WCAG 2.0 for content writers: let's be realistic

Way back when, I decided to run some articles on WCAG 2.0 for content authors. After writing 3 or 4, I figured these articles gave too much (and yet too little) information to too few. So I allowed the series to quietly fizzle out. Shortly afterwards, Alice and I started planning a complete Contented online training programme on WCAG 2.0 for content authors. (By the way, it will also cover Section 508 for content authors.)

Our concern is always for the so-called content author: this peculiar label. (Or content writer, same people.) We don't mean dedicated writers of web content: they know who they are, and being a content author is part of their identity. We mean the hundreds of thousands—no, millions!—of employees who happen to write stuff that happens to be made, stored, filed and distributed electronically.

Meet the front-line writers
Let's call them the front-line writers. They're precious people working in the trenches, or rather at their desks.

  • They write stuff at work every day.
  • They don't think of themselves as content authors.
  • They do not understand HTML or CSS.
  • They are not familiar with Styles or metadata.
  • And yet everything they write has to pass accessibility tests, whether as a Word or Writer document, PDF, web content or intranet content. (Yes, even government intranets are supposed to comply with WCAG 2.0 in some countries. This has huge implications.)

So who was ever going to read my articles on WCAG 2.0 for content authors? Heaps of lovely clever people (like you) with a special interest in web content: but no front-line content authors, I think.

What front-line content writers need
They need the skills to write content that's usable, accessible and findable, and a certain amount of technical understanding. They will only learn what they need to know when their manager organizes training for them. They are far too busy to volunteer!

Realistically, affordable, scalable training in WCAG 2.0 for content authors is where we see the greatest need. At present, there's plenty of training available—excellent training, no doubt. But we think most of the WCAG 2.0 training is directed at workers higher up the content food chain: content strategists, web teams, web developers,content managers, content editors, IT staff and so on.

Trained people go forth into the world and create wonderfully accessible web sites.

But accessibility is only as good as the content. And that old hairy mammoth is still in the room: inaccessible content.

That's a problem Contented has always aimed to solve, on a big scale, big time—but at a small cost. Is that your problem too? We'd love to help you.

One article in the doomed series


Sep 08, 2014 • Posted by Frank

I Agree with you. It’s one of the biggest problem I think modern practice will be for someone is to take time a write something that can attract audience’

Jan 12, 2012 • Posted by Rebecca

Hi Rachel
I agree – its a huge problem, and one which WCAG2 seems to have made much worse for the thousands of people producing web content.

In the old days things were much simpler (see http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/full-checklist.html – very similar in reality to WCAG2 but presented in a way which makes the principles behind it all, such as device independence much more accessible.)

One thing which seems to help enormously on the front-end code side is when tools and frameworks that people grab and use have standards compliance already built in. Perhaps this is what needs to happen for content writing as well – and already does in some cases, e.g. some CMS ask for alt, captions etc. I think you just need to work more closely with the folks who are speccing and building these tools.

Jan 12, 2012 • Posted by Rachel McAlpine

You are right. And we’d love to work more closely with people building CMSs—and also with Sharepoint, Author-It and other commercial CMS to ensure their templates have built-in standards compliance. That’s one part of this puzzle. We’d also like everyone using a CMS to have instant access to our checklists, courses and other tools. Seems like putting these on the digital desktop would be such an easy thing to do, with such benefits to the organization, the individuals—and the CMS. One day! Anyone keen, call us.

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