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New guidelines for websites: the WCAG 3.0

Research and development

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has released the working draft of a new specification concerning web content and web app accessibility: the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 3.0.

The WCAG 3.0 follow the previous WCAG 2.2, without affecting their validity: they are a necessary update and extension. In response to technological development and the rising of different needs of users with visual impairments, the publication of new international guidelines was required. Updated and complete, the WCAG 3.0 fully articulate content accessibility.

The new guidelines include and further develop aspects that were already taken into account by the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 and the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 2.0.

There are several differences between WCAG 2.X and WCAG 3.0. Contents already compliant with the WCAG 2.2 A and AA should satisfy the minimum level of conformity of the new guidelines’ requirements. However, since the WCAG 3.0 present additional tests and different scoring systems, further work is required to achieve full compliance.

Compliance with the new guidelines will make web contents more accessible and usable in complete autonomy by all people with disabilities, including sensory (sight, hearing), physical, cognitive and learning impairments.

The major significant changes

The most important change is probably the introduction of an accessibility evaluation system based on scores. The WCAG 2.X use a true or false system to evaluate the various aspects of a web page, while the WCAG 3.0 introduce a numerical score from 0 (very poor) to 4 (excellent), based on the usability needs of specific users and types of content.

The resulting score for a particular aspect is then combined with others to determine the whole level of accessibility. This means that, even if presenting a certain level of compliance, a website can still include some problems of accessibility.

In addition to the new scoring system, the classification of errors introduces a distinction between “critical” and “normal” (minimal) errors. A web content will not be accessible if it contains a critical error, but it can be compliant if it has a certain number of minimal errors (which are recommended to be fixed anyway). A typical example of critical error is represented by alternative descriptions for images: if images do not have alt-texts, the website will not satisfy any level of the WCAG 3.0.

Moreover, the way website accessibility is classified also changes: the WCAG 2.X presented the levels A, AA and AAA, while the new guidelines introduce the levels bronze, silver and gold.

Is your website accessible?

Fondazione LIA is a member of WCAG – WAI EOWG, the W3C working group dedicated to website and web app accessibility.

If you have a website and you are interested in evaluating its level of accessibility, we can take care of it. We also offer customized training aimed at achieving a level of accessibility compliant with the requirements of the international guidelines.