WCAG is a part of the letter M in MVP (Minimum Viable Product)

Note: This post is older than two years. It may still be totally valid, but things change and technology moves fast. Code based posts may be especially prone to changes...

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Minimum viable product that is not accessible is not really minimum. And then also the WCAG on level AA is the minimum, a baseline. When we reflect over those two facts – we must agree that MVP must at minimum conform to WCAG 2.1 on level AA. If this MVP will run in EU’s public sector even WCAG 2.1 on level AA alone is not the minimum.

Getting products to clients as fast as possible and then continuously improve them is at the hearth of agile philosophy and often we refer to it as minimum viable products (MVP). When those are not accessible from start it means that we potentially discriminate up to a quarter of users – depending on our target audience. And here we can use Web Content Accessibility Guidelines to start with a sane baseline. When our MVPs conform to WCAG (on level AA at least), then we really made a minimum viable product. This should at least be our goal from start.

Unfortunately it often isn’t.

Lack of knowledge and experience, lack of user testing with different user groups, focusing on technology before user experience often makes WCAG at the end of the back-log and as far as I can detect it remains there for ever. When we all understand the wrongs of it – we will make the world more accessible. Starting early, as soon as possible – maybe as early as when sketching interfaces on paper – can help us integrate accessibility from “inside out” and prevents us “bolting it on at the end”.

WCAG itself should also be a minimum

I often see WCAG as the ultimate goal and unfortunately I also hear that it is practically unreachable. Again an indication of unawareness and too little knowledge. On the other hand we really should promote the best practices, make leaders lead with examples and finally have awards including inclusive digital products. I agree with that.

On the other hand we all do too little to make the awareness stick. It is not enough to only have a once-per-year awareness days, although they do bring some additional focus to groups of professionals that may have missed it before. We should try to increase the focus to put accessibility in our daily tasks and improve also knowledge building on all levels. WCAG is in fact only the baseline – it’s still missing out a lot and needs to be updated to support new technologies and improve supporting different disabilities that are also being researched more effectively. WCAG 3 is being worked on and we will for sure get better guidelines for cognitive disabilities and cover wider spectrum of it. This also means that current WCAG is really a baseline, a minimum, when considering all the novelties that it’s not covering yet.

Therefore we can even find “upgraded” guidelines and even requirements that use WCAG as a baseline and upgrade it with additional “success criteria”. One of them is the European standard, used in Web Accessibility Directive, called EN 301 549. It is quite well known fact that EN 301 549 includes WCAG 2.1 but I think it should also be worth mentioning that EN 301 549 reaches beyond WCAG 2.1.

Web Accessibility Directive (EN 301 549) requires more than WCAG 2.1 on level AA

EN 301 549 version 3.2.1 Chapter 9 defines the WAD requirements for web. But some parts of WAD that are under different categories (software, video,…) also applies for web when we consider the whole context.

So this means basically that all European public sector websites need to conform to more than just WCAG 2.1 on level AA. I will not go into all the details in this post, but will just point out some additional requirements that I find interesting.

EN 301 549 – 11.7 User preferences – one of the requirements beyond WCAG 2.1 AA

Respecting user preferences is extremely important for any user so this requirement may not come as a surprise, but I think it hides quite a lot and also leaves some room for interpretation. I’ll try to write about my opinion in this section.

Original text (version 3.2.1) goes like this;

Where software is not designed to be isolated from its platform, and provides a user interface, that user interface shall follow the values of the user preferences for platform settings for: units of measurement, colour, contrast, font type, font size, and focus cursor except where they are overridden by the user.

intro text for EN 301 549 – 11.7 User preferences.

In my opinion this means that designers, developers and content providers should implement support to respect user preferences. A lot of the activities here are on designers and developers, but as always content providers have their say too.

There are some CSS best practices that we must respect, like relative units for fonts and majority of UI. There are also CSS user preference media features that come to mind when reading about it and I am sure you can find abundance of examples out there;

  1. Prefers-reduced-motion (not directly related to 11.7 but still very relevant for WCAG)
  2. Prefers-reduced-transparency
  3. Prefers-contrast
  4. Prefers-color-scheme
  5. Forced-colors
  6. Prefers-reduced-data

Please consult with official W3.org specification for user preference media features (opens in new window) and as always check for browser support.

Seems like such requirements will also be a part of WCAG 3 and we should make them be integral into our planning, from minimum viable products and beyond.


Author: Bogdan Cerovac

I am IAAP certified Web Accessibility Specialist (from 2020) and was Google certified Mobile Web Specialist.

Work as digital agency co-owner web developer and accessibility lead.

Sole entrepreneur behind IDEA-lab Cerovac (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility lab) after work. Check out my Accessibility Services if you want me to help your with digital accessibility.

Also head of the expert council at Institute for Digital Accessibility A11Y.si (in Slovenian).

Living and working in Norway (🇳🇴), originally from Slovenia (🇸🇮), loves exploring the globe (🌐).

Nurturing the web from 1999, this blog from 2019.

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