WCAG 2.1 is Coming—and Here’s What You Should Know Right Now

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By Daniela Di Gianantonio
feb 05 2018 — Web Accessibility

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 is set to announce version 2.1 of its Web Content Accessibility Guidelines in the middle of this year. As that update draws nearer, there are a few key changes website owners may want to start planning for. (Keep in mind that all WCAG 2.1 changes are tentative.) 

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. Expect the new WCAG standards to emphasize a mobile experience that matches what users might expect from a traditional browsing session. This will likely include making your site’s touch screen functions more compatible with assistive technology. 

Upgrading Visual Standards 

The current WCAG requires that web content be resizable up to 200% without losing functionality. The new standards are expected to 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 will likely seek 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 will likely require 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. 

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