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Exploring WCAG 2.1: What’s New In Accessibility

December 11, 2019

By Adam Torkildson

Since the beginning of the 21st century (1999 to be exact), WCAG has been setting accessibility standards for the world wide web. There have been only a handful of major updates, with the most recent being number 2.1, which went into effect in 2018. Web technology is constantly evolving, which means that accessibility standards need to evolve along with it, in tandem. 

WCAG is the brainchild of the World Wide Web Consortium (also referred to as W3C). W3C is an international non-profit organization tasked with setting accessibility (and other standards) for the general web. 

Below we dive into what’s included in the newest WCAG update, provide an overview of WCAG 2.1 guidelines, and also include a basic WCAG 2.1 checklist.

What is WCAG 2.1?

WCAG 2.1 is the latest update to W3C’s accessibility standards protocol (otherwise known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines i.e. WCAG). WCAG is specifically produced by a group within W3C that’s known as the WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative). While WCAG 2.1 adds extra standards to WCAG 2.0, it doesn’t completely replace it (it’s merely the newest update to the protocol). 

The main disability types that are covered under WCAG 2.1 include cognitive & learning disabilities, low vision, speech input, vestibular, motor & dexterity issues, and blindness. There are also several new criterias of success for each of the aforementioned disability types. You can learn more about the new success and by going to this page.

WCAG 2.1 Guidelines & Checklist

The main goal of the newest implementation of WCAG (WCAG 2.1), is to provide further accessibility for people with learning/cognitive disabilities, people who suffer from blindness/poor vision, and disabled people who primarily use mobile devices (i.e. smartphones). 

If you’re worried about negatively affecting the UX of non-disabled website users, don’t be. Accessibility standards, if they’re properly implemented, do not have any negative effects on non-disabled users. Exclusionary content production isn’t ideal for anyone. In fact, the evidence shows that oftentimes non-disabled users experience higher quality UX when sites are up-to-date with WCAG standards.

Vision Difficulty & Blindness

One of the main updates in WCAG 2.1 is the focus on people who suffer from vision problems. The below methods can be used to ensure that people who suffer from these types of vision problems can easily access your web content:

  • Enhance font sizes across all content types for optimal viewing
  • Enhance contrasts between different colors
  • Optimize content for people using screen reading technology

WCAG 2.1 recommends that all users should have no problem reading font. So, the font size shouldn’t be too small (especially when the font is relevant to disabled users).  

Content responsiveness is another focus of WCAG 2.1. Content should evenly flow through all devices, without the requirement to be specifically resized, zoomed in on, etc (because these user actions can be problematic for users with disabilities). 

Color contrast is another issue that was addressed by the recent WCAG update. Ideally, your website shouldn’t have low contrasting colors, because these color combinations can be very difficult for people who have a poor quality vision to …read more

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