Upcoming WCAG 2.2 & 3.0 Website ADA Compliance Standards
Corporations, organizations and institutions increasingly recognize the value in digital accessibility, as well as the cost of Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuits when accessibility is ignored or when shortcuts are taken. And as consumers and employees choose brands that align with their values, there’s increased pressure to ensure that all digital spaces and content are inclusive to all.
The standards in practice for ADA and 508 compliance and digital inclusion are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). They are the internationally recognized standards for digital accessibility for websites, web applications, mobile apps, and digital content. The WCAG was established and is maintained by the W3C which first introduced version 1.0 in 1999. The current version 2.1 was published in 2018 and added 17 additional criteria to version 2.0. And version 2.2 is expected to be published in late 2022.
WCAG Version 2.2 Overview
While WCAG 2.2 is still in draft form, we do expect 9 primary additions to version 2.1. These will focus on improving access for users with challenges with cognition, sight, hearing and motor skills.
Accessing protected areas or captcha methods for blocking bots are examples where if a cognitive function test is required, an alternative method must also be offered.
For people who cannot easily drag (and drop) using a mouse for example, an alternative method must be provided.
Help tools must be provided to improve the usability for all users. FAQs and contact information must be easy to find.
Page Break Navigation
This applies more to the usability of digital documents such as PDFs or digital books. Here, it’s important that page 6 is page 6 for all users, regardless of how the document is scaled.
Focus Appearance (Minimum)
Keyboard users need to be able to visually locate their cursor while navigating a page. This update to 2.1 establishes minimum design criteria.
Focus Appearance (Enhanced)
Extending the previous criteria, this will provide specifications for heightened visibility of the focus state.
This criteria requires that all controls be visible without the need to hover or otherwise do something to make the controls appear.
Target Size (Minimum)
Target size relates to elements such a button that can be difficult to click for example. This will establish minimum sizes and spacing to ensure the user can easily activate the intended element.
Think of a form or application that asks for your address multiple times. This will require that once entered, that duplicate information will auto populate.
As you might agree, many of these requirements will improve usability for all users.
When will WCAG 2.2 be finalized and published?
This short answer is don’t hold your breath. It was originally due to publish in June of 2021. As of this writing, they hope to launch in September of 2022. Given how the global focus on the WCAG has increased in the past few years, I think it's understandable that they want to get it right. So hopefully by 2023.
Should organizations start adopting WCAG 2.2 now?
If you’re in the process of a redesign or building a new website or app, without question. Adding these 9 additional criteria to 2.1 will not be overly burdensome. And at this point, the core of each criteria will not change.
What about WCAG 3.0?
WCAG 3.0 is very exciting. Compared to WCAG 2.1 and 2.2 which were backwards compatible, building upon the previous version, WCAG 3.0 is a full redo. I expect the core criteria will be similar to 2, so that work done to meet 2.2 will apply well to 3.0. But the structure and testing methods will be new.
Nicknamed “silver”, the new guidelines do away with A, AA, AAA levels and adopt grades of Bronze, Silver and Gold that will correspond to new testing methods and their results. With a new standard for testing, the level of a digital property’s accessibility will finally be quantifiable. That’s a big deal.
As website owners begin publishing their ratings, it’s expected that this will incentivize website owners to push beyond the minimum bronze level and go for the gold… but settle for silver. And that will be a significant improvement.
How will WCAG 3.1 differ from 2.2?
According to the W3C WCAG 2 and 3 are similar and different in the following ways:
Goals for WCAG 3 include:
- be easier to understand
- cover more user needs, including more needs of people with cognitive disabilities
- be flexible to address different types of web content, apps, tools, and organizations
WCAG 3 is similar to previous versions in some ways. It has similar:
- goal of providing guidance on making web content and apps accessible to people with disabilities
- fundamental and specific accessibility requirements
WCAG 3 is very different from previous versions in some ways. It has:
- different structure
- different conformance model
- broader scope, beyond just web content
When should we expect to see WCAG 3.0?
Again, don’t hold your breath. The current target is 2023, but few expect that. The W3C is in concurrent development of both 2.2 and 3.0, and 3.0 is a beast.
Best practices for auditing WCAG 2.1, 2.2, and 3.0
What continues to be important to realize are the limitations of automated testing tools. Still, automated auditing tools continue to miss 70% of WCAG issue types. A great example is keyboard only testing to verify focus states. This and the other 70% of WCAG issues can only be properly assessed using human testing methods. More about our human WCAG auditng services.
Beware. Overlays Continue to Fail
An overlay equates to no more than a band aid on a shark bite, leaving chum in the water that attracts more sharks. Trolling law firms are now targeting websites with overlays. That little accessibility icon used to turn on the overlay menu, now serves as a flag that says “sue me, my website isn’t accessible”. More reading
While digital accessibility does initially require a broader consideration during design stages, new coding tactics during development, and a testing process that augments the limitations of automated testing with human testing, the results are worth it. Accessible websites, apps and content increase their usability for all users. Plus there’s an SEO bonus for the online marketers out there as well.
So avoid the shortcuts. Do this the right way, and be assured that your website will pass the scrutiny of trolls, potential customers and employees… and most importantly enable universal accessibility for all people.