By Sam Needs on August 17, 2021

Information accurate as of 16.08.21

What is WCAG 2.2?

The second update of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is now expected to be published in October 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 for people with cognitive and learning disabilities, users with low vision, and users with disabilities on mobile devices. 

The new guidelines introduce 9 new success criteria – 4 at Level A, 4 at Level AA and 1 at Level AAA. Additionally, it moves a single (existing) success criterion from Level AA down to Level A.

So 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 2 factor authentication, email link authentication, or utilising APIs/protocols such as oAuth or WebAuthn should be used.

2.5.7: (Level AA) Dragging – 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) Findable Help – Simply, this criterion aims to improve that access to help is more consistent across each page within a set of webpages. 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 that results in a), a self-help function (FAQ’s, How Do I’s?) or a fully automated mechanism (such as a Chat Bot).

2.4.13 (Level A) Fixed Reference Points – WCAG state 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”. Simply, 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) Hidden Controls – 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.

2.5.8 (Level AA) Pointer Target Spacing – 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.

3.3.8 (Level A) Redundant Entry – This criterion aims to ensure that if information has already been previously entered in a multi-step process it is either pre-populated or made available for the user to select, unless the information is essential (i.e. security verification, such as repeating a password) or the previously entered information is no longer valid.

2.4.7 Focus Visible – This criterion changes from Level AA to A.

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And when are these changes due to be adopted?

As of writing, it is due to be finalised during the final quarter of 2021 (October 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 – in order 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 finalise and recommend 2.2, it is of course subject to change. However, it does provide enough detail to consider them 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 as soon as W3C finalise these standards.

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