We’ve been talking about the next iteration of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) for a while now, and now we’ve hit one of the final key milestones, also known as ‘Candidate Recommendation’. Awesome! But what does that actually mean? How close are we to the finish line, and when do we need to start actively incorporating it into our work?

What are the changes from WCAG 2.1 to WCAG 2.2?

9 new success criteria are proposed to be added to WCAG. Many of these new criteria are design focused, and factor in modern changes to how we use technology. The base document (WCAG 2.0) was finalised in 2008, and there have been just a couple of changes on the tech front since then (such as the first iPhone being released in certain countries after WCAG 2.0 – that’s how much the tech lay of the land has changed).

The 9 new success criteria are:

  • 2.4.11 Focus Appearance (Minimum) (Level AA)
  • 2.4.12 Focus Not Obscured (Minimum) (Level AA)
  • 2.4.13 Focus Not Obscured (Enhanced) (Level AAA)
  • 2.5.7 Dragging Movements (Level AA)
  • 2.5.8 Target Size (Minimum) (Level AA)
  • 3.2.6 Consistent Help (Level A)
  • 3.3.7 Accessible Authentication (Level AA)
  • 3.3.8 Accessible Authentication (No Exception) (Level AAA)
  • 3.3.9 Redundant Entry (Level A)

One existing success criterion is also being promoted – 2.4.7 Focus Visible goes from Level AA to Level A. It means that for any website aiming to meet or conform to just Level A of the guidelines, you’ll now need to factor this criterion in to your thinking.

What does Candidate Recommendation mean?

When a document reaches ‘Candidate Recommendation’, it means that it’s close to being finalised. There are still changes that can be made to the guidelines, but a lot of the substance is locked in at this point (i.e. don’t expect any new success criteria to be added in). The guidelines are effectively stable enough for you to start thinking about them if you want to be ahead of the game.

Candidate Recommendation also provides the general public with their last opportunity to provide any feedback on the guidelines before they get finalised. Feedback at this stage will typically pivot from what should (or shouldn’t) be included in the guidelines, to the language, techniques and guidance included in each of the new success criteria (including any additional suggestions on how they could be further improved). It looks for examples of how the proposed new guidelines have been correctly implemented, to make sure their intended purpose can actually be met. It’s also the final chance to resolve any uncertainty around things like techniques and supporting documentation, so that when the time comes, it’s easy(er) to understand how to implement the new success criteria.

If you want to provide feedback on the guidelines, you can do so by Tuesday 4 October 2022. The W3C is also after feedback on test implementations of the guidelines, to make sure they can be correctly applied. More information on providing feedback is available in the ‘What’s New in WCAG 2.2’ W3C post.

What happens after Candidate Recommendation?

Once the public feedback window has closed, the window to the completion of WCAG 2.2 opens. There are just a couple of steps left in the process.

Firstly, all feedback on the Candidate Recommendation gets reviewed. It then gets decided by co-authors and contributors whether feedback or suggested changes gets incorporated or not.

After final changes are locked in and WCAG 2.2 is finished being written, the guidelines are then sent around to W3C members to vote on whether they should become a ‘Recommendation’. This is typically a formality, but gives members an opportunity to endorse or support the guidelines, and make any final comments on them.

And then hey presto, WCAG 2.2 is finished and released to the world!

When do I need to start thinking about WCAG 2.2?

The short answer is that it’s ultimately up to you, but the sooner you think about it, the more accessible and inclusive your work is likely to be.

WCAG 2.2 is expected to become a ‘Recommendation’ around December 2022. Once it’s released, it will take time for that to have a flow on effect for international policies and standards (such as EN 301 549 and our Australian adoption) to be changed to make WCAG 2.2 the benchmark requirement.

For companies and organisations that have their own accessibility policies and benchmarks in place, it’s appropriate to start considering WCAG 2.2 once it’s formally recommended by the W3C. You’ve got time to work through what the changes will mean for the assets that you own or are currently working on, and how to implement them. The main thing is that you keep ahead of any legislation or policies that might impact on you.

If you’re not sure how to support implementing WCAG 2.2, feel free to get in touch with us, and we’ll be happy to talk it through with you. We’ll also have a lot more information about WCAG 2.2 when it becomes formally recommended by the W3C, so keep checking back to our website, follow us on social media, or subscribe to our newsletter. We’ll also have a new version of our much-loved WCAG 2.1 Map released soon after the guidelines are finalised.