The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) have been updated since the publication of this blog. For the most recent information on WCAG requirements, see our guide to WCAG 2.2.
WCAG 2.0 was more than just a technical set of guidelines for web accessibility. It quickly became the world’s most universally accepted set of web accessibility standards in existence. First developed in 2008, it changed the way that people with disabilities were able to interact with the world wide web and enjoy all the content that so many of us take for granted.
But as technology continues to change, WCAG must also change with it.
The latest iteration of WCAG – version 2.1 – was first released in June of 2018. Think of it as a supplementary document, designed to bring the larger idea of accessibility up-to-date with all of the tech-related innovations that have happened in the last decade. When WCAG 2.0 was written, there were certain major concepts on the Internet – like the dominance of mobile devices – that literally didn’t exist yet.
WCAG 2.1 aims to address all of these elements to meet a broader range of disability-related needs, helping your organization to put its best (virtual) foot forward at all times.
What You Need to Know About WCAG 2.1
For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll assume you’re already familiar with the finer points of WCAG 2.0. Again – nothing has changed with 2.1. Instead, certain new concepts have been added like:
- Orientation considerations. WCAG 2.1 dictates that both websites and applications should support landscape AND portrait display orientations, which is particularly relevant on mobile devices. In other words, don’t restrict your content to one or the other because you never know how a person with disabilities might need to hold their phone to properly interact with it.
- Identify input purpose. This is particularly relevant for people using assistive technology, where such a program needs to be able to “understand” what a user needs to enter into a field on your site or in your mobile app. If your app includes a form where someone needs to fill out their name and address, for example, the program needs to essentially “know” this to help the user with their goals. Enabling support for a browser’s auto fill system is another way to help take this into consideration.
- Reflow. In a larger sense, this means that your website must be responsive. A user shouldn’t have to scroll – either horizontally or vertically – to be able to view your content. Likewise, they should also be able to zoom in up to 400% on desktop browsers if that’s what it takes to interact with the channel you’ve created.
- Text spacing. This dictates that the users themselves need to be able to increase the distance between paragraphs, words or even characters WITHOUT losing sight of the content or functionality of your page. It may seem simple, but it’s especially important for how your site FUNCTIONS. It helps to avoid text that suddenly overlaps when resized, or buttons that get moved to places where a user (particularly one with disabilities) can’t interact with them.
In the end, don’t think of WCAG 2.1 as a replacement for 2.0. Instead, it’s an extension. It’s even backwards compatible – if you’re compliant with WCAG 2.1, you’re automatically compliant with 2.0, too.
Also, don’t forget that Section 508 compliance of the Rehabilitation Act requires Federal agencies to follow these WCAG guidelines to maintain web and accessibility compliance – which means that for as important as WCAG 2.1 already is, it’s only going to become more so as time goes on.
This isn’t the first time that WCAG has been amended and updated. With the advent of virtual reality, augmented reality and similar technologies that are now ready for “prime time,” it definitely won’t be the last, either.
Putting WCAG 2.1 to Work For You
At eSSENTIAL Accessibility, we’ve always made it a point of pride to be more than just another B2B solutions provider. We’re a true partner in your own success in every sense of the word. We want to make sure that ALL of your digital platforms are totally accessible, which is why we think topics like WCAG 2.1 are so critical in importance.
Your website, your mobile apps, your digital products and more – these each represent unique opportunities for your brand to make contact and establish a relationship with the people you’ve dedicated yourself to serving. You can only make one first impression, so you’d better make it the best one possible – which is ultimately what ADA compliance and concepts like WCAG 2.1 are all about.
If you’d like to find out more information about what you need to do to make sure that your digital channels are following all the latest guidelines and best practices, be sure to download our WCAG 2.1 Whitepaper here.
- WCAG 2.0 and 2.1. W3C Web Accessibility Initiative, 22 January 2018
- WCAG 2.0 – Why It’s Time to Turn to the Current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. eSSENTIAL Accessibility, 30 July, 2019
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 W3C, 2018
eSSENTIAL Accessibility has changed its name to Level Access! Read More