The next major update for the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is on the way. It is about to receive another major update from version 2.1 to 2.2 later this year, adding 9 brand new success criteria which product owners, managers, designers, developers, content creators, testers and users involved with digital accessibility should be aware of.
Here’s what’s new in WCAG 2.2, why its release is significant, and how you can prepare for cutting edge accessibility compliance before the updated guidelines are officially released.
Why is WCAG 2.2 significant?
WCAG 2.0 was last updated from version 2.0 to 2.1 on 5 June 2018, its most significant update in a decade, bringing 17 additional success criteria for cognitive, visual, and mobile content requirements.
The WCAG 2.2 timeline outlines each major development milestone to date, including working drafts and significant iterations of the new guidelines.
What’s new in WCAG 2.2?
In addition to the existing WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 guidelines, WCAG 2.2 introduces 9 new Level A, AA and AAA success criteria covering navigation, input modalities, input assistance and predictability to ensure maximum accessibility conformance for end users. The new requirements provide guidance regarding the appearance of focus indicators, page break navigation, draggable content, target sizes, providing consistent help for users, control visibility, and more.
Here’s an overview of the 9 new WCAG 2.2 success criteria broken down by Level A, AA and AAA conformance level:
Level A (4 new criteria)
- 2.4.13 Page Break Navigation: For web content with page break locators, a mechanism is available to navigate to each locator.
- 3.2.6 Consistent Help: For web pages that provide one or more ways of finding help, at least one form of help should be provided in the same relative order on each page. This may include a human contact mechanism; human contact details; self-help option or fully automated contact mechanism.
- 3.3.7 Accessible Authentication: For each step in an authentication process that relies on a cognitive function test, at least one other non-cognitive authentication method is available or assistance is available to help users complete the test.
- 3.3.8 Redundant Entry: Information previously entered by the user that is required to be entered again is either auto-populated or available for the user to select. Certain exceptions are allowed for information re-entry, security, and validity.
Level AA (4 new criteria)
- 2.4.11 Focus Appearance (Minimum): When user interface components receive keyboard focus, a set of appearance requirements around contrast ratio, minimum area, outline, shape, adjacent contrast, and visibility must be checked to meet this criterion.
- 2.5.7 Dragging: All functionality that uses a dragging movement for operation can be achieved by a single pointer without dragging, unless dragging is essential.
- 2.5.8 Target Size (Minimum): Targets must have an area of at least 24 by 24 CSS pixels, with certain exceptions for adjacent spacing, inline text, or essential presentation of information.
- 3.2.7 Visible Controls: When pointer hover or keyboard focus triggers user interface components to be visible, information needed to identify that user interface component should also be visible. There are exceptions for equivalent components in a multi-step process; enhancements for keyboard navigation; persistently visible components or if hiding visible component information is essential.
Level AAA (1 new criterion)
- 2.4.12 Focus Appearance (Enhanced): When user interface components have keyboard focus, all of the following are true:
- Contrasting area: There is an area of the focus indicator that has a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 between the colours in the focused and unfocused states.
- Minimum area: The contrasting area is at least double the area of a 1 CSS pixel perimeter of the unfocused component.
- Not obscured: No part of the focus indicator is hidden by author-created content.
What happens next?
As of May 2021, WCAG 2.2 is in "Working Draft" stage before its official release later in 2021.
The W3C Accessibility Guidelines Working Group are accepting feedback via GitHub until 11 June 2021. Further updates are expected to continue until WCAG 2.2 is officially published as a W3C Recommendation for public use later this year.
How does this impact my existing WCAG implementation?
International laws and policies on accessibility still list WCAG 2.0 Level AA as the minimum requirement for government and public sector digital services in many countries, however updated laws and policies suggest this is shifting to WCAG 2.1 Level AA at minimum (such as EN 301 549 in Europe, Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) in the UK and AS EN 301 549 in Australia).
If you have already conducted WCAG 2.0 testing, it is highly recommended to consider testing against WCAG 2.1 in preparation for WCAG 2.2 when it is released. WCAG 2.2 will also be backwards compatible with the previous versions, ensuring you have the most comprehensive level of accessibility compliance as soon as the Final Recommendation of WCAG 2.2 is released in 2021.
What can I do to ensure WCAG compliance?
Digital users are encouraged to remind developers, designers, and content authors to consider integrating WCAG and other forms of accessibility testing into their development pipeline to ensure platforms, apps, websites, and digital services are as inclusive as possible for users.
For professionals improving upon an existing organisational strategy or looking to implement accessible practices in their workflow, you can start making your digital platforms compliant with WCAG 2.1 effective immediately. Professionals have an opportunity to research cutting edge accessibility compliance for their apps, websites, and platforms using the WCAG 2.2 Working Draft success criteria right now ahead of the 2021 launch.
How can Planit help me with accessibility?
Planit have helped many clients in banking, education, sports, broadcast media, government and retail ensure conformance to WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 Level A, AA and AAA across digital projects of all sizes.
Visit our Accessibility Testing page and learn how our Digital QA team can help you achieve and maintain WCAG compliance for your digital products through testing, consultancy, and support. We will also provide an accessibility statement highlighting your commitment to WCAG inclusion and conformance.
Also check out our Digital QA page to learn about our range of testing and consultancy options across functionality, compatibility, usability, performance, security and more.