What’s new in WCAG 2.1?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a set of globally adopted technical standards on web accessibility developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The guidelines represent a shared, international standard developed by many different stakeholders including: education, industry, disability organizations, government, and accessibility research organizations. The guidelines strive to make websites, apps, electronic documents, and other digital assets accessible to people with a broad range of disabilities, including sensory, intellectual, learning, and physical disabilities.

WCAG covers a breath of success criteria that, when followed by website designers, developers, and content authors, can remove many of the barriers that people with disabilities face when navigating a website or other digital applications. Find out more about WCAG in this article – WCAG 101: Understanding the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

What are the new accessibility guidelines in WCAG 2.1?

WCAG 2.1 became a W3C Recommendation in June 2018. There are 17 new SC (success criteria) guidelines in WCAG 2.1:

  1. 1.4 Reflow (AA) – responsive design principals are important to accessibility.
  2. 1.4.11 Non-text Contrast (AA) – requires the icons, UI, and graphics should have good color contrast.
  3. 1.4.12 Text Spacing (AA) – the Text Spacing bookmarklet can help test.
  4. 1.4.13 Content on Hover or Focus (AA) – don’t show unexpected content on hover.
  5. 2.1.4 Character Key Shortcuts (A) – don’t interfere with screen reader shortcuts.
  6. 2.5.1 Pointer Gestures (A) – complex gestures also need a single pointer equivalent.
  7. 2.5.2 Pointer Cancellation (A) – down events must not be used to complete a function.
  8. 2.5.3 Label in Name (A) – visible labels should match the accessible name.
  9. 2.5.4 Motion Actuation (A) – don’t make shaking the phone the only way to complete an action.
  10. 4.1.3 Status Message (AA) – alert the user, but don’t interrupt them.
  11. 1.3.6 Identify Purpose (AAA) – HTML content should provide context, purpose and meaning.
  12. 2.2.6 Timeouts (AAA) – you must store the user’s data for 20 hours.
  13. 2.3.3 Animation from interactions – motion animation trigged by interaction can be disabled. Use media query: prefers reduced motion.
  14. 2.5.5 Target Size (AAA) – touch target size must be 44 x 44px.
  15. 2.5.6 Concurrent Input Mechanisms (AAA) – websites should allow users to switch between input modalities.

Here’s a Good video covering all things new in WCAG 2.1 (53:58).

What are the main WCAG principals of accessibility?

The top four principals of WCAG are: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. All new guidelines introduced fall under one of these broad categories. WCAG 2.2 is scheduled to be completed in early 2023 and will include 12+ new guidelines.

  1. Perceivable – people must be able to find your content.
  2. Operable – people must be able to use your website.
  3. Understandable – people must be able to understand your website.
  4. Robust – your website must work with different assistive technology.

See Understanding the Four Principles of Accessibility for more info.