Version 2.2 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is due for release in April 2023. It’s an exciting time for digital accessibility. In this article, we will dive into what changes you can expect in the updated guidelines.
Before getting into specifics, let’s dive into the history of WCAG and how version 2.2 came to be.
WCAG 1.0 and WCAG 2.0
WCAG 1.0 comprised 14 guidelines to help ensure that web pages were accessible to people of varying ability levels.
Almost a decade later, WCAG 2.0 was released in 2008.
How was 2.0 different from 1.0?
WCAG 2.0 introduced a new format. Rather than the 14 bulleted lists of guidelines, version 2.0 was built upon four principles of digital accessibility. According to these principles, digital content would need to be:
Each of these principles had respective success criteria to help ensure compliance.
Ten years later, WCAG 2.1 was released in 2018. Rather than a complete overhaul of the guidelines, it served as an addendum to reflect the rapidly-evolving technological landscape by introducing additional success criteria to help users follow the four principles.
Development of WCAG 2.2
The drafting of WCAG 2.2 began in August 2020. At the time, the world was in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. And as traumatic as it was, the pandemic also catalyzed digital accessibility progress in response to the rise of remote work and unprecedented reliance on internet technology.
Where we are today
At the time of writing, WCAG 2.2 is in its final drafting stages and is slated for release in April 2023.
According to the W3 site, “WCAG 2.2 was initiated with the goal to continue the work of WCAG 2.1: Improving accessibility guidance for three major groups: users with cognitive or learning disabilities, users with low vision, and users with disabilities on mobile devices.”
W3 also states, “WCAG 2.2 has removed one success criterion, 4.1.1 Parsing.”
“Parsing” in this context refers to the ability of assistive technology to interpret HTML. This criterion, however, has been deemed obsolete. According to W3, “Assistive Technology no longer has any need to directly parse HTML and, consequently, these problems no longer exist.”
What are the new features in WCAG 2.2?
Like 2.1, 2.2 has added success criteria to help ensure compliance with the principles outlined in 2.0.
Focus appearance refers to ensuring that keyboard focus indicators are discernible. Focus indicators highlight the element on a web page that is currently in focus.
For example, when a link receives focus, an outline is displayed around the link. This outline should be a color that creates sufficient contrast with the background color.
Focus not obscured
This means that potentially-overlapping content, such as sticky footers, sticky headers, and non-modal dialogues, should not be able to obscure content highlighted by a focus indicator. If an item is receiving focus, it should be discernible despite overlapping neighboring content.
There are two levels to this criterion.
The minimum level requires that an interface component receiving focus should not be “entirely hidden due to author-created content.”
The enhanced level states that no aspect of the interface component should be hidden.
This criterion states all web page functions that operate by dragging content with a cursor should be able to be performed by a single pointer and without dragging.
This is meant to accommodate users who may not be able to drag web page content precisely with their cursor.
Minimum target size
Consistent help, in this context, refers to having a webpage’s contact details, self-help options, and other help mechanisms repeated on multiple web pages on a website.
The basic and enhanced levels of this criterion state that cognitive test functions, such as solving puzzles or remembering a password, should not be required for any stage of web page authentication unless alternatives are offered.
Suitable alternatives include object recognition and identifying non-text content that the user has previously provided.
This criterion concerns information that a user enters into a website. If that information needs to be re-entered in the same manner, it should either auto-populate or be available for the user to select.
The only exception is if re-entering the information is essential to security or if the previously entered information has become invalid.
Since WCAG 2.2 is still technically in its draft stages, it’s hard to know which of these new criteria will make it to the final draft. Regardless, each of these updates marks exciting developments in digital accessibility.
Keep checking back for updates as we draw closer to the official launch date of version 2.2 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.