The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a series of digital accessibility requirements published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the main international standards organisation for the Internet. The WCAG, however, are not a static document but are regularly updated to reflect changes in technologies. In this blog, we explain the key differences between WCAG 2.0, 2.1 and 2.2, and what they mean for your website or app.
A brief history of WCAG
WCAG 2.0 was first published by the W3C in 2008. The web has changed dramatically in the intervening years, so in 2018, the W3C added 17 new success criteria to the guidelines, thereby introducing WCAG 2.1. On August 11 2020, a working draft of an additional set of guidelines, WCAG 2.2, was released. WCAG 2.2 is scheduled to be completed and officially published in late 2022.
Why the WCAG are Continually Updated
One of the most important things to understand about the WCAG is that each new version attempts to improve on the previous one without making major changes to older standards. The success criteria in WCAG 2.1 appear word-for-word in version 2.2. In other words, if your website conforms with WCAG 2.2, it also conforms with WCAG 2.1 and 2.0.
WCAG 2.0 versus 2.1
Many of the new guidelines in WCAG 2.1 are related to mobile applications, as a consequence of mobile and tablet usage becoming more frequent than when the standards were first published in 2008. Assistive technologies also advanced within this timeframe, so additional criteria were necessary to ensure web content was compatible with today’s modern technology.
Let’s take success criterion 1.3.4 Orientation (AA) in WCAG 2.1 as an example:
“Screen Orientation: A website or application should not be restricted to a particular orientation but should adjust to the user’s preferred display orientation – whether it’s viewed in portrait or landscape mode”.
What’s New in the WCAG 2.2 Working Draft
The W3C has stated that version 2.2 was initiated with the goal of continuing the work of WCAG 2.1 by providing additional support for people with cognitive and learning disabilities, users with low vision, and users with disabilities on mobile devices.
It’s understood that WCAG 2.2 will introduce nine new success criteria to WCAG 2.1. Again, WCAG 2.2 is backwards compliant, meaning that if your website conforms to 2.2, it conforms to 2.0 and 2.1 as well.
Based on the timeline provided by the W3C, it is expected that WCAG 2.2 will become an official recommendation in late 2022. However, due to the complexity of creating a standard that will be applied to billions of web pages, the W3C is taking its time to get things right.
Comparing the three WCAG versions
The main difference between the different WCAG versions lies in the number of new success criteria:
- WCAG 2.0 has 61 success criteria
- WCAG 2.1 has 78 (61 + 17 new success criteria)
- WCAG 2.2 will have 87 (78 + 9 new success criteria)
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines continue to be the north star for organisations that want to ensure their websites and apps are fully accessible to all users, including those with a disability. If you want to ensure that your website or app is fully compliant with these guidelines you can contact IA Labs.