What’s New in WCAG 2.2

What's New in WCAG 2.2

As more users turn to the internet to shop, connect, and educate themselves, accessibility remains the foundation of creating an inclusive online environment. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG, have long served as a compass for ensuring that websites and digital content are accessible to everyone. Most accessible websites follow either WCAG 2.0 or WCAG 2.1, which was first announced in 2018.

However, with so much change in user habits and needs taking place in the past five years, it has become apparent that accessibility standards need to evolve as well. As a result, the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium is gradually introducing WCAG 2.2, the latest iteration that takes accessibility to the next level.

What is WCAG 2.2?

WCAG 2.2, short for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.2, builds upon the foundation of its predecessors and expands its coverage to include the numerous changes to technology and user demand that have taken place over the past few years. While WCAG 2.2 has not yet been formally released, the latest proposed recommendation was released in July 2023. The W3C aims to finalize and release WCAG 2.2 by September 2023 or a bit later.

Key Updates in WCAG 2.2

The W3C is yet to announce the release of WCAG 2.2, but its latest proposed recommendation extends WCAG 2.1 by introducing the following new success criteria:

Keyboard Navigation

WCAG 2.2 requires that when the keyboard pointer focuses on a user interface component (such as a drop-down menu or a cell in a grid, such as a spreadsheet or table), it shouldn’t be hidden by text typed in by the user. The keyboard focus indicator should also be visible, both in terms of size (at least 2 CSS pixels thick) and contrast ratio (the standard is 3:1).

Dragging Movements

These criteria aim to reduce the need for dragging motions in website elements such as color pickers where the colors are presented as a gradient, editable areas where the user can change the location of the cursor, and sliders. In addition, WCAG 2.2 specifies that the size of the target for pointer inputs should be a minimum of 24 by 24 CSS pixels.

Consistent Help

This criterion requires that if a website includes certain help features like human contact details, human contact mechanisms, self-help options, or fully automated contact mechanisms, these features should maintain a consistent order relative to other page content across multiple web pages within a set. The order can only change if the user initiates the change themselves. This ensures that users can easily find and rely on these help mechanisms consistently as they navigate the website.

Redundant Entry

Information provided by users should be automatically filled in or made selectable for reuse within the same process, except when re-entering the information is essential, it is required for content security, or the previously entered information is no longer valid. This will reduce the time it takes for the user to accomplish an online form and reduce repetitive movements.

Accessible Authentication

While multi-factor authentication has been the trend lately, this added layer of security does not automatically mean it is accessible to all users. Some MFA methods rely on cognitive function tests that tend to exclude users with cognitive issues. At present, WCAG 2.2 states that there should be no requirement for a cognitive function test (e.g., remembering a password or solving a puzzle) unless an alternative method exists, there is a mechanism to help the user complete the test, the test involves identifying objects or user-provided non-text content.

Advancing Web Accessibility: WCAG 2.2 in a Nutshell

WCAG 2.2 is designed to address the changing landscape of technology and user requirements. Although it hasn’t been formally released yet, the latest proposed version is expected any time soon. Some key updates in WCAG 2.2 include enhancements related to keyboard navigation, reducing the need for dragging actions, ensuring consistent help features, minimizing redundant data entry, and making authentication methods more accessible.

These changes aim to improve web accessibility and usability for a wider range of users, including those with diverse needs and abilities. As a website owner or developer, knowing about these changes now will give you enough room to enhance your website before they are formally announced and adopted as the gold standard of accessibility.

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