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FAQ on WCAG 2.1 - The new standard for Accessibility

Sean Needham avatar
By Sean Needham

What does WCAG mean?
WCAG stands for "Web Content Accessibility Guidelines".

WCAG is the international standard for web accessibility, developed by the W3C, the internet standard organization that is also responsible for HTML and CSS standards. Siteimprove is a member of the W3C and actively participates in the standardization efforts within the area of digital accessibility.

When does WCAG 2.1 come into force?
WCAG 2.1 was made an official W3C recommendation on June 5, 2018.

Regional and national legislation may or may not be updated to reference WCAG 2.1 as the standard instead of WCAG 2.0.

The EU web accessibility directive that comes into force in EU member states on the 23 September 2018 references WCAG 2.1 as the standard to be used.

In the US the Section 508 has just been updated to WCAG 2.0 (entering into force January 18, 2018), and there seems to be no plan of updating to WCAG 2.1 in the near future.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) only states in Title III that communication, including web/internet, must be made accessible. It doesn’t reference any particular standard. Up until now WCAG 2.0 has widely been considered the de facto standard for ADA compliance of websites. Now that WCAG 2.1 is the new official W3C recommendation for web accessibility, we expect that there will be an increasing expectation for websites to live up to WCAG 2.1. We don’t expect courts to rule for WCAG 2.1 conformance overnight, though.

In Canada, there have been no announcements on whether the AODA will be updated to refer to WCAG 2.1.

What is the difference between WCAG 2.0 and 2.1?
WCAG 2.1 adds new success criteria to 2.0.

This means that everything you have been doing for WCAG 2.0 is still valid in WCAG 2.1. It also means that if you follow WCAG 2.1, you will, at the same time, be WCAG 2.0 compliant.

12 new success criteria have been added on level A+AA in WCAG 2.1, and 5 new success criteria have been added on level AAA.

Most of the new WCAG 2.1 success criteria are related to:

  • Mobile
  • Cognition
  • Low vision

When will Siteimprove check for WCAG 2.1?

Checks that are already included
WCAG 2.1 adds new success criteria to 2.0, meaning all 2.0 checks are still valid. So, you can say that Siteimprove already carries out many of the checks for WCAG 2.1 compliance.

Giving you the full overview
We will soon update the guidelines page in our platform to include the new 2.1 success criteria. Users will then have a full list of success criteria including new ones that require manual checking.

New checks on their way
Siteimprove is currently developing standardized Accessibility Conformance Testing (ACT) rules with W3C and partners in the WAI-Tools project, co-funded by the European Commission. Checks for the new WCAG 2.1 success criteria will be included in this work. As soon as there is a broad agreement on how ACT rules for the new WCAG 2.1 success criteria should work, we can start implementing them in the Siteimprove platform.

However, it seems that only a few of the new WCAG 2.1 criteria will be fully checkable using automated tools.

Expanding the scope of what Siteimprove can check for
Over time, Siteimprove expects to add more manual checking support to the Accessibility tool, including the success criteria from WCAG 2.1 that currently cannot be automated.

With the technical advancements happening currently, we expect that it will be possible to automate more checks in the future, allowing us to reliably check for more issues, that currently require manual checking.

Where can I learn more about WCAG 2.1?

Learn more about WCAG 2.1:

Learn more about the WAI-Tools project:

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