Since its formation, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has transformed the internet as we know it. From the groundbreaking invention of the World Wide Web by its founder Tim Berners-Lee to the standardization of HTML versions, the W3C has enabled the evolution and standardization of web practices.
Technical jargon aside, how does the W3C directly impact the life of the everyday person? To answer that, we’ll zoom in on web accessibility.
W3C And Web Accessibility
A goal of the W3C is to see the web reach its full potential. With so many web authors, developers and policymakers the world over, that vision has seemed more like a wishlist. Then came the diversification of the W3C, and with that, the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) was formed with a core directive to standardize the processes of web content creation.
Web accessibility refers to making web content accessible to people with disabilities. The WAI is the W3C’s commitment to making the web accessible for all. Formed in 1997, the WAI has developed recommendations to help web content authors and developers create accessible digital products. These standards, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), have evolved to accommodate the changing needs of people and the demands of current technology.
The latest version of these guidelines, WCAG 3.0, became a working draft in January 2021; the latest version was released on December 7, 2021. As a step further in the evolution of the WCAG, it’s ironically not backward compatible, meaning compliance with previous WCAG versions like WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 does not translate to WCAG 3.0 compliance. Despite it being remarkably different from the previous versions, WCAG 3.0 is more flexible and therefore more inclusive.
The W3C states that its goal in developing the WCAG 3.0 is to “make digital products including web, ePub, PDF, applications, mobile apps, and other emerging technologies more accessible and usable to people with disabilities.” It further explains that this goal will be achieved “by supporting a wider set of user needs, using new approaches to testing, and allowing more frequent maintenance of guidelines to keep pace with accelerating technology change.”
What does this mean for your business?
Although the WCAG 3.0 is not backward compatible, its existence doesn’t deprecate the WCAG 2.X series. In other words, don’t worry: If your website is compliant with WCAG 2.1, there’s no need to seek WCAG 3.0 compliance, except, of course, if you want to; either standard will be acceptable.
Why is there a need for the WCAG 3.0 if it doesn’t supersede the previous versions? Because there are known challenges with the WCAG 2.X series. The WCAG 3.0 will accommodate more disabilities, a wider array of technologies and be easier to update.
Key Features Of The WCAG 3.0
Increased attention on specific disabilities: Its conformance structure includes recommendations for more disabilities. This means more attention is paid to the needs of people with varying levels of vision impairment (especially low vision) and cognitive impairments, as their needs don’t fit the true/false statement success criteria of the WCAG 2.X series.
Addition of new technologies: It is metaverse conscious and flexible enough to include emerging technologies, such as augmented/virtual reality(AR/VR/XR) and voice assistants.
Improved support for web accessibility technologies: It aims to provide guidelines for all levels of the accessibility technology framework.
What can you do to prepare?
Invite people living with disabilities to be part of your accessibility testing. The upcoming WCAG 3.0 will rely on a holistic approach to web accessibility guidelines, so your company will greatly benefit from involving web accessibility consultants with disabilities.
Furthermore, you can begin making plans for the WCAG 3.0 since it’ll be a superior standard to the WCAG 2.X series. You can expect to see clearer language, fairer scoring and more informative results that will judge your web accessibility efforts appropriately.
Work still remains to be done to finalize WCAG 3.0; we cannot expect a final version to be published before 2023. Those who would like to help improve these guidelines may send an e-mail to [email protected] or file a GitHub issue in W3C’s silver repository.
WCAG 3.0 is a flexible approach tailored for people with disabilities and emerging technologies. W3C anticipates that these guidelines will be completed after 2022, but a working draft is available now. The shift marks the first step toward developing final evolution-friendly guidelines.