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After more than five years in the making (and nearly a full year of delays), on Thursday, October 5, 2023, the World Wide Web Consortium (the “W3C”), the private organization focused on enhancing online user experiences, published the long-awaited update to its Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (“WCAG 2.1”), known as the WCAG 2.2 ( 

Those who have been following along with website accessibility’s ever-evolving legal landscape are well aware that, despite not having been formally adopted by regulators for the vast majority of the private sector, compliance with WCAG 2.1 at Levels A and AA has become the de facto baseline for government regulators, courts, advocacy groups, and private plaintiffs when discussing what it means to have an accessible website.

WCAG 2.2’s Purpose and Key Features

The WCAG 2.2 is intended to provide a better web experience for individuals with disabilities, with a specific focus on users with cognitive or learning disabilities and users with disabilities interacting with mobile devices. To achieve that goal, WCAG 2.2 builds on the WCAG 2.1 requirements (originally published on June 5, 2018), adding two (2) Level A Success Criteria, four (4) Level AA Success Criteria, and three (3) Level AAA Success Criteria. (Please note: (i) The W3C does not recommend Level AAA conformance be required as a general policy for entire sites because it is not possible to satisfy all Level AAA Success Criteria for some content, and (ii) the current legal landscape sets website accessibility compliance at the Level A and AA conformance levels.) WCAG 2.2 also removes one (1) previous WCAG 2.0/2.1 Succuss Criterion – 4.1.1 Parsing.

What WCAG 2.2 Means for Those Currently Complying with WCAG 2.1

As noted above, while formal website accessibly regulations governing all sectors of private business have not been adopted by the U. S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”), conformance with WCAG 2.1 Levels A and AA has been considered the default standard cited to in the majority of recent litigations and settlement agreements with private plaintiffs, advocacy groups, and government regulators (e.g., DOJ). In its abstract, the W3C notes, “The publication of WCAG 2.2 does not deprecate or supersede WCAG 2.0 or WCAG 2.1. While WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1 remain W3C Recommendations, the W3C advises the use of WCAG 2.2 to maximize future applicability of accessibility efforts. The W3C also encourages use of the most current version of WCAG when developing or updating Web accessibility policies.” Therefore, as WCAG 2.2 gains more exposure, we expect that it will quickly begin to replace WCAG 2.1 as the default standard cited to in future website accessibility litigations and settlement agreements. 

Companies that are currently required to conform with WCAG 2.1 (e.g., due to a settlement agreement, internal policy, etc.) should continue their efforts to achieve that required level of accessibility; however, where possible, they should also consider incorporating the new elements added to WCAG 2.2 to the extent feasible (and going forward as new content is added) as a best practice. (The W3C joins in this recommendation.) As WCAG 2.2 inherited WCAG 2.1’s requirements and overall structure and framework, companies will be able to update web content to meet WCAG 2.2 without losing conformance with WCAG 2.1 (as the backward compatibility built into WCAG 2.2 means content that conforms to WCAG 2.2 also conforms to WCAG 2.1). That said, given that WCAG 2.1/2.2 remain privately authored guidelines as opposed to government-mandated regulations (and, as such, a handful of courts have refused to specifically impose WCAG 2.1 as the required means of complying with website accessibility obligations), we would be surprised to see courts require companies already complying with WCAG 2.1 to immediately require compliance with WCAG 2.2.

Looking Forward

WCAG 2.2 is expected to be the final dot release of WCAG 2. The next major version update to WCAG will be WCAG 3.0 (also known as project “Silver”) and is intended to be a much more inclusive set of guidelines that are easier to understand and implement. Due to various delays in development, the W3C website no longer provides an anticipated date for the release of WCAG 3.0, instead noting, “WCAG 3 is intended to develop into a W3C Standard in a few years.” We will provide additional information on WCAG 3.0 developments as they become available. 

The following is a brief summary of the new WCAG 2.2 Success Criterion. 

