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The Latest on WCAG 2.2

The Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AGWG) at the W3C is still working on finalizing the most recent version (2.2) of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2 series.  The latest public working draft of WCAG 2.2 was released on May 21, 2021 but the often changing and unofficial editor’s draft continues to be updated regularly. Here are some quick facts to keep in mind about WCAG 2.2:

  1. WCAG 2.2 is still a working draft, not a final recommendation.

    The expected date of WCAG 2.2 publication was pushed out by several months – it remains in draft status. While the formal comment period from the latest working draft has closed, if you would like to submit feedback to the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group, you can do so on Github or via the W3C mailing list. At this time, a 3rd review draft is not expected but may be needed if considerable changes occur from the previous working draft. Anything in the working draft or editor’s draft can change as this standard is not final and active work is still going on. This means proposed criteria could be removed if consensus cannot be achieved.

  2. WCAG 2.2 is expected to be a recommendation before the end of 2021.

    Based on the timeline provided by the W3C, a candidate recommendation is likely in later summer or fall 2021, with the recommendation hopefully going to proposed status and becoming an official recommendation in fall or early winter 2021.

  3. WCAG 2.2 builds on WCAG 2.1 just as WCAG 2.1 built on 2.0.

    The updates extend the WCAG 2.x series of guidelines, keep existing backwards compatibility, and keep the existing conformance model. The new success criteria will be additions to the existing guidelines with one criterion 2.4.7 Focus Visible slated to change level from AA to A. Most organizations aim for level A and AA conformance so a change in level from AA to AA will likely not have any impact on efforts. The change of level for the one criterion will not apply to prior versions of the guidelines such as WCAG 2.0.

    The fact that WCAG 2.2 builds on WCAG 2.1 will allow organizations to leverage the work they have already done for WCAG 2.1. If you become WCAG 2.2 conformant you will also conform to WCAG 2.1 and WCAG 2.0 at the same level of conformance. WCAG 2.2 will not supersede or replace WCAG 2.1 – but WCAG 2.2 will be the industry recommended set of guidelines for adoption.

  4. There are likely to be 9 new success criteria.

    The current working draft indicates 9 new success criteria – 4 at Level A (not including the change for 2.4.7 Focus Visible) and 4 at Level AA and 1 at Level AAA. The criteria aim to assist users with low vision, cognitive and learning disabilities, and those with motor disabilities with benefits for users that have disabilities on mobile devices.Draft criteria address the following (links are for the latest working draft of WCAG 2.2)

  5. A WCAG 2.3 is possible but not a given. WCAG 3.0 is ahead. 

    Going forward, much effort will be put into a future version of accessibility guidelines – a “WCAG 3.0.”. WCAG (titled the W3C Accessibility Guidelines) 3.0 will be the major successor revision of WCAG guidelines and will not be backwards compatible. A first public working draft of the W3C Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 3.0 from January 2021 is available for review. The final recommendation of WCAG 3.0 is predicted to be published sometime in the next 3 to 5 years.

  6. Supporting Documents are in the Works.

    The working group continues to create techniques that will document sufficient and failure examples for the WCAG 2 series of guidelines with emphasis placed on creating techniques for the new criteria in WCAG 2.2. Additional supporting documents including How to Meet WCAG 2.2 and Understanding WCAG 2.2 are in development with drafts posted for Understanding WCAG 2.2.

  7. WCAG 2.2’s adoption into the current regulations is unknown at this time.
    • We have no details suggesting that it would be taken up by the US government into Section 508.
    • After WCAG 2.2 is released, it will likely be referenced at some point by accessibility advocates in settlement agreements and litigation – but not until 2022 at the earliest.
    • Some US states, organizations, and higher education institutions adopted WCAG 2.1 in the first year while others remain on 2.0. Some organizations are likely to adopt the latest while others will hold back. We work with several organizations that have already begun to assess their level of conformance to the new WCAG criteria to understand the delta between their current practices and the proposed guidelines.
    • The standards body who created EU Standard EN 301 549 is in process of examining WCAG 2.2 criteria for proposed inclusion in the EU standard as evidenced in working pages on the ETSI labs site.
    • Any effort to specify web standards for use in websites under Title III of the ADA by the Department of Justice or congress is likely several years away at best (if at all). However, we do expect the DOJ to take a more proactive stance in regard to digital accessibility more similar to what was done during the Obama administration.

Those who consider inclusion as an important aspect of doing business and those with public websites subject to the ADA will want to track these updates as something to consider during the design of new digital content. For those interested, contributions or comments to the W3C are welcome.

The current draft 2.2 standards are in the Level Access AMP platform. They are not yet finalized due to the draft nature of the WCAG 2.2 standards. As soon as the standards are locked down, AMP will be updated with the latest version. We are actively considering how each new criterion can be evaluated automatically and manually and will address a testing approach in our platform for each new criterion.

At present, Level Access has three team members – including Chief Accessibility Officer Jonathan Avila – who are part of the W3C’s Accessibility Guidelines Working Group helping to define the WCAG 2.2 standards.