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The Latest on WCAG 2.2

The Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AGWG) at the W3C is finalizing the most recent version (2.2) of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2 series. The WCAG 2.2 Candidate Recommendation snapshot was released on September 6, 2022.  Here are some quick facts to keep in mind about WCAG 2.2:

  1. WCAG 2.2 is a candidate recommendation, not a full recommendation. The expected date of WCAG 2.2 recommendation publication is likely in December of this year. Feedback on implementation and use of this specification is welcome If you would like to submit feedback to the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group, you can do so on Github or via email. While content in the recommendation can change it is now very close to what will become a candidate recommendation (barring any criteria being removed).2.
  2. WCAG 2.2 is expected to be a recommendation in early 2023. During this phase implementations will be gathered to ensure the criteria are implementable. Based on the timeline provided by the W3C, once that is proved it can become a full recommendation – likely in early 2023.
  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 editor’s draft indicates 9 new success criteria – 2 at Level A (not including the change for 2.4.7 Focus Visible) and 5 at Level AA and 2 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 of mobile devices that have disabilities. Draft criteria address the following (links are for the latest editor’s draft of WCAG 2.2)
  5. 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 latest working draft of the W3C Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 3.0from December 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.  The W3C’s guidance on applying WCAG to non-web Information and Communication Technology is planned to be updated this coming year to include WCAG 2.2 criteria.
  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 II and Title III of the ADA by the Department of Justice or congress is likely several years away. However, the DOJ appears to take a more proactive stance in regard to digital accessibility more similar to what was done during the Obama administration with the latest notice of rulemaking on Non-discrimination for web accessibility under Title II (covering state and local government) of the ADA. Depending on how Title II rulemaking goes Title III (covering public accommodations) could be next.

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 candidate recommendation 2.2 standards are in the Level Access AMP platform. They are not yet finalized due to the status of the WCAG 2.2 standards. As soon as the standards are finalized, AMP will be updated with the final 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.