The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is a technical document published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to help organizations achieve inclusion in their services and products. These guidelines test content against objective standards to create accessible websites. The latest W3C recommendation is WCAG 2.1, and WCAG 2.2 will be released soon.
This article will explore the evolution of accessibility standards and delve into the future of WCAG and website ADA standards.
Table of Contents
- 1 Evolution of Accessibility Standards
- 2 WCAG 2.2
- 3 WCAG 3.0
- 4 Key Changes and Enhancements
- 5 Some of these changes and enhancements are:
- 6 Embracing New Technologies
- 7 Impact on Digital Content Creators
- 8 Transition and Involvement of Different Sectors and Communities
- 9 Future
Evolution of Accessibility Standards
The WCAG is a dynamic process that continuously evolves to ensure universal accessibility to all web content. Here is how it began:
- The first version of the WCAG was known as WCAG 1.0 and was published as a WAI recommendation. It had 14 guidelines and 65 checkpoints encompassing many aspects of web accessibility like color contrast, navigation, etc.
- It was succeeded by WCAG 2.0 in 2008, which was built around three conformance levels:
Level A, Level AA, and Level AAA, with A being the lowest and AAA being the highest level of conformance. In 2018, there was a cumulative date of 2.0, i.e., WCAG 2.1. In this version, the key focus areas were the accessibility of web content to users with cognitive and learning disabilities, users with low vision, and mobile device inclusivity. However, the structure and conformance level remained the same.
- The next update, i.e., WCAG 2.2, was supposed to be published by the end of August 2022, but it is under the proposed recommendation stage and will be released soon. This update focuses on providing more support to improve the accessibility of web content for users with low vision, cognitive disabilities, hearing impairments, and mobile devices.
- The next version of WCAG, i.e., WCAG 3.0 or Silver, is expected to be a major overhaul of guidelines as it introduces a new framework and methodology to evaluate and improve web accessibility. Currently, it is still in the first drafting stage and is intended to become a W3C standard in the coming years.
WCAG 2.2 is the latest version of the WCAG 2.x series, incorporating new requirements and guidance for web accessibility. It follows the same structure as WCAG 2.0 and 2.1, based on four principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. It includes nine new success criteria, adding to the existing 61 from WCAG 2.0 and 2.1. They are:
- 2.4.11 Focus Not Obscured (Minimum) (AA): Any content that appears on hover or focus should not obscure the triggering element or its focus indicator.
- 2.4.12 Focus Not Obscured (Enhanced) (AAA): Any content that appears on hover or focus can be easily dismissed without moving the pointer or keyboard focus.
- 2.4.13 Focus Appearance (AAA): The focus indicator should have sufficient contrast, area, and thickness to be easily visible.
2.5 Input Modalities
- 2.5.7 Dragging Movements (AA): The functionality that can be operated by pointer gestures can also be driven by single-pointer activation or a keyboard.
- 2.5.8 Target Size (Minimum) (AA): The size of interactive targets is at least 44 by 44 CSS pixels, with exceptions.
- 3.2.6 Consistent Help (A): There should be a way to access help information on each web page or set of web pages.
3.3 Input Assistance
- 3.3.7 Redundant Entry (A): The information required to be entered by the user can be easily automatically populated if it was previously provided by the user or by the system.
- 3.3.8 Accessible Authentication (Minimum) (AA): There should be at least one way to authenticate without relying on cognitive function tests or sensory perception tests.
- 3.3.9 Accessible Authentication (Enhanced) (AAA): There should be at least one way to authenticate without relying on memorization or transcription of information.
WCAG 3.0 is the next WCAG series, offering a flexible framework for evaluating and improving web accessibility. Currently, in the First Public Working Draft stage, it differs significantly from WCAG 2.x by using guidelines, outcomes, methods, ratings, and conformance instead of principles, guidelines, and success criteria.
- Guidelines: These are the high-level goals and objectives for web accessibility that are organized into five categories: clear, operable, reliable, robust, and enjoyable. These categories are similar to the four principles of WCAG 2.x, but with some modifications and additions. Each guideline is associated with one or more outcomes that describe the expected results of meeting its requirements.
- Outcomes: These are the specific and measurable requirements for web accessibility derived from the user needs and preferences of different disability groups. Every outcome is assigned a criticality level (essential, important, or beneficial) that indicates the relative impact and priority of meeting that outcome. It is also associated with one or more methods that provide the techniques and best practices for achieving that outcome.
- Methods: The text provides detailed instructions for implementing web accessibility across various technologies and contexts, assigning a type (all, any, or specific) and a score (bronze, silver, or gold) to indicate its applicability, relevance, and difficulty level for a specific outcome.
