October 12, 2023

After five years of research, deliberation, drafts, and feedback, the latest additions to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are finally upon us! The final draft of WCAG 2.2 was formally unveiled as a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) recommendation on October 5, 2023.

WCAG 2.2 is the second amendment to WCAG 2.0, which was published nearly 15 years ago in late 2008. In this time, much progress has been made not only in awareness and enforcement of accessibility requirements, but also in societal awareness of the range of physical and cognitive disabilities that affect people’s ability to interact with the internet.

What’s in it?

WCAG 2.2 consists of guidelines and “success criteria” that build on WCAG 2.1, which came out in 2018, and it inherits the criteria of WCAG 2.0 and 2.1. Version 2.1 mainly focused on improving accessibility for three major groups of people: users with cognitive or learning disabilities, those with limited vision, and those with disabilities that impair their use of mobile devices, and this latest version continues this work.

WCAG 2.2 is backwards compatible with WCAG 2.1, meaning that pages that conform to 2.2 are at least as accessible as those that conform to 2.1. Like all WCAG criteria, the 2.2 additions range in conformance level from level A (the bare minimum) to level AAA (the ideal), with AA considered the minimum requirement for government websites and the like in the United States and most of the developed world.

WCAG 2.2 adds the following success criteria to version 2.1

  • Focus not obscured: User interface components should not be entirely hidden due to author-created content when they receive keyboard focus. The enhanced (AAA) version of this criterion requires that no part of the interface components be hidden due to author-created content when receiving keyboard focus.
  • Focus appearance (AAA level only): When the keyboard focus indicator is visible, the area of the focus indicator should be a) at least as large as the area of a 2 CSS pixel-thick perimeter of the unfocused component or sub-component, and b) have a contrast ratio of at least 3:1 between the same pixels in the focused and unfocused states, with certain specified exceptions.
  • Dragging movements: All functionalities that require dragging movements for operation should be achievable by a single pointer without dragging, unless dragging is essential or the functionality is preset and not modified by the author.
  • Minimum target size: The size of the target for pointer inputs should be at least 24 by 24 CSS pixels, except in certain instances specified by the W3C.
  • Consistent help: If a web page contains any of the following help mechanisms (human contact details, a human contact mechanism, a self-help option, or a fully automated contact mechanism), and those mechanisms are repeated on multiple pages within a site, they should always occur in the same order unless a change is initiated by the user.
  • Redundant entry: Site entry information previously entered by or provided to the user that is required to be re-entered in the same way should either be auto-populated or available for the user to select. Exceptions to this rule include instances where reentering the information is essential, the information is required to ensure the security of the content, or the previously entered information is no longer valid.
  • Accessible authentication: A cognitive function test such as a password or a puzzle to be solved should not be required for any step of an authentication process unless that step provides a) an alternate method that does not rely on a cognitive function test, b) a mechanism capable of helping the user with the cognitive task, c) a cognitive function test centered on recognizing objects, or d) a cognitive test that relies on content the user provided to the site. An enhanced (AAA) version of this requirement limits these exceptions to the first two.

For more details on these requirements, visit the W3C website.

Who is this for?

Accessibility matters to everyone involved with a website, from developers and designers to webmasters and content creators to end users, and anyone involved in creating or maintaining web content has a role to play in ensuring accessibility. Just because a website was built with accessibility in mind doesn’t mean that it will necessarily stay that way; accessibility must be maintained by content managers who know what they’re doing.

A 2021 study showed that more than 98% of all home pages had detectable WCAG failures and that a full 90% of all websites were deemed inaccessible to people with disabilities who rely on assistive technology. We can probably deduce from this that of the eight percent of websites that are at least partially accessible, a sizable proportion were originally built with accessibility in mind but saw their accessibility eroded through improper content management.

At Chapter Three we provide our clients with comprehensive post-development training on our products. This includes extensive training on how to maintain the accessibility that we build into all our products. Accessibility is challenging and, as we’ve seen from these latest additions to WCAG 2.0, constantly evolving. However, our team remains on the forefront of web accessibility and can help you navigate all this.

Why does this matter so much?

Aside from the fact that web accessibility is now the law of the land, it’s simply the right thing to do. The World Health Organization estimates that around 15% of the world's population lives with some form of disability, be it physical or cognitive, and that between two and four percent experience significant difficulties in functioning. In the US alone, some 56.7 million people have some sort of disability – more people than all but the world’s 25 most populous countries.

If altruism doesn’t move you, money ought to. It’s estimated that inaccessible websites cost companies $6.9 billion a year compared to rivals with accessible sites. And then there are the lawsuits. In the US alone there were over 4,000 ADA-related lawsuits in 2021 related to web or mobile content, nearly double the number in 2018. That’s an average of ten lawsuits per day related to accessibility!

Beyond cost and compassion for the disabled, there are further reasons to care about accessibility. If your vision is perfectly normal but you’re working in an especially bright room, that color contrast comes in handy. You’re thankful for that video closed captioning when you’re in a noisy environment. Simple, unambiguous language benefits those with cognitive difficulties as well as anyone who is fatigued or perhaps doesn’t speak English as their first language.

Accessibility is challenging but it ultimately benefits us all. It’s also a value we hold dear here at Chapter Three. If you’re concerned about your site’s accessibility, we can help you conduct an accessibility audit with all the latest WCAG requirements in mind. And if you’re starting afresh with your website, we can ensure that the new product gets built with maximum accessibility in mind from start to finish.

Contact us today and let’s talk about your project.