Learn more about web standards at Penn

Penn’s Office of General Counsel has determined that the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA and the underlying POUR principles are the standard for Penn websites. Adherence will ensure that content is directly accessible to as many people as possible, and capable of being represented in different forms to match people’s sensory, physical, and cognitive abilities.

A working group formed through IT departments from Penn’s schools recommends the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) WAVE evaluation tool as the best way to assess a website’s accessibility, and should be used for consistent evaluation and compliance by Penn schools. WAVE is a free industry standard tool that can be used to validate the accessibility of a page’s structure, content, and the contrast of colors used in a design.

WCAG 2.0, Level AA

The WCAG 2.0 are a set of guidelines for making webpages more accessible for people with disabilities. They are maintained by the W3C, the main, international governing body for the internet.

Adherence to these simple principles will ensure a uniform, equitable web experience by those who are disabled. It allows the software relied upon by disabled people to reinterpret page content in the way that best suits their abilities.


In addition to outlining accessibility rules, WCAG provides different conceptual models and resources for better understanding and empathizing with the many ways users experience websites. The following lists of accessibility principles and guidelines are a brief introduction to accessibility. Those wishing to learn more should refer to the authoritative documentation provided by the W3C.

Four principals of accessibility (POUR)


All elements of a page (text, graphics, navigation, multimedia, including videos, podcasts) must be presented in a manner that makes them knowable and usable to the broadest array of users, including those with low vision, as well as those who primarily experience the web via sound or touch.

Details via WebAIM. 


All page controls (navigation, form elements, rich media controls, for instance) must be able to be successfully used by the broadest array of users. Not all users will rely on a mouse to operate page controls; some will rely on keyboards, vocal commands, mouth sticks and more.

Details via WebAIM. 


Information and page controls must be knowable. The language and vocabulary used should be appropriate for target audiences. The use of navigational system and form controls should be consistent, predictable and labeled appropriately. If tasks, such as form submission or calculations, on page are complex, instructions should be provided.

Details via WebAIM. 


Page content must be structured in a way that it can be interpreted by the widest range of user devices and assistive technologies. Just as audience members differ greatly in their abilities, they vary too in the technologies used to access the web. Users should maintain control over how page content is rendered. Consideration should be given to older browsers as well as users with lower bandwidth.

Details via WebAIM. 

All of the above must be true before a page can be considered accessible. Go to 

Web Accessibility for Content Providers

Accessibility is a shared responsibility between the people that maintain websites.

Content providers are an important part of this chain.

Please go to the Content Providers page for tips.


University websites must meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA requirement as well as satisfy the 4 underlying principles (POUR) of web accessibility.

Questions about what the law requires in specific situations, including accessibility issues, should be addressed to the Office of General Counsel at (215) 746-5200.

Upcoming Changes

WCAG 2.1 will become the University standard when it is released by the Department of Justice.

Recommended Tools

Pope Tech is the recommended tool for ensuring compliance with federal accessibility standards. Please contact ISC Client Care to have your School, Center, or department provisioned for Pope Tech.