What is WCAG 2.1?

World Wide Web Consortium logoThe Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are recommendations for websites and their content to make them accessible for people with disabilities, produced by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

WCAG 2.0 has been around since 2008, and technology and features have moved on enormously in the last 10 years. In 2008, the iPad had not been released and 4G internet in the UK was still five years away!

As mobile phones have become more attainable, the way we interact with websites has also changed. Today, its commonplace to ‘pinch’, ‘swipe’ and ‘shake’ while interacting with content on a smart phone, tablet and touchpads on computers which allow for similar features.

As a result of the constant development of technology and issues that were not addressed, WCAG 2.1 was released in June 2018, adding 17 further requirements to WCAG 2.0.

What is new in WCAG 2.1?

As mentioned earlier, technology has changed since 2008 and in particular we’ve seen smart phones become commonplace. Many of the 2.1 recommendations are mobile device specific, but there are also recommendations for text features and for interactive components.

Woman working on a smart phone and laptop

Mobile Specific guidelines include:

  • Orientation: when a screen is rotated, the content should remain accessible and not be obscured.
  • Pointer gestures: where actions such as pinch or two fingered swipes are used, there should also be another function to allow for single pointer gestures.
  • Reflow: when viewing a web page on a small screen (or zoomed in) the page adjusts itself to prevent the need for scrolling in two dimensions.
  • Motion actuation: where actions such as ’tilt’ or ‘shake’ are used, there is another way of interacting with the page without these features.

Other additional guidelines include:

  • Status messages: this covers a wide range of possibilities, but relates to communicating updates to a user that otherwise may not know of changes to a page. An example of this could be when selecting the ‘add to cart’ button, a screen reader user hears feedback that states ‘item X added to the cart, total of Y items, total £Z’. 
  • Non text contrast: contrast requirements have always been in WCAG, but they specifically referred to text and backgrounds. The guidelines have been updated to include borders (e.g. of text boxes or cells in a table) and the contrast of other interactive components, such as buttons and links. Logos are still exempt from contrast requirements.
  • Standards for mouse clicks: You may have noticed that when you click on a button, it is only activated when you release the click. Furthermore, if you hold the click on a button, move the mouse away from the button and release, the button doesn’t activate. This is the way it should be, but not all websites work this way.
  • Text spacing: the way that text is formatted is important to all of us so that we can understand and interpret text. Specific rules relating to text have been added in 2.1, this is especially good news for those with a cognitive disability.

There are other features in WCAG 2.1 that don’t fit within these categories, but will still form part of the test methodology with companies like Dig Inclusion.

Microsoft Hololens Augmented Reality

Will there be a WCAG 2.2 in the future?

Earlier we looked at the fact that WCAG 2.1 developed out of the changes that have been made to technology over the last decade. The World Wide Web Consortium are regularly evaluating the current WCAG guidelines and are making sure they are up to date and helpful to all users of the internet.

It’s possible that future guidelines will include requirements for augmented reality or speech only units (like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home), but only time will tell and it’s likely that WCAG 2.1 will be with us for a few years before the next release.

We’d love to speak to you about your website and how it can meet WCAG 2.1 guidelines. Feel free to contact Dig Inclusion to discuss this further.