Introduction to WCAG Samurai errata
for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0

This is an introduction to the errata (corrections) for the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG 1). The errata are published by, and can be attributed to, the WCAG Samurai, an independent group of developers convened in 2006.

Where do I find the full errata document?

It’s available as of 26 February 2020. There are also two supplementary documents – one on the Brewer palette for colour deficiency and another on PDF.

What about WCAG 2?

These errata do not cover WCAG 2.0 in any respect. The WCAG Samurai errata are published as an alternative to WCAG 2. You may comply with WCAG 2, or with these errata, or with neither, but not with both at once.

Is this the final version?

Probably. The WCAG Samurai errata are now frozen at Version 1.0 for the foreseeable future. We are not willing to declare up front that we will or will not publish revisions. We will see how it goes. In particular, we will correct minor errors, or even some major ones. A difference of opinion is not an error in this context, as the entire point of these errata is an articulation of one group’s opinion.

Easy summary

Here’s a quick summary of the changes we’ve made to WCAG 1. (If you want to comply with WCAG+Samurai, you have to use the full details in the appropriate sections, not this summary, which is provided here for convenience.)

How can I comply with the errata?

The first thing to understand is that you do not have to comply with these errata. The WCAG Samurai errata are an optional addition to WCAG 1, which we use as a base. You start by reading and understanding WCAG 1, then you read these errata as a correction to WCAG 1.

The errata tell you which parts of WCAG 1 you must ignore and which parts are incorrect. It tells you the proper modern methods by which you can comply with WCAG 1. As such, the errata pick and choose from the full range of WCAG 1. But you may not pick and choose from these errata. You have to comply with everything at once, as long as your document contains content that applies to a guideline.

You do not have to claim to comply with the WCAG Samurai errata even if you actually do comply. But if you wish to make that claim, you have to clearly say so. We do not dictate the exact terms you must use, but some examples are:

If only a few pages on a site comply, you must limit your statement to those pages. If only a few pages on a site do not comply, you must state the pages that do not comply.

Here are examples of terminology you cannot use:

Why we developed the Samurai in a closed process

Because the ostensibly open process of the W3C actually isn’t open: It’s dominated by multinationals; the opinions of everyone other than invited experts can be and are ignored; invited-expert status has been refused or revoked; the Working Group can claim that “consensus” has been reached even in the face of unresolved internal disagreement; the process is itself inaccessible to people with disabilities, like deaf people; WCAG Working Group chairs have acted like bullies.

The “open” W3C process simply didn’t work. We tried something else.

Implications of HTML semantics

To comply with WCAG+Samurai, you have to meet all Priority 1 and 2 guidelines, as corrected. That includes Guideline 3.2, which requires valid code (“documents that validate to published formal grammars”). We know from experience that a document that is valid HTML may still be inaccessible. The classic example is a page that uses tables for layout. A more relevant example is a page that has valid HTML but poor semantics (e.g., every block of text is marked up as a paragraph p, even if the text is really a list or a heading). We cannot really criticize the W3C for omitting document semantics when WCAG 1.0 was written in the late 1990s, but we must correct that omission now.

Under WCAG+Samurai, not only must you write valid HTML documents (with valid CSS), you must use the correct semantics for your content. We know that some content is ambiguous and sometimes you must approximate. (Should a segment of text use a definition list or an unordered list? Should a phrase use <strong> or just bold?) Edge cases like these are not sufficient to disqualify a claim of compliance with WCAG+Samurai because, across the Web, the correct semantics for most content is not in dispute.

Since we are requiring valid code, many WCAG 1 guidelines become redundant or are too restrictive. In particular, in the course of eliminating a requirement to comply with Priority 3, a few of its guidelines are subsumed under a requirement to use valid, semantic HTML.

Priority 3 guidelines to ignore

All of them. In particular:

General exception for instructional documents

Documents that aim to teach Web accessibility, including documents with intentionally incorrect markup or features that readers or students could correct, are exempt from WCAG+Samurai provided that the instructional intent is explained.

Peer reviews

We sent out an early version of these errata for independent, confidential peer review by two people, Gian Sampson-Wild and Alastair Campbell. You may read Gian’s review and Alastair’s review. The WCAG Samurai had no control over or foreknowledge of the contents of these reviews.

These errata are copyright © 2008 WCAG Samurai.

We based the errata on the following original document from the W3C (with which we are unaffiliated):

We provided the references above to comply with the W3C’s standing copyright requests. Those references do not refer to the document you are presently reading.

These errata were developed independently of the W3C and make no statement or impression as to the positions, statements or actions of W3C. Frankly, we wouldn’t want to make any such statement, nor would we want them making such statements about us.

W3C™ is a trademark of the World Wide Web Consortium. So is HTML™, although “WCAG” is not.

Additionally, these errata are published as review and criticism of WCAG 1.0 under the fair-dealing provisions of Canadian copyright law. They are not a derivative work and they are not an “integration of errata.”

Version history

V1.0 posted.

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