For web-applications I'm used to using WCAG 2.0 as a specification to provide to developers and 3rd parties who are developing websites to use as a guide.

I now have a 3rd party supplying a Windows application. My belief is that the principles and guidelines of WCAG apply equally well to desktop applications. However having 'Web' in the name of the standards is proving a bit of a stumbling block.

Are there any equivalent standards, or alternately uses of WCAG that I could use as a non-web accessibility specification?

On key thing to highlight, this is a package solution from a 3rd party, which I'd like them to assess against a guideline for level of compliance.

  • There are some accessibility APIs for desktop application, such as the Microsoft Active Accessibility MSAA and it's more updated cross-OS implementation iAccessible2 that may prove useful. Somewhat lacking in actual guidelines though as it's an API.
    – JonW
    Commented May 4, 2012 at 9:51

4 Answers 4


While I cant say I have had to worry about the accessibility of desktop application. I would suggest keeping all of the WCAG 2.0 items in mind while developing your desktop applicable but also reference the Microsoft HICs:Microsoft Human Interface Guidance

If you are interested here are the Apple and the Gnome projects. It might help two reference all 3 for common standards.

Apple HICs

Gnome Accessibility

The US does have some legal requirements called the 508 standards: section508.gov and specifically guidance for desktop software

  • Thanks. Key thing here though is it is a package being supplied by a 3rd party. I'm aware that (in the UK at least) there is various legislation around disability discrimination, for which WCAG is often used as the benchmark to test 3rd party websites against. So I'd like to be able to point at a similar industry standard when people supply us with desktop packages as opposed to web applications
    – Kris C
    Commented May 3, 2012 at 18:28
  • Kris C just so you know the US does have some legal requirements call the 508 standards. Being I work for a governmental agency we must adhere to these standards. section508.gov
    – JeffH
    Commented May 7, 2012 at 16:08
  • Thanks Jeff - I'd found the 508 standards as they relate to OS and applications (in my answer: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/20902/…). I'm doing similar work in the UK, but although the legislation and standards are similar (i.e. agnostic of delivery method - web / desktop etc), the implementation guidance I can find is focussed on web only. I'm probably going to refer to the US 508 application standards unless I can find a UK equivalent...
    – Kris C
    Commented May 7, 2012 at 21:57

The US legislation (508) is split into separate sections for web and desktop. The guidance for "Software Applications and Operating Systems" covers the kind of considerations that I would expect a 3rd party software supplier to consider and to be able to fairly easily answer.


ISO 9241-171 Guidance on Software Accessibility is an international standard for Ergonomics of human-system interaction. I use this standard for evaluating the accessibility of non-web applications.

As opposed to other recommendations, ISO standards are impartial and international (rather than US-centric for example).


Windows User Experience Interaction Guidelines ?

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