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The structure behind the technical side of digital accessibility is based on the global guidelines of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). This international community has adopted the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines describe the conditions apps and websites must meet to be digitally accessible.

Earlier, we explained these web guidelines in an article. The technologies on which websites and apps are based are constantly innovating. To remain as relevant as possible, the guidelines are therefore updated regularly. Currently, the WCAG 2.1 guidelines apply, but the W3C is working hard to publish the latest version; the WCAG 2.2.

This article discusses the main changes of WCAG 2.2. The table below shows the proposed new guidelines schematically. Click on one of the criteria to read more about it or scroll down for the comprehensive overview.

Criterium Level Guideline Naam
2.4.11 AA Navigable Focus Appearance (Minimum)
2.4.12 AA Navigable Focus Not Obscured (Minimum)
2.4.13 AAA Navigable Focus Not Obscured (Enhanced)
2.5.7 AA Input Modalities Dragging movements
2.5.8 AA Input Modalities Target size (Minimum)
3.2.6 A Predictable Consistent Help
3.3.7 AA Input Assistence Accessible Authentication
3.3.8 AAA Input Assistence Accessible Authentication (No Exceptions)
3.3.9 A Input Assistence Redundant Entry

Two hands typing on a laptop

When will WCAG 2.2 be published?

Not everything always goes according to plan, and this also applies to the W3C. For example, the publication of WCAG 2.2 has already been postponed several times. Initially, the new guidelines were supposed to take effect in autumn 2020. This deadline was not met. The deadline set next, June 2021, was also not met. The publication of version 2.2 of WCAG is currently scheduled for December 2022.

Are you a developer and want to contribute? The W3C is always looking for input from experience developers. It is possible to send feedback to the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group via Github.

What are the main changes?

The 2.2 version of the web guidelines flows from the earlier version, WCAG 2.2. This means that the new version is an addition to the existing criteria, not a completely new list of criteria. It is fairly certain that this is the last update of WCAG 2, so there will probably not be a WCAG 2.3. In the next version, WCAG 3.0, not only will new criteria be added, the current ones will also be reassessed.

For now, it is important to know that the arrival of WCAG 2.2 mainly means that new criteria will be added to the checklist. What exactly these criteria are is detailed below.

What are the new criteria of WCAG 2.2?

The latest draft version of the WCAG 2.2 offers an insight into the new requirements that will be imposed on accessible internet content. Again, this version of the WCAG is not written in a very accessible way. Hence, below, the WCAG 2.2 criteria are explained per section in understandable language.

Focus Appearance (2.4.11) (Level A & AA)

This item is an addition to criterion 2.4.7 from the current guidelines. This criterion refers to guidance for people who use the keyboard (rather than a mouse) to navigate through a site. The current guidelines state that a focus should be visible for the currently selected option (i.e. what you are selecting). From WCAG 2.2, accessible websites should provide a contrast ratio of at least 3:1 for that focus for level AA (2.4.11).

The image below shows an example of such a focus point, taken from our research into the accessibility of the websites of Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht.

'Information for entrepreneurs' is currently being selected and is shaded.

‘Information for entrepreneurs’ is currently being selected and is shaded.

Focus Not Obscured (Minimum) (2.4.12) (Niveau AA)

For visitors with mobility problems who rely on using a keyboard, it is very important to know which element receives the focus. WCAG 2.4.11 highlighted the importance of clear focus display. Criterion 2.4.12 states that overlapping content should not be completely covered by other content or user interface elements. If part of the focus is still visible, 2.4.12 can still be met.

Focus Not Obscured (Enhanced) (2.4.13) (Niveau AAA)

Whereas criterion 2.4.12 makes a difference between focus being partially covered or fully covered, 2.4.13 is a lot stricter. To meet this criterion, the focus must not be covered at all by other content, even partially.

Dragging Movements (2.5.7) (Niveau AA)

For many visitors, the ability to drag and drop files onto a website (drag and drop) is the epitome of user convenience. However, this does not apply to everyone. Drag and drop requires a fairly precise movement of the mouse. For users with motor disabilities, dragging and dropping files is not always easy. Hence, WCAG 2.2 states that accessible websites should not just offer drag and drop capability, but also accessible alternatives. An example of such an alternative is a button that users can click to upload something.

Target Size (2.5.8) (Niveau AA)

Especially on mobile devices, it is difficult to click on small buttons and links, especially if they are close together. WCAG 2.2 will therefore specify a minimum distance there should be between two interactive elements. Incidentally, this also applies to desktop versions of digital products, not just mobile versions.

Findable Help (3.2.6) (Niveau A)

Large companies are particularly good at it: hiding contact details. This is an effective way to reduce the workload of helpdesk employees. For consumers, it is less pleasant. The WCAG 2.2 therefore states that it should be easy for users to find resources like an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) or contact information. The advice is to include this information on every page, for example in the header or footer of the page.

Companies and organisations often don’t think about it, but not everyone is able to call a phone number for help. Think, for example, about making an appointment at the GP’s or placing a reservation at your favourite restaurant if you are deaf or hard of hearing.

Accessible Authentication (3.3.7) (Niveau AA)

This criterion states that it should be possible for anyone to use functions such as ‘forgot password’ on websites. Thus, authentication should be accessible to all visitors. A practical example of this is the ‘forget password’ option on websites that require a user account. According to WCAG 2.2, websites should not use authentication tests that involve cognitive testing. These tests are currently used by websites to distinguish ‘real’ users from bots.

Preventing spam is always important for developers. Doing so in an accessible way is unfortunately not yet a given.

Accessible Authentication (No Exceptions) (3.3.8) (Niveau AAA)

Criterion 3.3.7 goes one step further than 3.3.6. To meet this criterion, cognitive tests should not be used as an authentication process if there is not one of the following options:

  1. An accessible alternative that does not require cognitive tests.
  2. A mechanism that users can use to get help with authentication.

Examples of authentication methods that use cognitive methods include remembering a password or solving a puzzle.

Redundant Entry (3.3.9) (Niveau A)

The last new criterion relates to online forms. Websites should not make it compulsory to re-enter information when it is not necessary. An example is filling in address information twice, for the payment address and the delivery address. An exception is made for information that must necessarily be entered twice.

Voldoen aan de WCAG 2.2

A comprehensive (and less accessible) overview of the WCAG draft version can be found on the W3C website. After reading the new criteria, is it still not clear whether your organisation’s website will comply with the guidelines? Digitaal Toegankelijk.nl is happy to think along with governments and organisations to come up with exclusive online products.

Vincent van Brakel

Vincent van Brakel researches the accessibility of websites and apps for Digitaal Toegankelijk. Vincent also writes about everything that has to do with digital accessibility and shares practical tips on DigitaalToegankelijk.nl.