Have you recently gone through—or planning near-term for—accessibility remediation? Are you currently building a website that needs to meet WCAG 2.0 compliance (soon to be WCAG 2.2)? If this sounds like your situation, then you know that website accessibility takes time. Despite what you may have heard or read, there is no one-line solution that will ensure your site is accessible. For a site to be accessible and equitable, it takes equal parts to plan, design, develop and maintain.
That’s why we wanted to get the word out about WCAG 3.0. It’s slated to release at some point in 2023. We’re not trying to scare any of our marketing, communication or IT teams, but with 2023 less than 2 years away, we want to prepare you for the future. This way your teams can start planning now for the potential work that’s ahead.
What is WCAG and why does it matter?
WCAG is short for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. The first guidelines (WCAG 1.0) were developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) back in 1998. Since then, the guidelines have evolved and, as of January 2017, WCAG 2.0 AA standards are a part of Section 508. So anyone required to meet Section 508 must also meet WCAG 2.0 AA standards.
Since WCAG 2.0, there have been two additional working drafts of the guidelines—the latest is WCAG 2.2. Each iteration strives for a better digital world that’s more accessible for persons with disabilities. The latest revision focuses on improving experiences for users with cognitive challenges, users with low vision and users with disabilities who use mobile devices. While WCAG 2.2 AA compliance is not currently required under Section 508, it’s recommended by the W3C and set to officially release this summer. With 26% of adults in the United States living with a disability, a more accessible website means you’ll reach more consumers.
What’s changing in WCAG 3.0?
The WCAG 3.0 project is code-named “Silver” and hopes to have its first official draft sometime in 2022. Silver is going through a reimagining to make it more flexible and to make it more clear how a site’s development affects different users.
We’ve become accustomed to targeting A, AA or AAA compliance. Those guidelines are going to change quite a bit: Conformance levels will instead be graded as Bronze, Silver and Gold. The guidelines are still being drafted, but it seems that Bronze will comprise of the A and AA levels that we currently use today.
Clearer Language & Ratings
The existing guidelines are very technical and sometimes hard to interpret for designers or developers who are not well-versed in it. A point of frustration for laypeople is being told, “It depends,” when they ask an accessibility subject matter expert if a component is accessible. The newer guidelines will attempt to use clearer language, and contain examples of success and failure outcomes. And for even more clarity, the guidelines are changing to a score-based rating—ranging from 0 for “Very Poor” to 4, which is “Excellent.”
Less Black-or-White Thinking
There will be less of a focus on a binary view of website accessibility. A simple example is how we treat image alt tags. A single decorative image in an article without an alt tag wouldn’t be considered a failure, but an image in a navigation menu without one would be considered a critical failure.
There will be a greater focus on outcomes and how they affect the users’ experiences for a specific type of content. These new guidelines with a focus on outcomes will support more users with a wider range of disabilities, using a sampling of existing sites to help them along the way.
New technologies—such as VR and AR—will also be taken into consideration under the new guidelines, and may examine how those experiences are contextually different.
There will be an overhaul on how visual contrast is calculated. This has been a major point of contention; the Silver group has taken special interest to address some of the shortcomings and confusion surrounding it so far.
Since the Silver Project is still in Public Working Draft, it’s a good idea to take a look at it while it’s in progress.
So how do I prepare for WCAG 3.0?
A great step in the right direction is to get your current site up to WCAG 2.2 AA standards. Or, if you’re in the early stages of design, make sure you’re planning for accessibility at each project phase. Starting from a stronger foundation will make it easier to build off of when WCAG 3.0 releases.
Outside of development, you can also train your internal teams. Because websites are ever-evolving, accessibility is also an ongoing process. And when team members have an understanding of accessibility and best practices, you’ll have better outcomes.
To learn more about web accessibility and how to get started on making your websites compliant, check out these additional resources from Primacy:
- Why You Should Care About Web Accessibility and How To Get Started
- Building Beautiful, Accessible Websites for Everybody
- Keeping Accessible Websites Accessible: Maintaining Compliance After Launch
You can also contact us for more information; we love to chat about accessibility!