March 03 2020

Website ADA Compliance: Understanding WCAG 2.2

WCAG 2.2 draftIn the effort to create a more inclusive digital experience for all, website owners are increasingly following a set of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) that were established in 2008. While technology continues to evolve, so too have these guidelines. WCAG version 2.1 began rolling out in late 2017 and in late February of 2020, the Working Group released the first draft of Version 2.2. Each update aims to increase the usability of current-real world obstacles to website accessibility, so what do website managers need to know about this latest update?

WCAG 2.2 is an enhancement to WCAG 2.1

Like WCAG 2.1, this latest draft is being written to add clarity to previous versions, rather than replace previous versions. As a set of guidelines, inherently there are real-world situations that were left to some interpretation. This latest enhancement aims to address some of those situations.

What’s new in WCAG 2.2

In the initial draft, a Success Criterion has been added to existing Guideline 2.4 Navigable.

Success Criterion 2.4.11 Focus Visible (Enhanced) (Level AA): 
The focus indicator area must be at least 2 pixels larger than the control

ZAG interpretation: The addition seems to have the aim of making it clearer which element has keyboard focus. In other words, when a user relies on a keyboard to navigate a web site, it is important that they can easily understand where they are on site. The likely motivation is to ensure that the focus indicator box isn’t touching the control, thus making it harder to discern the control and focus box.

Focus indication using color changes must have a 3:1 contrast ratio relative to the colors from the unfocused control.

ZAG interpretation: This guideline isn’t truly new to those designing and building conformant websites. The premise is that if the colors involved in the color change do not have at least a 3:1 color contrast ratio, it is likely too difficult to see.

Focus indication boxes must have a 3:1 contrast ratio relative to the background and must be at least 2 pixels thick.

ZAG interpretation: Again, the focus indication must be visible by having a minimum contrast ratio and thickness, this time against the surrounding background.

WCAG 2.2 is still a draft

While releasing a public draft is helpful, by no means should these guidelines be considered final. As of the date of this article publishing, The Working Group expects to release a “final draft” in June of 2020 and then the final version later in 2020.

Implications of the 2.2 guidelines for website managers

Most website managers want to understand if this latest set of guidelines will require a redesign or recoding of a site that is already conformant to WCAG 2.1 guidelines. The answer is no. A relatable analogy is to address this question like home-building codes. If a new building code is released, every homeowner does not have to scramble to change their house. But if they’re starting significant enough construction that permits and inspectors are needed, all new construction will need to meet the code. Your website should be thought of similarly.

More changes will come before WCAG 2.2 is officially released

As a first draft, the Accessibility Working Group encourages feedback. In fact, they expect up to 12 more success criteria to “address user needs of people with cognitive or learning disabilities, users of mobile devices, and users of ebooks.” Note that success criteria in the Drafts may change or be removed before the final WCAG 2.2 is officially published later in 2020.

Making and keeping your site accessible

Since website conformance is about making it easier for those who use assistive technology to use the internet, these evolving guidelines should not change any work currently in progress to make or retrofit your site for conformance. Everything that exists in versions 2.0 and 2.1 still exists and version 2.2 will simply address some gray areas as well as new items resulting from newer technology. Once version 2.2 is finalized, site owners can then determine what, if anything, will need to be done to continue to meet conformance standards.

As changes to accessibility guidelines and best practices develop, the ADA conformance experts at ZAG Interactive will continue to monitor the impact on design, development and ongoing ADA scanning. To discuss your website ADA conformance needs, get in touch with us.

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posted by
Dan Seagull
Dan Seagull
Sr. QA & Certified Accessibility Analyst

ZAG Interactive is a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury, CT, offering website design, development, marketing and digital strategy to clients nationwide. See current job openings.
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