Product Design
February 21, 2023

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.2 - A New WCAG Version is Coming

The WCAG framework aims to improve digital accessibility for people with disabilities.

By following its guidelines, website owners can deliver a better experience, regardless of how users access the internet. 

The WCAG standard has 13 guidelines. These guidelines are organized under four principles:

  1. Perceivable
  2. Operable
  3. Understandable
  4. Robust

If you want a better understanding of these principles, check out the Introduction to Understanding WCAG.

What is the aim of WCAG 2.2?

WCAG 2.2 was initiated to continue the work of WCAG 2.1. This involved improving accessibility guidance for three major groups:

  1. Users with cognitive or learning disabilities.
  2. Users with low vision.
  3. Users with disabilities on mobile devices and e-books.

Each version of WCAG has major implications for developers, designers, and website owners, and the final version of WCAG 2.2 comes with some updates.

Website design with developer, designer, and website owner

New Success Criteria

The updated version will contain nine new Success Criteria (SC) and minor changes in two existing SCs, which will be explained below.

But it has yet to be officially released. For now, W3C has released draft versions of this document, with the latest version of the draft published on January 26.

The main objective of the Candidate Recommendation (CR) is to ensure that the standards can be implemented and enforced.

The list of the new SCs proposed by the CR in September 2022 is being worked on. Let's take a look.

List of new proposed SCs:

  1. 2.4.11 Focus Appearance (Level AA)*
  2. 2.4.12 Focus Not Obscured (Minimum) (Level AA)
  3. 2.4.13 Focus Not Obscured (Enhanced) (Level AAA)
  4. 2.5.7 Dragging Movements (Level AA)
  5. 2.5.8 Target Size (Minimum) (Level AA)
  6. 3.2.6 Consistent Help (Level A)
  7. 3.3.7 Accessible Authentication (Level AA)
  8. 3.3.8 Accessible Authentication (No Exception) (Level AAA)
  9. 3.3.9 Redundant Entry (Level A).

*The new SCs, 2.4.11 “Focus Appearance'', was marked “At Risk” by the end of 2022, and in the last updates of the CR on January 25th, it is still at risk. This is due to concerns about implementation and testing challenges. 

There is a need for greater information on this, which is expected to be collected during implementation testing once the CR exit criteria have been met.

If the testing does not document the sufficient implementation of a given feature, it could be removed from the final specification.

Software developer and digital technology development concept

Updates from WCAG 2.1

In addition to the new SCs, two changes from WCAG 2.1 are likely to be included in WCAG 2.2.

These changes are:

  1. 2.4.7 Focus Visible has been promoted to Level A (from Level AA).
  2. 4.1.1 Parsing has been marked as obsolete.

*(Most parsing issues that have a real user impact are covered by other SCs anyway, and arguably, there’s no point being concerned about parsing issues that don’t have a user impact.)

So, with this being said, and if you are already familiar with WCAG 2.0 or 2.1, you probably have a few questions. 

If so, we have you covered. Let's look at a few of the most relevant questions thus far.

(1) Will WCAG 2.2 make previous versions deprecated and useless?

The answer is an emphatic no. The publication of WCAG 2.2 does not deprecate or supersede WCAG 2.0 or WCAG 2.1. While WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1 remain W3C Recommendations, the W3C advises using WCAG 2.2 to maximize the future applicability of accessibility efforts. 

The W3C also encourages using the most current version of WCAG when developing or updating Web accessibility policies.

(2) Will WCAG 2.2 keep using the WCAG 2.1 / 2.0 A, AA, & AAA conformance levels?

Currently, there will not be changes in the use of conformance levels; and they are still using A/AA/AAA.

(3) When is WCAG 2.2 going to be officially released and published?

WCAG 2.2 is not yet final and will not be final for a few months. It is still processing implementations and comments from the publication of the Candidate Recommendation. As of now, it is expected to be published in April 2023.

Final Thoughts on WCAG 2.2

Digital accessibility is gaining more and more power and relevance in the agenda of those of us working in software development. I recently wrote a related article on how digital accessibility could impact older generations.

It is becoming essential to familiarize ourselves with the appropriate guidelines and to ensure that digital accessibility is taken into account in each phase of the software development life cycle.

It's no longer enough to say, "let's consider how to incorporate digital accessibility." Digital accessibility is already present, so we must watch for the upcoming WCAG 2.2 release and ensure to meet the requirements.

Please let us know if you found this article useful in the comments section. We are happy to answer any questions you may have. Also, if you would like us to publish specific articles about each new SC included in WCAG 2.2, we are happy to do so!