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Computers and TechnologyFeatured

What is WCAG 3.0?

In our agency, we try to do our part to help make the web more accessible. But there are aspects of the ADA dependent, litigation-fueled environment that shaped web accessibility in the United States that we disagree with. We tend to avoid public policy experts, so we generally don’t write about it. That said, we’re happy to see the first public working draft for the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG 3.0, which addresses some of the issues we noticed (as well as a few that we didn’t. still considered), and we wanted to share some of our preliminary thoughts.

What is WCAG 3.0?

WCAGs have been the most widely accepted set of web accessibility standards for over 20 years. The most recent major version (2.1) has been adopted as authoritative by many other bodies and has been codified in law as the basic standard for accessibility requirements in many countries. While US federal law is silent on the need for web accessibility, many federal courts have interpreted the ADA as requiring web accessibility and have referenced WCAG 2.x AA as the governing rule.

WCAG 3.0 is an ambitious rewrite of digital accessibility standards that goes beyond the web. It aims to reorient itself to a wider audience and to better educate non-technical users on how different disabilities can impact the user experience and the methods that can be used to address them.

When will WCAG 3.0 be released?

WCAG 3.0 is expected to be completed in early 2023. It should be noted that the Web Consortium (W3C) has indicated that this new set of standards will not be backward compatible with 2.x, but it also does not replace earlier versions. It is not clear what this practically means to site owners, but it is safe to assume that WCAG 2.1 (or 2.2) compliance will be acceptable for some time, even after the release of version 3.0. While WCAG 3.0 will likely end up being adopted by legal bodies as an authoritative standard, it’s not something you need to worry about anytime soon.

The Web is one of the many mediums on the Internet

When WCAG 2.0 was released in 2008, the first iPhone model was barely a year old and the mobile web was in its infancy. Since then, we’ve seen the rise of mobile apps, OTT TV apps, virtual reality, augmented reality, and other new media for content. WCAG 3.0 attempts to address the fact that the Internet is more than just websites and a significant portion of digital content is not consumed in a web browser.

Some of these mediums, like augmented reality, are still too niche to have generated a strong demand for accessibility compliance services, but as one of the few agencies offering ADA mobile app audits, Digital Marketing Lahore is fully aware that the current WCAG 2.1 guidelines are a bad fit. Many web-centric success criteria translate easily into applications, while others are not applicable or awkwardly translated.

WCAG 3.0 aims to consolidate the current disparate sets of standards for web, e-publishing, and PDFs into a single set of technology platform-independent standards. While the guidelines make room for technology-specific methods, there are also fallback methods that can generally describe how new technology should behave. This should encourage a more holistic approach to accessibility that allows developers and users of new technologies to implement these requirements.

Accessibility is not binary

In the United States, prosecutions alleging ADA violations have been a major driver of accessibility adoption. This encourages sticking to the bare minimum, but does not create any incentive to try to improve further. We have always believed that accessibility is a spectrum. Even for sites that can’t yet meet minimum compliance thresholds, it’s best to become more accessible. Our website accessibility audits attempt to measure the impact of particular accessibility violations on the user experience .; for example, it makes good sense that an accessibility issue that prevents a customer from making a purchase is worse than a mislabeled image in a blog post. A pass / fail standard cannot really measure the accessibility of ‘a website.

WCAG 3.0 presents interesting updates that respond to this dynamic. There are three levels of compliance that can be claimed: bronze, silver and gold. And achieving the minimum compliance level (bronze) does not require perfection. Tests of various accessibility methods are scored on a rating scale; some are binary, others measured in percentages or even based on qualitative ratings. The “pass” thresholds have yet to be determined, but the consortium indicated that many methods will have some headroom (allowing scores below 100% to pass) as long as critical processes are not hampered and some critical errors. are avoided.

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This more detailed scoring method should also provide language for sites to document their level of compliance (whether satisfactory or not). After all, if you can get it up from 30% to 70%, that’s a huge improvement. And even among passing sites, wouldn’t you want to show that you are 95% (rather than 80% passing)? It should also open up the possibility of claiming compliance with specific processes or even particular sections or pages of a site, even if full compliance has not yet been achieved.

Finally, the WCAG 3.0 editors announced that the next version of the guidelines will include much more non-prescriptive information. While those motivated solely by compliance pressures will likely ignore these sections of WCAG, we hope this will encourage more thinking on the part of organizations who wish to adopt an accessibility mindset.

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Scaling up accessibility is difficult

Making a single page site accessible is relatively easy. When you start adding more pages and custom or complex features, it gets a little more difficult. But the larger a site, the more difficult it becomes to keep it accessible. Large sites depend on many writers and editors of content, each of which has the potential to introduce violations. And sites that update automatically and frequently (including those with non-static layouts) don’t have a shared artifact to test. Even though no accessibility violation is ever introduced, it is difficult for the site owner to claim that this is the case for sure.

Scaled rating values ​​should help solve this somewhat. But the writers of WCAG 3.0 also said they were exploring other testing modalities such as holistic testing or sampling that could be used for larger sites to claim and demonstrate accessibility compliance. Currently, many sites of an order of magnitude smaller are already relying on some form of sampling to intelligently check for accessibility issues. From a legal standpoint, the fact that WCAG explicitly gives its blessing to these modes of testing and verification would be a game-changer.

More scientific color standards

In our experience, minimum color contrast ratios are often the most difficult accessibility standard to adapt for many organizations. Completely updating a company’s brand is rarely part of the brief when we are hired for an accessibility audit, but it often happens that long-standing brands have insufficient color contrast to pass WCAG 2.1.

We are intrigued by the consortium’s announcement that the new visual contrast standards will introduce a paradigm shift from color evaluation to the adoption of new research on “light intensity perception”. While many brands may still fail the new standards, we expect this model to open up more color combinations (at least in some circumstances) for designers.

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This change is personal for us. We had to reduce our use of orange because (in combination with white) it technically violates WCAG 1.4.3. We have reason to believe that the color combinations we use are actually accessible, but in a focused compliance environment, it’s hard to argue against the consensus standard.

Make accessibility more accessible

We can’t help but notice that accessibility is often left to the experts. Most site owners, designers and we would dare say that even developers don’t know or understand much about what makes a website accessible. This prevented accessibility mainstreaming from becoming an expected part and universal web.

For this reason, it is essential to point out that WCAG 3.0 is making great strides towards producing accessibility guidelines and documentation that non-specialists can use and understand. The drafters plan to include plain language procedures and a conceptual framework for accessibility that should serve as a more direct entry into the topic than a list of requirements. The guidelines will include the functional needs of users with disabilities (eg, “Visionless use”) and categories of disabilities and only then will pivot to specific methods and outcomes that address those concerns.

What it all means

While many people will still want (and probably should) hire experts for help, it helps for W3C to make an effort to document accessibility universally. However, only time will tell if the digital community is more accepting of adaptation and if accessibility becomes a priority for a wider range of organizations.

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