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Accessibility.Blog

Whats new in WCAG 2.1?

July 10, 2018 10:07:33 AM EDT

WCAG 2.1 seeks to improve the already established WCAG 2.0. If your website is currently compliant with WCAG 2.0, you will now need to add compliance in a few new areas such as:

  • Mobile devices
  • Low vision
  • Cognitive Disabilities

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), are the most widely used set of accessibility standards for web-based content. Since its release in 2008, WCAG 2.0 has dominated discussions surrounding web accessibility, covering everything from closed captions to high-contrast color schemes.

June 5th, 2018 saw the first evolution of the WCAG standards in a decade with the release of WCAG 2.1. These new recommendations include updates to address mobile devices, as well as to better serve people with low vision and cognitive difficulties.

What’s New in WCAG 2.1?

Importantly, the WCAG 2.1 recommendations are backwards compatible with WCAG 2.0; the existing criteria have not been modified. In addition, WCAG 2.0 has not been deprecated: It remains in force and is a viable option for organizations concerned about accessibility.

This is good news if you already meet the WCAG 2.0 standards because you only need to address the new criteria to be in compliance with WCAG 2.1 as well.

Mobile Devices

According to internet monitoring firm StatCounter, October 2016 was the first month ever in which websites saw more mobile traffic than desktop traffic. What’s more, the popularity of mobile devices is only continuing to grow: 57 percent of internet activity now comes from smartphones and tablets as reported in 2017.

In recognition of this shift, WCAG 2.1 includes several criteria to improve the accessibility of mobile websites and apps. Accessibility for mobile devices involves additional concerns such as touch screens, smaller screen sizes, and gestures.

  • Criterion 1.3.4 (Orientation): Content cannot be restricted to a particular orientation, such as portrait or landscape, unless it is absolutely essential to do so.
  • Criterion 2.5.4 (Motion Actuation): Unless absolutely essential, features that are activated through user motion must be accessible through a user interface as well. In addition, motion-activated features can be disabled to avoid accidental activation.

Low Vision

The National Federation of the Blind estimates that 2.3 percent of the U.S. population has a visual disability. WCAG 2.1 includes criteria intended to make web content more accessible to people with low vision.

  • Criterion 1.4.11 (Non-Text Contrast): Graphical objects and user interface components must have a contrast ratio of at least 3:1.
  • Criterion 1.4.12 (Text Spacing): Users must be able to set different types of text spacing without loss of functionality or content. For example, the website must still be usable when the line height is set to 1.5 times the font size.

Cognitive Disabilities

WCAG 2.1 also expands the recommendations to include guidelines for assisting users with cognitive disabilities.

  • Criterion 1.3.5 (Identify Input Purpose): Input fields must contain metadata that identify their purpose so that assistive technologies can apply familiar icons or labels next to the fields if necessary.
  • Criterion 2.2.6 (Timeouts): If user inactivity will result in data loss, such as when input forms time out, users must be informed about how long they can remain inactive before data loss occurs.

How BoIA Can Help with WCAG 2.1

From the moment WCAG 2.1 was formally published, the Bureau of Internet Accessibility has supported its release and the W3C’s mission to keep accessibility standards in line with technological advances.

WCAG 2.1 represents a significant step forward for Internet accessibility standards. For most organizations already meeting WCAG 2.0, compliance with the new WCAG 2.1 recommendations should not be a major stumbling block.

At the Bureau of Internet Accessibility, our team of internet accessibility experts have the knowledge and experience to advise you as your organization seeks to comply with WCAG 2.1. In our efforts to make the internet accessible to more people than ever before, our services, information, tools, and training will all be updated to support WCAG 2.1.

To find out what WCAG 2.1 means for your business, contact us today for a free 30-minute consultation or visit our blog for the latest updates on the WCAG standards.

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