Understanding WCAG Compliance: Levels A, AA, and AAA

Understanding WCAG Compliance: Levels A, AA, and AAA

Key Takeaways

  1. WCAG 2.2 consists of three compliance levels: A, AA, and AAA.
  2. WCAG provides guidelines for what an accessible website should accomplish at each level, from minimal, acceptable, to ideal accessibility.
  3. The conformance levels are based on the four principles of WCAG known as POUR: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust.
  4. Level A is the minimum conformance level, Level AA is the mid-range conformance that is widely accepted, and Level AAA is the highest.

What is WCAG Compliance?

WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. It is a set of internationally recognized guidelines developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). These guidelines provide a framework for making web content more accessible to people with disabilities.
The primary goal of WCAG is to ensure that websites and digital content are designed and developed in a way that allows all users, regardless of their abilities, to perceive, operate, understand, and interact with the content effectively. This includes individuals with visual, auditory, cognitive, and motor impairments, as well as those with other disabilities.

Understanding WCAG Compliance: Levels A, AA, and AAA

Accessibility compliance paves the way for a future with universal access for all. It is an ethical investment that benefits everyone, especially those with disabilities. The goal is to create high-quality websites that do not exclude a particular group. But how do you determine what makes your content web accessible? The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG version 2.2, has set international standards for web accessibility to meet the needs of individuals and organizations. This blog post answers your questions about different WCAG compliance levels: A, AA, and AAA.

What are the Levels of WCAG compliance?

The latest version, WCAG 2.2, consists of three compliance levels: A, AA, and AAA. Each level includes guidelines that aim for web accessibility for different groups of users depending on their specific needs.

Level A: The minimum conformance level with basic guidelines for an accessible website.
Level AA: The mid-range conformance level includes Level A and additional guidelines. Most organizations try to attain this level.
Level AAA: It is the highest level that includes Level A, AA, and AAA guidelines.

Let’s take a look at each of the WCAG compliance levels.

WCAG 2.0 Level A

Level A is the minimum conformance level where websites must follow all the Level A success criteria. The success criteria are easy to achieve with the least impact on the website structure. At this conformance level, web content will still have some accessibility barriers. Accessing its information will be challenging or impossible for many users with impairments. Some of the basic requirements are as follows:
  • Alt text for images
  • Easy to navigate with a keyboard
  • Descriptive transcripts for pre-recorded audio or video media
  • Content that is not based only on shape, size, color, sound or other sensory characteristics
  • Avoiding audio or video that plays automatically
  • A pause, stop, and hide option for moving elements like videos

WCAG 2.0 Level AA

Level AA conformance defines a higher level of accessibility. Most accessibility laws and regulations, including the ADA, apply to this level.If a website is used and understood by most users with or without disabilities and meets Level A and Level AA success criteria, it is considered to have WCAG 2.2 Level AA accessibility.

Following these criteria will eliminate significant barriers to accessing web content. However, access to information may be a problem for some users. The WCAG 2.2 Level AA criteria include the following:

  • The color contrast of text is 4.5:1
  • Navigation elements are to be consistent
  • Headings are to be used in a logical order
  • Captions for live audio and video media
  • Web forms should have accurate labels
  • Content should be available on both vertical and horizontal device orientations


A website must meet Level A, Level AA and Level AAA criteria to reach this highest level of conformance. Achieving this level makes your website accessible to most users. It improves the user experience for individuals with disabilities and the elderly. But Level AAA compliance is not easy to achieve for all content. While this is the optimum level of conformance for full web accessibility, the W3 does not recommend it as a general rule, as specific content cannot meet all Level AAA compliance requirements. Some notable Level AAA web accessibility requirements include:
  • Provision for sign language interpretation
  • Provision for audio description for audio and video content
  • Color contrast is at least 7:1
  • Flashing blocks of content is not advisable
  • No time limit on browsing a website
  • Provision for color switch and text resizing
  • Background audio should be avoided

What are the Principles of Digital Accessibility?

There are four main principles of digital accessibility recognized by the WCAG (Web Content
Accessibility Guidelines) is encompassed by the acronym POUR. Let us explore what each principle stands for:

  1. Perceivable – According to the first principle of digital accessibility, your user interface and the information must be conveyed to the users in an easily perceivable way. The user should be able to make sense of the digital content without difficulties. Everyone, whether they read the information or use an additional technology for reading, should be able to perceive accurate knowledge. To make content perceivable:
    • Alt (alternative) text should be provided for matters with no text, like the images
    • Content should be adaptable to structure in ways without losing the original information
  2. Operable – Operable content means users can successfully navigate through buttons, controls, and navigation tools. Even when users use assistive technologies like screen readers or Braille displays, they should be able to operate the digital content without any hassles. To make digital content more operable, you should focus on the following:
    • Making every function accessible with the help of a keyboard, mouse, and other assistive inputs
    • Giving users enough time to access the content
    • Not designing content that can cause seizures or physical reactions
    • Providing easier navigation
  3. Understandable – Understandable digital content relates to making the user interface and information easier
    to comprehend for every user. The design, presentation, format, and usage pattern should hold an appropriate tone and voice.

    Making web content understandable requires you to:

    • Create readable and understandable text
    • Operate the webpage in a predictable manner
    • Give input assistance to avoid or correct mistakes
  4. Robust – The content should be robust enough for users and their assistive technologies to interpret it correctly to access websites, documents, and media easily. To make it robust, your business must prioritize compatibility for user agents and technologies.


While these guidelines seem intimidating, understanding the different WCAG conformance levels can help make your digital content more accessible to your audience, improve your online presence, and prevent lawsuits.

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Are you looking for affordable and scalable accessibility services? Talk to us today !

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Debangku Sarma

Digital Marketing Associate
Continual Engine

Vijayshree Vethantham

Senior Vice-President, Growth & Strategy
Continual Engine US LLC

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