W3C WAI publishes WCAG 2.2 first public working draft

Dr Scott Hollier, CfID’s Senior Lecturer for the Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility, shares his insights on the recently announced draft update to the WCAG standard.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)  Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI Accessibility Guidelines Working Group has published a first public working draft of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.2.

The primary reason for the update so soon after WCAG 2.1 relates to the addition of Success Criteria to support the needs of people with cognitive or learning disabilities. The WCAG 2.0 standard, while widely adopted, was often viewed as being week in providing support to people with cognitive disabilities due to relevant Success Criteria being placed in the rarely implemented Level AAA compliance. Support was also largely overlooked in the WCAG 2.1 dot release. As such, the addition of support to the standard is seen as a welcome update.

According to W3C, the development of the WCAG 2.2 draft will likely feature up to 12 additional Success Criteria, providing additional guidance for users of mobile devices and users of e-books.

In this initial draft, the Success Criteria 2.4.7 Focus visible from WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 has been changed from level AA to level A. In addition, there has been a focus on one new success criterion: 2.4.11 Focus visible (Enhanced) for Level AA implementation. These changes make the original Focus Visible an essential requirement, with the new Success Criterion providing updated guidance at Level AA on optimising its implementation.

The New Success Criterion is described as follows:

“When a User Interface Component displays a visible keyboard focus, all of the following are true:

  • Minimum area: The focus indication area is greater than or equal to the longest side of the bounding rectangle of the focused control, times 2 CSS pixels.
  • Focus contrast: Colour changes used to indicate focus have at least a 3:1 contrast ratio with the colours changed from the unfocused control.
  • Contrast or thickness: The focus indication area has a 3:1 contrast ratio against all adjacent colours for the minimum area or greater, or has a thickness of at least 2 CSS pixels.”

The changing of Focus Visible to Level A, and the specific guidance on border size and colour contrast at Level AA, is likely to significantly improve the web navigation experience for people who have vision or cognitive disabilities.  While it is very early days on the WCAG 2.2 development, it is an encouraging beginning and has the potential of providing some additional support while the next-generation Silver standard remains in development.

Feedback on the draft can be provided to W3C via the WCAG 2.2 GitHub process or by e-mail public-agwg-comments@w3.org.