Information accurate as of 11.11.21
What is WCAG 2.2?
The second update of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is now expected to be published in December this year, after being pushed back from November 2020. WCAG 2.2 is the latest version of the guidelines since 2018 and aims to provide additional support on mobile devices for people with cognitive and learning disabilities, users with low vision, and users with disabilities.
The new guidelines introduce nine new success criteria – four at Level A, four at Level AA and one at Level AAA. Additionally, it moves a single (existing) success criterion from Level AA down to Level A.
What are the new success criteria?
3.3.7: (Level A) Accessible Authentication – the aim of this criterion is to ensure there is an accessible, easy-to-use, and secure method to log in and access content. In other words, the user must not be required to solely rely on remembering, transcribing, or manipulating information (also known as a ‘cognitive function test’) when authenticating. Alternatives such as two-factor authentication, email link authentication, or using APIs/protocols such as oAuth or WebAuthn should be used. The page (and fields within) should also be properly marked up such that Password Managers can assist in auto-filling the relevant fields. Additionally, fields should also not be blocked from being pasted into, so that users can store credentials (in a Password Manager), copy them, and paste them directly into a login form.
2.5.7: (Level AA) Dragging Movement – For any functionality that primarily involves dragging (sliders, for example), an alternative means of using that functionality should be provided (clicking or tapping, for example). A sufficient alternative would be a ‘Next’ or ‘Previous’ button, or + or – icons.
3.2.6 (Level A) Consistent Help – Simply, this criterion aims to improve that access to help is more consistent across each page within a set of web pages. For example, in either the header or footer of a page, one or more of the following is accessible: human contact details (i.e., a number to call and speak with someone), a contact mechanism (contact us form), a self-help function (FAQ, How Do I?) or a fully automated mechanism (such as a chat bot).
2.4.13 (Level A) Page Break Navigation – WCAG states that the “purpose of this success criterion is to allow people using assistive technology to find references to content based on the page break locators found in the default view or printed version of a publication”. In other words, it aims to ensure that irrespective of whether it was printed or viewed in an inconsistent manner (zoomed in or viewed in such a way where the content and its layout is adapted for those with disabilities) that there is a mechanism to reach the relevant page locator. It also aims to ensure that content is consistently accessible regardless of version (i.e. a new edition is released).
2.4.11 (Level AA) Focus Appearance (Minimum) – this criterion closely relates to and builds upon 2.4.7 (Focus Visible) and 1.4.11 (Non-text Content) and seeks to define the “minimum level of visibility”. It ensures that the keyboard focus indicator – the pixels that are changed to visually indicate when a user interface component is in a focused state – clearly indicates to the user that buttons, links, forms, menus, etc., are selected and have focus (i.e. have a clear border, are not obstructed by other content, and have a sufficient contrast ratio (3:1) against its unfocused state or adjacent colours). In addition to the adjacent colours, it defines a minimum area (thickness) for that border.
2.4.12 (Level AAA) Focus Appearance (Enhanced) – does what its name suggests over and above 2.4.11. The key differences being in the thickness of the border, and the contrast ratio being 4.5:1 versus 3:1.
3.2.7 (Level AA) Visible Control – This criterion aims to ensure that controls that would have previously been revealed by hover or click, are persistently available (or easily found) to those with cognitive disabilities, vision loss, and mobility and motor impairments. Except when:
- An equivalent component that is visible on the same page or on a different step in a multi-step process without requiring pointer hover or keyboard focus
- The component is provided specifically to enhance the experience for keyboard navigation
- A mechanism is available to make the information persistently visible
- Hiding the information needed to identify the component is essential.
2.5.8 (Level AA) Target Size (minimum) – This criterion aims to ensure that targets (“region of the display that will accept a pointer action, such as the interactive area of a user interface component”) have a minimum target area of 24×24 CSS pixels, except where the target is in a sentence or block of text, or spacing has a target offset of 24 CSS pixels, or whether the particular presentation of a target is deemed ‘essential’ (if removed, would fundamentally change the information or functionality of the content, and information and functionality cannot be achieved in another way that would conform) or legally required, except when:
- The target offset is at least 24 CSS pixels to every adjacent target
- The target is in a sentence or block of text
- A particular presentation of the target is essential (if removed, would fundamentally change the information or functionality of the content, and information and functionality cannot be achieved in another way that would conform)
- A particular presentation of the target is legally required
3.3.8 (Level A) Redundant Entry – This criterion aims to ensure that if information has already been previously entered in the same process it is either pre-populated or made available for the user to select, Except when:
- Re-entering the information is essential (if removed, would fundamentally change the information or functionality of the content, and information and functionality cannot be achieved in another way that would conform),
- the information is required to ensure the security of the content, or
- previously entered information is no longer valid.
2.4.7 Focus Visible – This criterion changes from Level AA to A.
When are these changes due to be adopted?
As of writing, the changes are due to be finalised during the final quarter of 2021 (December 2021 is scheduled for “Publish Recommendation“).
Adoption into current regulations
At present, there is no official word or indication as to who or what will adopt WCAG 2.2 as standard to implement for conformance. This includes Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 in the US, and EN 301 549 in the EU.
It is widely accepted that Level AA, regardless of WCAG version, is best practice to minimise or avoid the risk of legal action.
For example, in Canada, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act stipulates Level AA of the WCAG 2.0 standards, whereas in the United States, the ADA doesn’t explicitly cover web or mobile accessibility at all, but following Department for Justice advice and legal precedence, WCAG 2.1 Level AA conformance is highly advised.
In time, certainly into 2022 and beyond, legal and governmental entities will revise this and look to adopt the latest standards.
How can you be prepared and get ahead?
A public working draft of the WCAG 2.2 guidelines is available that covers the new standards in granular detail. Until W3C finalises and recommends 2.2, it is of course subject to change. However, it does provide enough detail to consider the guidelines in any development work you are currently undertaking, and subsequently testing.
Here at Digivante, we have been monitoring the changes closely and will have our pack updated and ready for clients needing to run accessibility testing as soon as W3C finalises these standards.