Months ahead of its fall 2022 scheduled release, the digital community is scrutinizing the latest round of proposed updates aimed at making digital content more accessible to people with disabilities.
After months sifting public feedback to a previous draft, the WC3, a working group of digital technologists, has publicly released its latest batch of tentative web-design and digital access updates to the WCAG 2.1 framework, initially introduced in December 2008. WCAG is widely accepted as the international standard for digital accessibility.
WCAG updates rolling out in the fall of 2022
The formal release of WCAG 2.2 is expected in September 2022, with a separate version known as WCAG 3.0, set for release in 2023 or later. Both will provide website designers, developers and owners with additional criteria and testing benchmarks to conform their websites and other digital offerings to Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, so that users can adequately explore this content using whatever technology they choose, no matter their disability.
New criteria improve site appearance, navigation
Noteworthy among WCAG 2.2’s proposed updates are nine new design criteria aimed at improving the ability of users with limited sight, hearing or mobility, or those with cognitive issues, to access and interact with sites and data using onsite functionality and plug-in devices capable of accommodating their handicaps.
Among other things, the design criteria address such user barriers as screen colors that are too bright or dark that people with limited sight or color blindness can’t easily see onscreen text and images. Additionally, the criteria offer clarification for target inputs on buttons that are too small to activate for people using assistive devices. The blind and vision impaired rely on audible clicks or other haptics to identify where they are on a digital page. Others focus on the appearance and visibility for users, with the rest centered around better usability and control of websites and their content. The 9 criteria include:
Key difference between WCAG 2.2 and 3.0
Though linked, each conformance framework is different. WCAG 2.2 provides parameters for ADA-compliant site appearance and navigation options. As proposed, WCAG 3.0 pushes for a greater level of website conformance by making it clearer what the guidelines are, and incorporating new tests and scoring parameters for accessibility by people with disabilities.
While both are still drafts and subject to change, awareness of them and the specifics they contain provides web designers with a head start incorporating WCAG updates into their digital offerings.
WCAG guidelines underscore ADA conformance
WCAG guidelines are just that, recommendations that website owners and administrators either can ignore – and potentially face a lawsuit -- or strive for an even greater level of accessibility conformance. U.S. government agencies and their contractors must conform to WCAG guidelines to comply with of Section 508 of the Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973, ensuring agencies provide people with disabilities access to their electronic and information technology.
Though no such federal mandate exists for private enterprise, ADA conformance has gained urgency for the sector amid an incline in civil lawsuits from the Justice Department and private citizens against businesses who fail in their ADA obligations.
Keeping up with WCAG conformance
The latest draft of WCAG 2.2, and the impending launch of WCAG 3.0, underscore the ongoing efforts to make websites and other digital properties as widely available and accessible as possible. Contact us and we’ll work with you to put website on the road to WCAG conformance and sustainability.