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Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) briefing

Our friends at System Concepts have a timely update on WCAG 2.1, just in time for our Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2018 event#uxpaGAAD.


WCAG 2.1: 5 key updates

A working draft of the latest Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is available for comment. Here’s our perspective on WCAG 2.1, and why we think 5 of its 17 proposed new guidelines are particularly significant.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are considered the main reference point for assessing digital accessibility, providing a common set of checkpoints for reviewing different digital platforms. Our consultants have found these guidelines to be a valuable asset, using them to shape much of our accessibility work.

The working draft of WCAG 2.1 comes 10 years after W3C released WCAG v2 in 2008, and here at System Concepts, we’re impressed with the 17 new guidelines proposed.

Criteria for assessing different platforms and devices

The 17 new guidelines will help improve the assessment of the accessibility of web content across different platforms and devices, and they also embrace more considerations for users with cognitive impairments. We commend the team responsible for the update and believe the additions will make WCAG 2.1 a more comprehensive set of guidelines.

5 criteria that are particularly noteworthy additions in WCAG 2.1

1.4.13 Content on Hover or Focus

This addition helps to make content which appears upon pointer hover or keyboard focus more accessible.

2.4.12 Label in Name

This requires that visible text labels and Accessible Names match so that speech input users can navigate webpages by speaking the visible text labels.

2.5.1 Pointer gestures

This requires that all functionality using multipoint or path-based gestures for operation, can be operated with a single pointer only, unless a multipoint or path-based gesture is essential.

2.5.3 Target size

To ensure that all users can activate targets, this requires that the size of the target for pointer inputs (via either mouse or touch) is at least 44×44 pixels.

2.6.2 Orientation

With this new addition, content cannot be restricted based on screen orientation (i.e. portrait vs. landscape).

We’ve put together a slide deck which includes an overview of the WCAG guidelines [PDF] and provides more information on these five criteria, with some best practice examples.

WCAG 2.1 alone is not the silver bullet

We will continue to keep an eye out for the final release of the next set of WCAG guidelines. However, it’s important to remember that, as W3C itself states, “…even content that conforms at the highest level (AAA) will not be accessible to individuals with all types, degrees, or combinations of disability, particularly in the cognitive, language, and learning areas”.

You’ll need to use a combination of the WCAG guidelines, and direct feedback from disabled users, to ensure your digital products are truly inclusive.


This post originally appeared on the System Concepts website.

About Rik Williams

Social Media Lead for the UXPA (UK). User Experience (UX) Architect for Alzheimer's Society.
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