Jan 21 2021 was, is and will be a great day as the accessibility community has been celebrating ever since for the only one thing! It’s when the world witnessed the publication of WCAG 3.0 first public draft.
Although this is just a beginning of what is to come in the future drafts, there are some key changes that are compelling us to look at.
Outcome VS Success Criteria
In the new accessibility guidelines, the term success criteria along with its binary state of true or false is gone. The term is replaced with Outcome that brings along with it a number of changes. Outcome is a written testable criteria based upon the functional needs of the users with disabilities. Outcome results are measured by the ratings associated with them and they are technology agnostic.
Methods VS Techniques
The techniques are replaced with methods that are still non-normative or more simply, informative.
The understanding documents are going to be called as How-To and they are going to give us more than what we have now. These How-To documents are going to talk about assistive technology testing, methods and other tests at the least.
The guidelines are still there but with some good changes. While some new and well-researched guidelines like “Clear Words” are being added, some of the old guidelines are named in a more pragmatic way. For example, Non-text alternative is simply named as Text Alternatives. Here are some more examples:
- Visual contrast
Note that even AAA success criteria would be merged with the guidelinesas the old conformance methods are going away.
Conformance claims are still optional. But the conformance levels like A AA and AAA are replaced with Bronze, Silver and Gold. While the outcomes would not be grouped under A or AA AAA, the total score of the test results along with the scoring against Functional category are going to determine the conformance. Bronze is the recommended level that is equivalent to AA.
Critical errors and Outcome Ratings
For the first time, critical errors are taken into consideration. If a process or a view contains a critical error against any outcome, the outcome would score a 0.
Ratings are between 0 to 4 for each outcome and they are flexible to accommodate more users with disabilities.
Types of tests
WCAG 3.0 introduces two tests namely atomic and holistic. While atomic roughly equals the current testing methodology, the holistic test would include more humanistic evaluations like usability testing.
Views and Processes VS Pages
While WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 conformance was measured against each page, the WCAG 3.0 provides more room for the scoping. The word page is replaced with view that includes mobile applications in the fold.
Also, any task in a web application or a site like checkout, making a transaction in a banking application is considered a process. An application or a product can claim conformance for only such processes. Note that a critical error can make a process completely inaccessible and thus scoring low.
Leaning towards the regulatory compliance, WCAG 3.0 introduces functional category. This is more like Functional Performance Criteria in Section 508 or Functional Performance Statement in En 301 549. The categories would be like People without vision, People with limited vision ETC. The final list has not been published yet or included int he draft.
This move aims to give more perspective on the user groups and their functional needs. Also, the rating of any application against these categories would determine the degree of accessibility of them. Moreover, this helps the process of VPAT preparation much easier. Even without a VPAT, these categories and the ratings would help decision makers, organizations and procurement specialists decide to go for a digital product.
Key Differences between WCAG 2.0/2.1 and 3.0
The below table shows the key differences between WCAG 2.0/2.1 and WCAG 3.0for better understanding
|WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1||WCAG 3.0|
|Conformance levels A, AA, AAA||Bronze, Silver, Gold|
We may have left out one or more changes that are more important. But when we look at these changes, they are more modern and more flexible. Also, these changes make WCAG 3.0 to be non-backward compatible meaning, conforming to WCAG 2.0 or 2.1 does not mean conforming to WCAG 3.0 and one cannot role back the conformance that easily.
One must feel happy that WCAG 3.0 is shaping up based on more researches, the discussions across industry leaders, CEOs, Disability Advocates, academicians and above all the opinions of the public.
Besides, WCAG 3.0 aims to encourage any big or small organizations to make their digital assets more accessible but not in a perfectionist’s way. The rating system shows us the way to achieve this. Also, now organizations can rate their products and sites and scale up their efforts towards gaining higher scores. Also, the ratings against each functional category of disabilities would easily tell us whether the product meets the requirements of the targeted user groups.
While a binary approach requires perfect results in accessibility and that might have caused some organizations to move away from their accessibility goals, a flexible rating system can be also misused to gain on just the higher scores. In such cases, they might meet the legal requirements. But would such products encompass most of the disability spectrum? We need to wait and watch! Let’s be hopeful that more people, organizations, products embrace accessibility and inclusivity!
We encourage accessibility professionals, accessibility enthusiasts and anyone who is interested in digital accessibility to provide your feedback to W3C either through their git hub at:
Else, if you are comfortable in sending emails, then send your feedback to [email protected]