In celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we wanted to give an update and our thoughts on the upcoming WCAG 2.2 changes. The world of online and digital accessibility is always improving and changing – and this year is no exception!
Work on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) for the new 2.2 standards has been ongoing for almost a year and is gradually making progress towards an official release. The 2.2 version of the WCAG 2 standard is the second iteration and is a minor update. But this could have a big impact, especially if your website's accessibility is currently not up to par.
Where are we?
There is a bit of a process for the WCAG rules to be updated, changed, approved, and released. Currently, the rules are back in the Candidate Recommendation (CR) stage as of May 2023. There was enough feedback from the first round September-January that the 2.3 changes were pulled back. Now, we have the editor updates (dif file) and are up for a second review. Submission of the editor's draft in May makes it possible for the new 2.2 changes to be released in early summer. Nonetheless, there is a likelihood of a delay that may result in the release being pushed back to mid to late 2023.
When the updates are finally approved in the CR stage, there will be two more approval stages before the final release. A full detailed outline of how the WCAG approval process works can be found on W3C’s site.
The minimum number of days for the CR stage is 28 calendar days. The minimum number of days for the PR (Proposed Recommendation) stage is 28 calendar days. There is no maximum number of days.
For comparison, here’s how long it took for WCAG 2.1 to be released:
- Candidate Recommendation (CR) – January 30, 2018 (84 days)
- Proposed Recommendation (PR) – April 24, 2018 (42 days)
- Recommendation (REC) – June 5, 2018
WCAG 2.0 underwent two CR stages, while WCAG 2.1 had only one.
So What’s Changing?
As of writing, there are 11 new changes and updates. Since these are technically still a work in progress, these proposed updates and their criteria could change. The W3C site has this outlined in more detail if you want to review the nitty gritty of each new success criterion:
- 2.4.7 Focus Visible (Level AA) - Might be moved to Level A
- 2.4.11 Focus Appearance (Level AA) - Might be removed/reworked
- 2.4.12 Focus Not Obscured (Minimum) (Level AA)
- 2.4.13 Focus Not Obscured (Enhanced) (Level AAA)
- 2.5.7 Dragging Movements (Level AA)
- 2.5.8 Target Size (Minimum) (Level AA)
- 3.2.6 Consistent Help (Level A)
- 3.3.7 Accessible Authentication (Level AA)
- 3.3.8 Accessible Authentication (no exception) (Level AAA)
- 3.3.9 Redundant Entry (Level A)
- 4.4.1 Parasing (Level A) - Going to be deprecated
Currently, the browser outline on elements as you “tab navigate” through a site, has had pretty poor support in the WCAG success criterion. Focus Appearance (Level AA), Focus Not Obscured (Minimum) (Level AA and AAA), and 2.4.7 Focus Visible (Level AA), were created to help set proper standards for sites that want to change and modify their browser outline. A browser outline now must have proper color contrast, and sizing requirements, and must always be visible. If your browser outline on your site is using the default browser outline and is always visible on all actionable elements, then there won't be any changes needed on your site.
Update: There is a possibility that 2.4.11 Focus Appearance may not be incorporated in the 2.2 release because of its potential implications and the lack of data supporting how best to implement and enforce it.
The WCAG 2.1 rules started to emphasize creating a more inclusive standard for mobile and touch devices. The new 2.2 rules (Dragging Movements (Level AA) and Target Size (Minimum) (Level AA)) are continuing this by outlining the standards for elements on sites that require dragging and gesture-based interaction and improving the target hit area on actionable elements. Common website elements this would impact would be carousels, mobile menus, rotating tickers and other high-fidelity site features expecting user actions.
Ever been to a site looking for a F.A.Q or help section? Ever needed help understanding how a feature on a site works and there’s no helper info on it? The new Consistent Help (Level A) success criteria seeks to set these links in a global and common area so that users no longer have to hunt them down. This is extremely helpful for people who may have difficulty visually processing website layouts or navigating through multiple pages to find help.
Website logins can be a complex and tricky part of a website for accessibility. The three new success criteria - Accessible Authentication (Level AA), Accessible Authentication (no exception) (Level AAA), and Redundant Entry (Level A) create a new process to help people with motor disabilities or cognitive issues including memory, dyslexia, dyscalculia be able to login into sites with less hassle. The authentication process per site will be different but in general, it seeks to create easier ways to reset a user's password, double validation on password fields, and reduce the need for entering the same data multiple times on forms.
What this means for you:
If tradition holds true, once the rules are officially published and released, a site or organization striving to be WCAG 2.2 compliant will have roughly one to two years to implement the new changes. This will vary based on industry vertical, government and country requirements, and a site's internal compliance status and goals.
If your site has been updated to WCAG 2.1, then good news! The 2.2 rules will be a relatively low lift in implementing and will closely echo TAG’s best practices standard for UI and UX. Every site will need to make some updates but the level of effort to move into 2.2 will be lower than what it was from 2.0 to 2.1.
Unsure where you stand on a11y?
We’re here to help. Our team is committed to empowering every user to experience your brand to the fullest. If you have questions about whether you're meeting accessibility standards or need assistance in achieving compliance, don't hesitate to reach out.
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