After countless delays, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) officially published WCAG 2.2 on October 5, 2023. This is a substantial breakthrough in the world of digital accessibility, as WCAG 2.1 has been the standard since 2018.
Wait, What Are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Again?
Before we dive into the changes outlined in WCAG 2.2, here’s a quick review of what the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are internationally recognized technical standards published by The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that are designed to provide guidance on how to make web content more accessible to those with disabilities. Since the introduction of WCAG 1.0 in 1999, W3C has consistently published new versions of WCAG to reflect the ever-changing nature of the internet.
Each version of WCAG outlines specific success criteria to ensure digital content is accessible to those with disabilities and optimized for assistive technologies (such as screen readers). These success criteria are organized around four principles of accessibility:
- Perceivable - Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
- Operable - The user interface components and navigation must be functional and easy to use.
- Understandable - Information and the operation of the user interface must be clear and comprehensible.
- Robust - Content must be strong and adaptable enough that it can be consistently and correctly interpreted by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
Each version of WCAG outlines three separate conformance levels, which are explained below.
- Level A is the minimum level and addresses the most basic and fundamental accessibility requirements.
- Level AA includes all Level A and AA requirements and is the most widely used conformance level, allowing organizations to cover the basics while taking a step further toward more accessible web content.
- Level AAA is the highest possible level and includes all Level A, AA, and AAA requirements. W3C recognizes that Level AAA might not be applicable or realistic for all organizations and content types, but striving to achieve as many criteria as possible is the goal.
What’s New in WCAG 2.2
WCAG 2.2 introduces nine NEW success criteria, which were not a requirement in WCAG 2.1. These new success criteria are outlined below.
- 2.4.11 Focus Not Obscured (Minimum) (AA)
- 2.4.12 Focus Not Obscured (Enhanced) (AAA)
- 2.4.13 Focus Appearance (AAA)
- 2.5.7 Dragging Movements (AA)
- 2.5.8 Target Size (Minimum) (AA)
- 3.2.6 Consistent Help (A)
- 3.3.7 Redundant Entry (A)
- 3.3.8 Accessible Authentication (Minimum) (AA)
- 3.3.9 Accessible Authentication (Enhanced) (AAA)
It’s important to note that three out of the nine new success criteria are for Level AAA conformance.
These new success criteria are primarily designed to assist individuals with cognitive and learning disabilities as well as dexterity and motor issues.
All of the WCAG 2.1 success criteria are essentially the same in WCAG 2.2 with one exception: Parsing (4.1.1), which has been removed entirely from WCAG 2.2.
Parsing (4.1.1) was originally introduced as a success criterion in WCAG 2.0, to ensure that browsers and assistive technologies could accurately parse markup and content. Since WCAG 2.0 was introduced in 2008, web browsers have improved how they handle parsing errors, therefore this success criteria is no longer necessary.
Catching Up to WCAG 2.2
While it’s highly recommended to always follow the most recent version of WCAG, it will take some time for WCAG 2.2 to become the new “gold standard”.
Accessibility-related software (such as monitoring/scanning tools) need to update their platforms to include the new WCAG 2.2 success criteria.
Additionally, it will be a gradual transition for existing (and future) legislation to reference WCAG 2.2. For example, Section 508 of the federal Rehabilitation Act still references WCAG 2.0 and Colorado’s House Bill 21-1110 (which fully goes into effect in July 2024) references WCAG 2.1.
Bear in mind that WCAG 2.2 is ultimately built on top of the existing WCAG 2.1 success criteria, so if your organization is already conducting efforts to conform to WCAG 2.1, you’re in a great position.
Feel free to reach out if you would like to discuss WCAG 2.1 or WCAG 2.2 and ways your organization can take steps towards a more accessible digital presence.