WCAG 2.2 Compliance: What You Need to Know
With so many of us spending more time at home and on the web, it’s more critical than ever that web content is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities.
To help realize this goal, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) developed the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) - the global standard for digital accessibility. The W3C is continually working to evolve the guidelines, and last year released a draft of the latest update: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.2 (WCAG 2.2).
With a tentative release date this September 2022, WCAG 2.2 builds on the previous version of the standard, WCAG 2.1, by further improving accessibility guidance for users with cognitive or learning disabilities, users with low vision, and users with disabilities on mobile devices.
The WCAG are cited in accessibility regulations around the world, so any organization who considers inclusion to be an important aspect of doing business - or has websites subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), European Accessibility Act (EAA), Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), or other global regulation - will want to track these updates to ensure the compliance of all existing and future digital content.
To help organizations realize this standard, we share below —
- The new additions to the WCAG 2.2 guidelines
- WCAG 2.2 timeline for adoption
- Why companies should address the latest guidelines now to improve their business outcomes and avoid the risk of website accessibility lawsuits, which have become common
- The most complete and cost-effective approach to complying with the guidelines.
What’s new in WCAG 2.2.
WCAG 2.2 is backwards compatible, building upon the prior guidelines by adding nine new success criteria. Eight of the new success criteria are at Level A and AA, so, if like many companies, you are targeting level AA, this update requires your attention.
- 2.4.11 Focus Appearance (Minimum) (Level AA). This criterion pertains to the keyboard focus indicator — the visual indicator that shows where someone is on a page. The criterion provides guidance on the recommended minimum level of visibility that ensures the keyboard focus indicator is clearly visible to users.
- 2.4.12 Focus Appearance (Enhanced) (Level AA). Building on the prior criterion, this criterion provides additional specifications designed to ensure heightened visibility of the keyboard focus indicator.
- 2.4.13 Page Break Navigation (Level A). This new guideline will benefit those with visual impairments who rely on electronic publications. The criterion calls for a physical publication’s fixed reference points, such as page numbers, to also be present in the electronic form of the publication. Thus, if a professor asks students to read a passage on page 88 of a book, page 88 in the electronic publication must match page 88 in the physical book, so that users can easily navigate to the correct page in the e-publication.
- 2.5.7 Dragging Movements (Level AA). This criterion is designed to improve accessibility for people who cannot precisely perform an on-screen dragging motion or who rely on assistive technology, such as an eye-gaze system that doesn’t allow for dragging. The criterion requires that an alternative system be available to the user. For example, if dragging allows one to move around within a map, the map must also provide another means, such as arrows, for moving within the map.
- 2.5.8 Target Size (Minimum) (Level AA). Targets are the region of the display that will accept a pointer action, such as clicking with a mouse or touching on a touchscreen. Examples of targets include “buy now” buttons and links. This criterion calls for a certain amount of spacing between targets to ensure users can easily activate a target without accidentally activating an adjacent target.
- 3.2.6 Consistent Help (Level A). This criterion recommends various approaches that make getting help on a web page easier for all users. For example, FAQs or a contact phone number should be easy to find.
- 3.2.7 Visible Controls (Level AA). The W3C recommends that controls needed to complete or progress a process are visible at the time they are needed without the user having to hover a pointer over them or otherwise interact with them. Making the controls persistently visible is one approach to meeting this criterion.
- 3.3.7 Accessible Authentication (Level A). If an authentication process relies on a cognitive function test, at least one other authentication method must be available that does not rely on a cognitive function test. For example, if logging into an account requires a username (which requires the cognitive function of remembering a username), another non-cognitive log-in method, such as biometric sensing, must also be available.
- 3.3.8 Redundant Entry (Level A). The W3C specifies that, in a multi-step process, the user shouldn’t have to recall or re-enter previously supplied information, which would be difficult for a user with cognitive or memory challenges. For example, if the user has already supplied their billing address, an option should exist to confirm that the shipping address is the same.
When will WCAG 2.2 be released?
Based on the timeline provided by the W3C, WCAG 2.2 should (hopefully!) become an official recommendation in September 2022. However, due to the complexity of creating a standard that will be applied to billions of web pages, the W3C is taking it’s time to get things right.
The WCAG 2.2 release date has already been pushed back from June 21, and may yet slip some more. The latest public working WCAG 2.2 draft was released on May 21, 2021 but the editor’s draft continues to be updated regularly.
Why organizations should comply with WCAG 2.2 now
Digital accessibility is mandatory in many countries around the world:
- In the US: web accessibility regulation falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Recent years have seen an explosive growth in the number of ADA-based digital accessibility lawsuits - in 2021 they reached 10 per day - a 15% increase from 2020. The financial risk is significant, with landmark lawsuits reaching over $6M.
- In the EU: private sector companies must prepare for the European Accessibility Act (EAA), which is set to come into force in July 2025. The act calls for member states to enforce penalties for noncompliance in a way that is “effective, proportionate, and dissuasive.”
Aside from the potential legal ramifications of failing to provide an accessible website, companies miss out on the opportunity to capture market share (approximately half a trillion dollars in purchasing power . This is especially true in the age of COVID-19, when more and more disabled individuals are relying on digital services to get the support they need.
As the pressures mount, it’s becoming critical for companies to align with the law or face significant risk and loss of business opportunity.
While WCAG 2.0 remains a W3C recommendation — and is currently the default standard cited in accessibility litigations — organizations should start considering the WCAG 2.2 changes and new success criteria now, both to future-proof their current accessibility efforts and to ensure better support for the needs of web and mobile users with disabilities.
Looking ahead: When will WCAG 3.0 be released?
In parallel with WCAG 2.2, the W3C’s is also working toward a major restructuring of the accessibility guidelines. named WCAG 3.0.
Set to shake up existing practice, the guidelines will be structured differently to the WCAG 2.X series and will not be backwards compatible. While it is important to keep track of developments, it is not recommended to start building WCAG 3.0 into your accessibility program until it is published as an official W3C recommendation.
Crownpeak DQM - the most complete and cost-effective approach to WCAG 2.2 compliance
Given the technical and resource challenges of staying up to date with the continually evolving WCAG guidelines, many organizations struggle to achieve even basic levels of compliance, hampering the success of their digital initiatives and putting their organizations at risk. According to the 2022 WebAIM Million Report on the accessibility of the top 1,000,000 home pages, 96.8% of the surveyed pages had WCAG 2 failures - and because automatic testing alone cannot detect all WCAG failure types, the actual level of conformance is presumed to be even lower.
At Crownpeak, we're passionate advocates for web accessibility and believe in helping our customers achieve an inclusive and exceptionally good user experience for all.
The industry’s only end-to-end solution, Crownpeak DQM brings together the power of automated technology with expert testing and remediation, to help companies deliver fully-inclusive, WCAG, ADA and EAA compliant digital experiences with speed and efficiency.
We continually update DQM in accordance with the latest WCAG guidelines, so using DQM for your website makes ongoing WCAG compliance easy.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Crownpeak DQM can help you get ADA and WCAG compliant in a matter of hours, request a demo.