Don’t let the complex-looking acronym fool you, WCAG 2.2 is pretty straightforward. This is just the latest update to established web content accessibility guidelines designed to help everyone access the whole internet, from anywhere. We dive into those guidelines in more depth in this handy article. Here, we’re jumping right into the world of WCAG 2.2…
Why are accessibility guidelines being updated?
Accessibility guidelines are regularly updated to both keep pace with new technical developments and encourage organisations to become even more inclusive. After all, sites we might have considered relatively accessible a decade ago would no longer cut the mustard. That’s why a new standard, WCAG 2.2, is set to be completed and published this month (May 2023).
This update includes new guidance on how to make content more accessible to people with cognitive and learning disabilities, an area that’s not been explored in depth before. The new success criteria will include providing simple language and easy-to-understand instructions, while avoiding complex or ambiguous language. There’s also new guidance on how to make content more accessible to people with low vision, including providing high-contrast text and ensuring that text’s not too small.
Keeping pace with changing technology
As technology and the way in which we use it continues to evolve, new standards like WCAG 2.2 provide guidance on how best to serve our audiences. One important change in WCAG 2.2 is the inclusion of new success criteria related to mobile accessibility. With the increasing use of mobile devices for browsing the web, it is important that websites are designed with mobile accessibility in mind. The new success criteria in WCAG 2.2 include ensuring that content can be easily accessed and navigated using touchscreens and mobile devices and providing accessible alternatives for complex gestures.
WCAG 2.2 also includes new success criteria related to accessibility in emerging technologies, such as virtual and augmented reality. As these technologies become more prevalent, it is important to ensure that they are accessible to people with disabilities. The new success criteria in WCAG 2.2 provide guidance on how to make virtual and augmented reality content more accessible, including ensuring that content can be navigated using speech input and that alternative text is provided for non-text content.
Do developers get a say in the guidelines?
Any updates to the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) international standards are intended to make life easier for web users and make requirements clear for developers. With that in mind, new criteria are developed based on extensive research, testing, revisions, and consensus votes. Both users and developers are involved in every step, and you can see their influence in plenty of the soon-to-launch criteria.
For example, there are updates to the success criteria related to keyboard accessibility to make sure that all functionalities can be accessed using a keyboard. There are also updates to the success criteria related to web page structure, aiming to ensure content is organised in a clear and logical way. Both build on work attentive developers will have already been doing, plus will have a positive impact on all users.
Let’s break down the new criteria
All web content accessibility guidelines are roughly divided into three groups, or levels, that build on each other and increase accessibility with each step. Level A is the least demanding, and is now a standard most organisations meet, while Level AAA is the most comprehensive and can be a little harder to attain.
This update builds on previous ones in much the same way, including all the success criteria from WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1 with no changes to existing criteria. However, one success criterion has changed level. Now, ‘focus visible’ (having a clearly visible focus indicator, like a cursor) has moved from Level AA to Level A and so really should be a feature of all web pages.
To prepare for WCAG 2.2, organisations need to look closely at the nine new criteria this update adds to the existing WCAG 2.1 guidelines.
Of these, seven sit in Levels A and AA, the most commonly tested combination of levels, so are vital for the vast majority of developers to stay compliant and retain accessibility levels that have been hard-won.
New WCAG 2.2 criteria include:
Accessible Authentication (No Exception)
Focus Not Obscured (Enhanced)
Focus Not Obscured (Minimum)
Target Size (Minimum)
Don’t worry if all that sounds a bit complicated though, we’ve got plenty of clever developers on hand to help you get your head round it. We can even take the whole issue off your hands, checking your entire site for accessibility, making the right recommendations, or even making all the updates you need to meet all those WCAG 2.2 criteria.