WCAG 2.2 is a new W3C recommendation
This past week, the W3C finally published a new version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as its official recommendation. This new version, WCAG 2.2, has been a long time coming. The draft has been under review for a long time and we already shared some advance knowledge on WCAG 2.2 way back in February.
Why does WCAG 2.2 matter?
WCAG is not a government body, but it’s very influential in setting legal standards worldwide. The ADA (and federal guidelines as of 2023) don’t cite any specific standard for digital accessibility, but courts have generally cited WCAG as a de facto standard. It’s likely that lawsuits and rulings will soon start making use of WCAG 2.2.
In other cases (including legal requirements for U.S. federal government technology and in other countries), WCAG is explicitly cited. In those cases, we can expect that WCAG 2.2 will become the governing standard with time.
How to approach this change
Review the guidelines
Access Armada has also produced a high level overview of WCAG 2.2 and plan to do some deeper dives in the near future.
WCAG 2.2 is backwards compatible
There are some new success criteria introduced as part of WCAG 2.2 but all (but one) of the existing guidelines from WCAG 2.1 are also there. There’s no paradigm shift here. That means that conforming to 2.1 is a very big step towards 2.2 conformance as well. As always, more accessible is better than less. If you are currently working towards WCAG 2.1 conformance, it’s still valuable. Keep going!
Measure the gap
It’s important to keep in mind that standards like WCAG set an accessibility floor, not a ceiling. Accessibility specialists rely heavily on WCAG to provide clear guidelines, failures, test cases, and techniques. But even within the framework of WCAG, there are stretch goals (in Level AAA). And there are also best practices that go beyond what is explicitly documented in WCAG.
All of this is a long way of saying that WCAG 2.2 is not inventing any new accessibility principles. If you designed and built your site or application with accessibility in mind, it’s quite possible you are already substantially in conformance.
But even if you are not quite there, it’s to our benefit to have additional guidelines and standards that we can use to measure accessibility.
You have time to plan
All of the new WCAG 2.2 criteria represent valuable steps forward for accessibility. If you could snap your fingers and achieve them tomorrow, go for it! But it’s okay to take a beat and consider how to incorporate this into your roadmap. After all, it took W3C years to produce a guideline and it will take a bit longer for other standards bodies to reflect this latest recommendation. Be deliberate and plan for sustainable gains.