- Ratings: Web content accessibility ratings are numerical values based on the outcome’s criticality level, the method’s score, and the percentage of content meeting the method, ranging from 0 to 4, with 0 indicating no accessibility and 4 indicating full accessibility.
- Conformance: This is the overall evaluation and certification of web accessibility based on the ratings of all outcomes and methods for web content. Conformance is expressed by a conformance level (bronze, silver, or gold) that indicates the minimum rating required for each outcome. Conformance is also expressed by a conformance score (0 to 100) that shows the average rating of all outcomes.
Key Changes and Enhancements
WCAG 3.0 introduces several key changes and enhancements from WCAG 2.x that aim to improve the usability and accessibility of web content for a wider range of users and situations.
Some of these changes and enhancements are:
- The definition of web content has been broadened to encompass static pages, dynamic applications, multimedia content, and documents, while web accessibility has been broadened to encompass visual, auditory, tactile, cognitive, emotional, and social interaction.
- The proposed changes involve replacing the three conformance levels with three conformance scores, the three priority levels with three criticality levels, and the binary pass/fail criteria with a rating scale to improve web accessibility measurement, user-centered classification, and a more nuanced evaluation of web accessibility performance.
- Introducing new guidelines and outcomes that address new and emerging topics and issues in web accessibility, such as personalization, animation, orientation, etc.
- The text provides a comprehensive list of methods, examples for various technologies and platforms, and tools and resources for web accessibility development and evaluation.
Embracing New Technologies
WCAG 3.0 acknowledges the constantly evolving web and its new technologies, offering guidance and support for making them accessible to all users. It explores the potential accessibility barriers faced by users with disabilities, focusing on using AI, virtual reality, and augmented reality.
However, it can also create challenges like occlusion, clutter, contrast issues, and privacy concerns. 3.0 also provides methods and ratings for making AR content accessible, including text alternatives, captions, audio descriptions, spatial audio, and haptic feedback. It also provides ratings for making IoT content compatible with assistive technologies like screen readers, magnifiers, and voice assistants.
Impact on Digital Content Creators
Digital content creators are facing challenges in transitioning to WCAG 3.0, which differs significantly from WCAG 2.x. They must adapt to the new framework, learn and apply new guidelines, implement and test new methods and ratings, and maintain higher standards and expectations of web accessibility.
To prepare for this, creators should follow these steps:
- Familiarize themselves with the new framework.
- Identify user needs and preferences.
- Evaluate the current accessibility status of their web content.
- Prioritize accessibility improvements, implement and test these improvements, and monitor.
- and report their performance using new ratings, scores, levels, and conformance claims from WCAG 3.0. This will help them meet the new standards and expectations of web accessibility.
Transition and Involvement of Different Sectors and Communities
The transition to WCAG 3.0 necessitates collaboration from various sectors and communities, including disability groups, industry groups, research groups, and education groups. Disability groups represent users with disabilities, while industry groups represent digital content creators.
Research groups conduct scientific research on web accessibility topics, while education groups provide education and training on web accessibility concepts. These groups can provide feedback, input, and participation in user research, content development, innovation, and validation of web content.
To get ready for the transition to WCAG 3.0, these sectors and communities should:
- Engage with the W3C and the WCAG 3.0 Working Group by following the updates, providing comments, joining discussions, attending events, etc.
- Review and familiarize themselves with the draft documents and resources of WCAG 3.0 by reading, analyzing, comparing, etc.
- Experiment and test the draft requirements and methods of WCAG 3.0 by applying, implementing, evaluating, etc.
WCAG 3.0 is a significant milestone in web accessibility standards, designed to be adaptable, extensible, and accommodating to future requirements. It encourages participation from various sectors and communities, fostering new ideas and perspectives on web accessibility. Personalization and adaptation are key aspects of web accessibility, with personalization tailoring content to individual user preferences, while adaptation adjusts content to dynamic user conditions, improving usability but creating uncertainties like predictability and reliability.
Web accessibility is a dynamic concept that adapts to users’ needs, expectations, and emerging technologies. As of September 6th, 2023, WCAG 2.1 is the latest recommendation for web accessibility guidelines, and the WCAG 2.2 release is right around the corner.
WCAG 3.0 is the upcoming framework for evaluating and improving web accessibility. It is a significant overhaul of WCAG principles. 3.0 changes the web accessibility evaluation and implementation by focusing on the comprehensive data from outcomes, methods, ratings, and conformance.
Instead of focusing on principles, guidelines, and success criteria. Furthermore, digital creators might face challenges transitioning as it differs from the WCAG 2.x series. An accessible site design is beneficial for all users, regardless of the technologies used to interact with it. At AEL Data, we have a team of specialists who carefully audit each web page to identify accessibility and remediate issues. Contact us if you need help at email@example.com