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WCAG 2.1 guidelines. What's new we may expect?

| Andrzej Herzberg | Web Development

The first version of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) was released by Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) in 1999. Almost in ancient times. WCAG 2.0 was released in December 2008 and includes a variety of improvements over version 1.0. Since that time many things on the Internet was changed.

The manner of consumption of the content has changed dramatically. While a decade ago, most popular devices were computers with large screens and big keyboards. Today web pages are focused on mobile devices with small touchscreens. Technologies change constantly. The same must be with accessibility guidelines. The old version of the guidelines was prepared very, very good and still are perfectly valid but can't keep up a mobile revolution, smartphones and the internet of things.

The topic of using web content accessibility guidelines to get a website accessibility is extremely important for us since at our stores you may buy WCAG 2.0 compliant Joomla templates and WCAG 2.0 WordPress themes that is why we follow news about WCAG guidelines document.

Make a successful accessible website with WCAG 2.0 & ADA & Section 508 compliant Joomla template.

WCAG 2.1 roadmap

That is why we need an updated version of guidelines. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are developed by an international team of experts, members of World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Works on the new version start shortly after version 2.0 was released. First drafts were available in January 2017.

A lot of steps are behind us:

  • January 2017 – Accessibility Guidelines Charter
  • February 2017 – 1st Public Working Draft
  • April 2017 – 2nd Public Working Draft
  • June 2017 – 3rd Public Working Draft
  • July 2017 – 4th Public Working Draft
  • August 2017 – 5th Public Working Draft
  • August 22, 2017 – stop accepting new success criteria proposals
  • September 2017 – 6th publish the working draft
  • December 2017 – 7th publish the working draft
  • January 2018 – Candidate Recommendation (now)
  • June 2018 – WCAG 2.1 Recommendation

You can check working progress on GitHub project:
Comments are welcome :)

Status of the WCAG 2.1 guidelines document at this moment is Candidate Recommendation (CR). A CR is just one step away from being a full W3C Recommendation. A Candidate Recommendation has already received wide public review and is expected to be approved with only minimal changes. W3C plan to finish works and publish guidelines in June 2018 so, very, very soon.

The main goal is to fill the gaps in WCAG 2.0 for:

  • mobile
  • low vision
  • cognitive

Is this the end of WCAG 2.0?

Absolutely no. Web content accessibility guidelines WCAG 2.0 guidelines are perfectly valid also in the new WCAG 2.1 version.
WCAG 2.1 is 100% backward-compatible with an older version.  If you have an accessible website which meets WCAG 2.0 requirements there is nothing to worry about. Both WCAG guidelines are complementary. You can go ahead and apply WCAG 2.0 and then prepare for additional requirements of WCAG 2.1 

What's new in WCAG 2.1?

We can say that WCAG 2.1 extends version 2.0, all success criteria and guidelines from the older version are still in the game, meaning that if you fulfill WCAG 2.1 you’ll automatically fulfill WCAG 2.0. At this moment there are 17 new success criteria in relation to WCAG 2.0 which you can check below:

1.3.4 Identify Common Purpose (AA)

These success criteria require authors to add the context of fields, common buttons or links, that user agents know what they do and can correctly identify them. Authors should provide the purpose of a control using HTML autocomplete.

1.3.5 Identify Purpose (AAA)

Requires authors to support personalization, preferences and user needs in relation to the content. This support could include loading a set of symbols that are appropriate for the specific user.

1.4.10 Reflow (AA)

This requirement is basically related to responsive web design which is absolute must-have in these days.
Authors should allow the browser zoom function to increase the size of most content up to 400% without requiring scrolling in more than one direction.

1.4.11 Non-Text Contrast (AA)

Specifies the minimum contrast (3:1) for graphical elements and user interface components (for example indicators, buttons). Of course, not all graphical objects needs contrast, only those required for the user to understand what graphic is conveying (for example print icon).

1.4.12 Text Spacing (AA)

Specifies the minimum spacing around the text and requires to do not interfere with user stylesheets and other CSS based client side interventions. Line height, letter spacing or word spacing, spacing underneath paragraphs must be able to adapt to required sizes.

1.4.13 Content on Hover or Focus (AA)

Requires that the content visible on hover and focus events (like tooltips, modals), does not interfere with viewing or operating the trigger. Authors need to ensure that content which may appear on hover of a target may also be hovered itself and users have sufficient time to perceive.

2.2.6 Timeouts (AAA)

The user must be warned about the duration of any user inactivity that could cause the data loss. Authors should help users who need additional time performing tasks or reading content.

2.2.7 Animation from Interactions (AAA)

Requires authors to not use motion as a result of a user action, or provide a way to turn it off.
For example, if scrolling a page causes elements to move (animations) it can trigger vestibular disorders, nausea and headaches.

2.4.11 Character Key Shortcuts (A)

Requires authors to not use a single key shortcut or provide a way to turn them off/change them.
Key shortcuts may work well for keyboard users but can be inappropriate and frustrating for speech input users. People that use speech to text on their mobile devices can't trigger things by mistake.

2.4.12 Label in Name (A)

For user interface components with labels (also aria labels) that include text or images, the name should be presented visually. Speech users can navigate pages by speaking only visible labels, links and button labels that appear on a webpage. The visible label should match the Accessible Name.

2.5.1 Pointer Gestures (A)

Requires authors to ensure that the user can perform touch functions with assistive technology or only one finger, ensure that, wherever possible, content can be operated through single point activation.

2.5.2 Pointer Cancellation (A)

Requires authors to not use the down-event of the pointer, they should use up-events instead.
People with disabilities can accidentally initiate touch or mouse events with unwanted results.

2.5.3 Target Size (AAA)

Requires authors to prepare sufficient size of the target for pointer inputs. Some users may have trouble activating a small target because of hand tremors, limited dexterity or other reasons.

2.5.4 Concurrent Input Mechanisms (AAA)

Requires authors to don't interfere with the way a user is accessing the content. Users may switch between input mechanisms at any point during the interaction. Users should be able to interact with the content with any input mechanism is available to them.

2.6.1 Motion Actuation (A)

Requires that functionality that can be operated by device motion (such as shaking) or user motion can also be operated by other user interface components. Some users with disabilities may not able to operate in this way.

2.6.2 Orientation (AA)

Requires authors to not restricts some of the functionality to a single display orientation (such as landscape or portrait). Websites and applications need to support both orientations.

3.2.6 Status Changes (AA)

Requires authors to use aria-live roles or attributes to notify users when the status message was changed. Ensure that users will be aware of important changes in content.

What are further plans for WCAG?

The Accessibility Guidelines Working Group is currently working also on requirements for next 3.0 version of guidelines.
The future guideline has the nickname of 'Silver' because 'Ag' is the symbol for the chemical element on the periodic table. First drafts should be available in 2019 and the final release is planned on November 2020.

WCAG 2.1 Joomla templates & WordPress themes

Once WCAG 2.1 recommendation will be officially released we will update all WCAG 2.0 ready Joomla template and make them all Joomla templates WCAG 2.1 compliant. What's more, under brand we also offer WCAG 2.0 WordPress themes.


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