March 23 2022

WCAG 3.0: Next-Generation Web Accessibility Guidelines Take Shape

This article is part one of a two-part series 

wcag 3.0An update to one of the most important models for ensuring fuller, unfettered access and usability is a step nearer to adoption.

A 2021 working draft of W3C Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG 3.0, for short, updated and expanded existing guidelines aimed at widening digital access for people with physical and sensory disabilities, was closed to public comment on Jan. 28. Pending final review, WCAG 3.0 is scheduled for release in 2023.

Validating full accessibility for people with disabilities

As with WCAG 1.0, 2.0 and their updates in place since 2008, WCAG 3.0 is a digital accessibility framework that developers of websites, mobile applications, content and other emerging technologies, as well as policy makers, purchasing managers, teachers and students use to ensure current and future digital products and services are fully accessible to people with disabilities.

That WCAG is being updated is validation that web accessibility to all persons, despite physical or mental ability, remains a worthy, sustainable objective. It also shows that full web accessibility requires constant diligence as new web content and technologies emerge.

WCAG’s Silver Task Force ‘evolving work’

While adherence to WCAG guidelines is a voluntary, desirable aim for private-sector enterprises, a rising number of federal civil lawsuits have been brought against sites with limited accessibility. Meantime, since January 2018, WCAG has been the required standard for all federal agencies.

The working group of technologists, content/website developers and disability experts – known as the Silver Task Force -- overseeing the update insist it won’t meant to replace earlier WCAG precepts. Rather, they see them as an “evolving, work in progress,’’ meant to keep pace the rapid evolution of digital hardware and content.

More accessible user experience is the goal

Building on previous WCAG guidelines, the primary goal of WCAG 3.0 is “supporting a wider set of user needs, using new approaches to testing, and allowing more frequent maintenance of guidelines to keep pace with accelerating technology change.”

Ultimately, WCAG 3.0 “will make it significantly easier for both beginners and experts to create accessible digital products that support the needs of people with disabilities,’’ according to the WCAG abstract released Dec. 7, 2021.

Rounding out current WCAG guidelines is accessibility standards for content generators -- Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) 2.0 -- and  User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) 2.0  for developers of web browsers, media players and plug-ins. Both will remain part of the WCAG toolkit.

More robust design, testing for conformance

According to the working group’s draft, the WCAG 3.0 update should yield more robust design and testing of web-accessibility technology, including ones yet to emerge. The working group’s draft, too, contained some specific goals for content and conformance that include:

  • Supporting the needs of a wide range of people with disabilities and recognize that people have individual and multiple needs.

  • Being flexible enough to support the needs of people with disabilities and keep up with emerging technologies.

  • Being written in plain language, as easy as possible to understand.

  • Improving the ability to support automated testing where appropriate and provide a procedure for repeatable tests when manual testing is appropriate.

  • Better aligning conformance with the experiences of people with disabilities, keeping in mind that people with different disabilities have different experiences.

  • Treating the needs of all disabilities equitably.

  • Supporting a measurement and conformance structure that includes guidance for a broad range of disabilities, including more attention to the needs of low vision and cognitive accessibility.

  • Considering the needs of more organizations.

  • Being user-oriented instead of page-oriented. Think about what the person is trying to do.

  • Wherever possible, preserve the organization’s investment in training, tooling, and knowledge.

With the internet hosting more remote work, shopping, financial services and recreation in the post-Covid era, full web accessibility is important than ever. If our certified team of ADA-conformance experts can assist you, contact us.

  • Legal Watch
  • Regs & Legislation
  • Website Compliance

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.
Related Article
What to Expect with WCAG 3.0