Waiting for WCAG 2.2: when will they be released, and what to expect?
Research and development
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), published by World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), are the internationally recognized guidelines to make web content more accessible, and they are the reference point for digital accessibility of: web sites, mobile apps, and digital contents.
The current version, WCAG 2.1, was released in June 2018, but a new update (WCAG 2.2) is right around the corner, with the addition of new requirements that will improve accessibility and usability of web content for all users. This new version is based on WCAG 2.1, which it extends.
If you have already started your accessibility journey towards WCAG 2.0 or 2.1 compliance, don’t worry: each version of the WCAG is backward compatible. If you are already compliant with WCAG 2.1 A or AA, it will take little effort to align with the new Success Criteria introduced by this update, so any effort will still be worthwhile.
Now released as a Candidate Recommendation, the WCAG 2.2 will soon be published as a Recommendation. There is no certain date yet, but officially it is scheduled to be completed and published in May 2023.
Why is WCAG 2.2 important?
This update is interesting for multiple reasons:
- The use of the internet and the technologies to access and navigate it have developed considerably in recent years, hence the need for an update that takes into account that web content is increasingly being used from smartphones and mobile devices;
- Many legislations and directives point to the WCAG as the reference guidelines for accessibility of websites. For the European context, this new version was also updated to align with the Web Accessibility Directive and the European Accessibility Act;
- It is a meaningful step waiting for the upcoming new version of the WCAG: WCAG 3.0;
- The EPUB Accessibility guidelines are based on the WCAG: this update also involves the digital publishing world. We will update you with a detailed discussion of the implications for the EPUB world once the WCAG 2.2 is published.
What’s new in this update?
Building on WCAG 2.1, WCAG 2.2 is expected to introduce 9 new Success Criteria that will extend the requirements for accessible web content for users with low vision, cognitive impairments, and motor disability. Seven of this new Success Criteria are at level A and AA, with only two at level AAA (advanced). The new Success Criteria will address requirements like: the focus appearance and visibility, accessible authentication, and the minimum touch target size. For a complete list of the candidate requirements to become Success Criteria, refer to What’s New in WCAG 2.2 Draft.
The other 2.2 Success Criteria are exactly the same as for 2.1 due to the retrocompatibility of the WCAG. However, there are two important points to consider as exceptions:
- Success Criterion 2.4.7 “Focus visible” is changed from level AA in 2.1 to level A in 2.2, meaning that it has been moved from the medium level to the base level. For low vision users, as well as users with motor disabilities and users who navigate the page using the keyboard, being able to identify the position of the focus is fundamental to navigate the page and interact with the content, and that’s why this Success Criterion has been moved to level A, which groups essential requirements. So if you are compliant with WCAG 2.0 or 2.1 A, you are not automatically compliant with WCAG 2.2 A: you’ll also have to meet this Success Criterion, which was previously at level AA.
- Success Criterion 4.1.1 “Parsing” has been considered obsolete and removed from WCAG 2.2. This is actually the first time that a Success Criterion is removed from the WCAG, but browsers and Assistive Technologies have evolved to the point that parsing errors no longer impact negatively on the fruition of content by users with disabilities, and so are no longer an accessibility issue. However, if you are required to comply with WCAG 2.0 or WCAG 2.1, you still must meet this requirement.
What to do in the meanwhile?
While waiting for the WCAG 2.2 to be published as a W3C Recommendation, you can check for compliance with the web and digital content accessibility legislation in force in your country. Which version of the WCAG and which level of conformance your website, digital content or mobile app has to meet to be considered accessible may vary depending on your local law, but this update to the WCAG will not disrupt your accessibility journey, and instead will provide you with more requirements to make your website, digital content or mobile app even more accessible and usable.
If you have a website and you are interested in evaluating its level of accessibility, we can take care of it. Fondazione LIA is a member of WCAG – WAI EOWG, the W3C working group dedicated to website and web app accessibility. We also offer customized training aimed at achieving a level of accessibility compliant with the requirements of the international guidelines.