying to meet AAA will mean that your website is the best it can be, however including the additional implementation may not be possible if budget is a concern, and working through a particular problem may push back a go live date if trying to fix AA issues when trying to move to AAA. A good example of AAA is found below, which highlights how AA and AAA can make the difference for end users.

One key difference between AA and AAA is for screen reader users when navigating the page. If a screen reader user is viewing a list of links and hears their software announce ‘click here’ or ‘read more’, it will pass as double A if the links are associated with each other in a paragraph or list. This means that the link would be surrounded by text like, ‘to read the DAC blog click here’, click here being the link. While it is possible to read the information using another method of navigation such as reading the entire paragraph rather than just a set of links, the link text would be ambiguous when moving through all the links to find the required content. So including the icing (a clear link text in this instance), would make the link easier to read no matter what method of navigation is being used.

As shown above, moving to AAA if at all possible will create the best experience for all users, however AA is accepted as a very good commitment to accessibility. For more information feel free to get in touch, or check the following link for more information. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG2 External link).