This blog was originally published on February 4, 2018 and was updated on June 5, 2018. We are thrilled to congratulate the W3C Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AGWG) members on the official release of the new Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.1 on June 5, 2018. As a proud member of the AG WCAG community working group, it is beyond exciting to see guidelines continue to evolve to better meet the needs of all those who want and need to use the internet. The release of WCAG 2.1 brings us one step closer to an internet that is accessible to users all over the world.

Think about where the internet was in 2008. Twitter was that quirky new “microblogging” site that was getting more and more buzz on tech sites. Netflix’s streaming service was a recently launched sideline to its booming DVD delivery business. Smartphones were a luxury item, and tablets were still a couple of years away. 

Considering how massively the online landscape has changed in the past decade, it’s amazing that international standards for web accessibility haven’t been updated since December of 2008. That’s about to change. After soliciting and assessing recommendations from the public, the international Web Accessibility Initiative announced version 2.1 of its Web Content Accessibility Guidelines on June 5, 2018. There a few key changes website owners should particularly pay attention to:

Adapting to Mobile Devices 

Easily the biggest shift in the online experience over the past decade has been the move away from desktop computing and into mobile. The new WCAG standards emphasize a mobile experience that matches what users might expect from a traditional browsing session. This includes making your site’s touch screen functions more compatible with assistive technology. 

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Upgrading Visual Standards 

The current WCAG requires that web content be resizable up to 200% without losing functionality. The new standards raise that level to 400% to help users with low vision navigate sites more smoothly. Contrast levels are also getting an upgrade. Any images or text necessary to navigating the site or accessing content must meet contrast standards that accommodate low vision and color blind users. 

Minimizing Interruptions 

Pretty much everyone dislikes pop-up ads, but for users with certain cognitive issues, these kinds of interruptions can be especially problematic. WCAG 2.1 seeks to place limits on where and when pop-ups and similar advertising can appear. 

Easier Error Correction 

For users with motor skill issues, clicking on incorrect links and buttons is a common problem. WCAG 2.1 requires improvements in navigation technology that makes it easier both to find the right link and to correct actions if the wrong link is clicked. 

One thing you might notice while looking over these changes: They’re all things that would make the web a more pleasant place for any user, not only those with disabilities. That’s all the more evidence that building a more accessible internet benefits us all.  

Want to know how you can build a more accessible internet? Download the All-in-One Digital Accessibility E-Book to get your fill of tips, from the basics of web accessibility to coding accessible tables.