New Level A Success Criterion

  • Success Criterion 3.2.6 Consistent Help
    • Help mechanisms (e.g., chat windows) that are repeated on multiple web pages appear in the same order relative to other page content unless a change is initiated by the user.
  • Success Criterion 3.3.7 Redundant Entry
    • Information previously entered by or provided to the user that is required to be entered again in the same process is either:
      • automatically populated, or
      • available for the user to select

unless re-entering the information is essential (i.e., for security reasons).

New Level AA Success Criteria

  • Success Criterion 2.4.11 Focus Not Obscured (Minimum)
    • Websites must be designed so any element receiving keyboard focus is always at least partially visible in the user's viewport.
  • Success Criterion 2.5.7 Dragging Movements
    • All functionality that uses a dragging movement for operation can be achieved by a single pointer without dragging unless dragging is essential or the functionality is determined by the user agent and not modified by the author.
  • Success Criterion 2.5.8 Target Size (Minimum)
    • The size of the target for pointer inputs is 24 by 24 CSS pixels minimum, with the following exceptions:
      • Spacing – undersized targets (those less than 24 by 24 CSS pixels) are positioned so that if a 24 CSS pixel diameter circle is centered on a target element, the circle does not overlap another undersized target;
      • Redundant Equivalent Functionality – the target function can be achieved through a different control on the same page that meets this criterion;
      • Inline Elements – the target is provided in a sentence or is otherwise constrained by the line height of non-target text;
      • User agent control – target size is determined by the user agent and cannot be modified by the author; and
      • Essential – a particular presentation of the target is essential or is legally required for the information being conveyed.
  • Success Criterion 3.3.8 Accessible Authentication (Minimum)
    • Cognitive function tests (e.g., remembering a password or solving a puzzle) are not required for any step in an authentication process unless:
      • An alternative method of authentication is provided;
      • A mechanism to assist users with cognitive disabilities in completing the authentication process is provided;
      • The cognitive function test consists of recognizing objects; or
      • The cognitive function test requires identifying user-provided non-text content.

New Level AAA Success Criteria

  • Success Criterion 2.4.12 Focus Not Obscured (Enhanced)
    • An enhanced version of 2.4.11 (a Level AA Success Criteria), Guideline 2.4.12 requires that no part of a component is hidden by author-created content.
  • Success Criterion 2.4.13 Focus Appearance
    • Keyboard focus indicator perimeter size has a thickness of 2 CSS Pixels minimum and a minimum contrast ratio measuring 3:1 minimum.
  • Success Criterion 3.3.9 Accessible Authentication (Enhanced)
    • An enhanced version of 3.3.8 (a Level AA Success Criteria), Guideline 3.3.9 requires that cognitive function tests (e.g., remembering a password or solving a puzzle) are not required for any step in an authentication process unless:
      • An alternative method of authentication is provided, or
      • A mechanism to assist users with cognitive disabilities in completing the authentication process is provided.

Additional Information and Resources

The following supporting material is posted to the W3C’s website to help web and mobile content developers understand what is new in WCAG 2.2:

  1. How to Meet WCAG 2.2 – a customizable quick reference to WCAG 2.2 that includes all of the guidelines, success criteria, and techniques for authors to use as they are developing and evaluating Web content. This includes content from WCAG 2.0, 2.1, and 2.2 and can be filtered in many ways to help authors focus on relevant content.
  2. Understanding WCAG 2.2 – a guide to understanding and implementing WCAG 2.2. There is a short "Understanding" document for each guideline and success criterion in WCAG 2.2, as well as key topics.
  3. Techniques for WCAG 2.2 – a collection of techniques and common failures, each in a separate document that includes a description, examples, code, and tests.
  4. The WCAG 2 Documents – a brief introduction to the WCAG 2 supporting documents and supplemental guidance.
  5. What's New in WCAG 2.2 – an introduction to the new success criteria with persona quotes that illustrate the accessibility issues.
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