What to Expect with WCAG 2.1

What to Expect with WCAG 2.1

News in the accessibility field means extra work and potential fines for anyone with web content not updated to meet new regulations.

According to axesslab’s article “WCAG 2.1 – What’s Up and Coming?” the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 have been planned to be released in June of 2018, and several new regulations have been proposed.

At the moment, the WCAG 2.1 is on Working Draft Two of seven. There are so far four new criteria proposed that made it to round two, though more may come back from the original 28 new criteria proposed in Working Draft One. Twenty-eight is a lot of new criteria; there are only around 63 existing at the moment, which means that almost half again the amount we have now have been proposed. This only goes to show how awareness of problems with digital content being accessible to disabled users is spreading, and the issue is becoming more of a priority in government.

(1.4.10 – Resize Content, Level A)

The first new criterion proposed  would require content to be able to be resized up to 400% – twice what was required in WCAG 2.0 – without loss of content or functionality and without needing horizontal scrolling. This is going to mean some major overhaul for web-pages, but it will be a lifesaver for the elderly and disabled.

(1.4.11 – Graphics Contrast, Level AA)

The second new criterion  sets requirements for contrast on graphics as well as regular text, though that excludes logotypes. Low-contrast can make content difficult or impossible for the visually or cognitively impaired to decipher;  that difficulty applies to graphics as well as regular text, so it’s about time regulations were amended.

(2.2.6 – Interruptions, Level AA)

The third new criterion  requires that web pages have an “easily available mechanism to postpone and suppress interruptions and changes in content,” by which they mean there needs to be an option to block popups that interrupt focus. Popups are irritating and disruptive to the best of us, but for someone with a visual or cognitive impairment, they can make it hard to access any content on the page.

(3.2.6 – Accidental Activation, Level A)

The last new criterion at this time  requires activation initiation to be on the up-event, so that people with motor difficulties are less likely to press the wrong button or link by mistake. The criterion specifies that a user can touch the screen and have an opportunity to recognize that they are touching the wrong thing and move their mouse or hand before the link or button is activated. For anyone with a physical or cognitive disability, pushing the wrong button is one of the most frequent and frustrating issues the internet can throw at you. Having a failsafe “are you sure?” can save many people thousands of little frustrating moments that add up into a debilitating incapacity.

It is speculated that in addition to the above criteria there may be regulations regarding target size, plain language and animations in forthcoming Working Drafts, which we can only hope will make the cut. In the modern world, knowledge of the implications of cognitive and physical impairments has expanded on par with our technological innovations; our laws and regulations are due to keep pace with these advances.

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