How the Updating of WCAG Guidelines from 2.1 to 2.2 Impacts Your Business
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Are you engaged in the design, development, or coding of accessible digital propertiesand confused about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)? Do you find WCAG descriptions and updates confusing and the associated success criteria difficult to grasp? We’d love to break the information into manageable bits for you.
To start off, let’s recap what the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are. These are technical standards on web accessibility developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The guidelines represent a shared international standard for accessible websites and web-based platforms.
The guidelines were developed and are frequently updated with the participation of different stakeholders, including those in the information and communication technology industry, disability organizations, government, and research organizations with specialties in accessibility.
It is helpful to point out that, whereas WCAG isn’t a legal requirement, it is a set of globally adopted standards that businesses committed to growth and venturing into new markets find significant value in abiding by. That is because the guidelines striveto make websites and such web-based properties and tools as apps, electronic documents, and other digital assets accessible to people with disabilities.
WCAG entails a frequently updated wealth of success criteria that, when adhered to during website design and development as well as when authoring web-based content, helps to remove access barriers that would otherwise prevent people with disabilities from navigating the digital asset. Successive versions of WCAG contain updated success criteria.
It is noteworthy to point out that the versions associated with WCAG are WCAG 1.0, WCAG 2.0, WCAG 2.1, and WCAG 2.2. WCAG 2.0 was published on December 11, 2008. WCAG 2.1 was published on June 5, 2018, while WCAG 2.2 was published on September 21, 2023.
WCAG 2.0 covers a wide range of recommendations for making web content more accessible. Adhering to these guidelines makes digital content more accessible to a wider variety of people with disabilities. The WCAG 2.0 Success Criteria are written as testable statements that are not technology-specific.
WCAG 2.0 succeeds WCAG 1.0, which was published in May 1999. By the time WCAG 2.0 was published, while it was possible to conform either to WCAG 1.0 or WCAG 2.0 (or both), the W3C recommended that new and updated content use WCAG 2.0. The consortium also recommended that web accessibility policies reference WCAG 2.0 instead of WCAG 1.0.
WCAG 2.1 is an update to WCAG 2.0. All requirements of the Success Criteria from WCAG 2.0 are included in WCAG 2.1, but WCAG 2.1 has additional Success Criteria compared to WCAG 2.0.
As you will notice, the success criteria in an updated version of the WCAG also conform to those of the success criteria contained in the previous version of the WCAG, albeit with some additional criteria. That is why conforming to the newly updated version of the WCAG is always the best thing to do, so as to take cognizance of the requirements for dealing with newly discovered barriers to accessibility. It was on these grounds that WCAG 2.2 was published on September 21, 2023, as an update to WCAG 2.1.
While WCAG 2.0, WCAG 2.1, and WCAG 2.2 are all existing web accessibility standards, it is noteworthy to stress that the later versions do not deprecate or supersede the former ones. Nonetheless, W3C encourages you to use the most recent version of WCAG.
As indicated earlier, all the versions of WCAG are worked on by the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AGWG), which brings together different stakeholders at W3C. The AGWG usually considers and approves the candidate recommendations associated with a given WCAG update for publication, after which they officially start being used and referenced.
The WCAG 2.2 guidelines are categorized into three different conformance levels. These are Level A, Level AA, and Level AAA. Level A is the lowest and easiest and sets a base level of accessibility that does not necessarily ensure accessibility in many situations.
WCAG Level AA, or simply WCAG AA, is the recommended level of conformance for digital content and, thus, should be the most targeted level of compliance with the WCAG 2.2 guidelines.
In fact, for businesses seeking to comply with Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act, the publication of WCAG 2.2 guidelines means that the regulated websites and digital content should adhere to WCAG 2.2 guidelines at the AA level. WCAG AA and Section 508 are like conjoined twins that businesses seeking contracts with federal organizations need to master how to conform to.
As you may already be aware, the WCAG Level AAA compliance guidelines are the hardest to obtain. It is also not possible to achieve full WCAG AAA compliance for some types of digital content. So, even with the updated WCAG 2.2, it may not be easy to strive to achieve WCAG 2.2 Level AAA for your website or digital content. WCAG 2.2 Level AA is what you should strive to obtain.
It is noteworthy to point out that all of the WCAG 2.2 guidelines at Level A Success Criteria are present in WCAG 2.2 Level AA Success Criteria, but with some extra requirements to accommodate assistive technologies such as screen readers.
Any time a new way of doing things is introduced in any industry, a number of stakeholders find themselves panicked due to an inadequate understanding of what is at stake for them. That is why, with the publication of WCAG 2.2, a number of stakeholders in the ICT industry are looking for helpful WCAG 2.2 summary details to help them plan conformance to the associated success criteria.
The following is a WCAG 2.2 summary to provide you with insights on the areas you need to firm up on your digital property:
To begin with, the update from WCAG 2.0 to WCAG 2.1 was less of a replacement of the guidelines and more of an extension of the guidelines. The same can be said of the update from WCAG 2.1 to WCAG 2.2.
The new success criteria in WCAG 2.2 that are not present in WCAG 2.1 are in the following areas:
To assist your team with locating and correcting compliance errors in your website or any other digital asset based on the WCAG 2.2 guidelines, ADACP is ready to provide you with accessibility compliance services that conform with the WCAG 2.2 summary shared above.
Our services range from WCAG 2.2 full-service compliance reviews to targeted consultations. Call (626) 486-2201 today to schedule a WCAG AA and Section 508 consult.