Experience Design

On the Horizon WCAG 2.2: A New Standard for Interacting with the Web

We’ve been looking at The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.2 Guidelines for several weeks, and we’re now rounding out this series by taking a close look at 5 of 9 WCAG 2.2 A, AA, and AAA Success Criteria. If you haven’t been following this series, the W3C released a working draft of WCAG 2.2 by the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group, and while it hasn’t been fully adopted, it’s expected to become an official recommendation by the end of 2021.

The 2.2 Guidelines and Success Criteria build upon earlier versions of WCAG 2.0 and 2.1, which were created from the first version (WCAG 1.0) released in 1999. Today, WCAG 2.2 introduces additional use-cases and its working draft will likely include these 9 new success criteria to improve support for:

  • Users of small or touch-screen devices
  • Low-vision users
  • Users with cognitive, language, and learning disabilities

In “A New Standard for Interacting with the Web by Keyboard or Screen Reader,” we covered two success criteria, “Focus Appearance,” both Level AA “minimum” and Level AAA “enhanced.” In our most recent article from September, “A New Standard for Interacting with the Web: Beyond the Keyboard and Screen Reader,”  we took a dive into another 2 of the 9 success criteria, Dragging Movements (Level AA) and Target Size (Minimum) (Level AA).

A Close Look at 5 of the 9 Success Criteria

Page Break Navigation: Success Criterion 2.4.13 Level A

Users of assistive technology, such as a screen reader, need to find references to content based on page break locators, which are “destination markers” which guide users through meaningful points within content. Here’s an example from the W3C: “A digital book is published with no print equivalent and page break locators are inserted, which supports direct navigation across platforms and form factors.” This criterion benefits low-vision users, helping them know how to move from one page to another page in a text.

Consistent Help: Success Criterion 3.2.6, Level A

Every online user needs help completing tasks, but at times it’s hard to find. To create an effective user experience accessing help should be provided on the page or potentially as a direct link to another webpage with helpful information. Also, help should take additional forms such as human contact details like phone numbers and hours of operation, a FAQ page, user guide, contact form, and a fully automated chatbot. Chatbot technology has evolved, but people with cognitive disabilities can struggle to use them, so, these chatbots should:

  • Recognize misspelled words
  • Provide human contact details if the chatbot is unable to provide a satisfactory response after 3 attempts
  • Be dismissed with a single interaction and recalled using a link or button.

Keep in mind, this success criterion requires that whatever type of help we provide, it should be shown or provided in a consistent location, and in more than one format.

Visible Controls: Success Criterion 3.2.7, Level AA

There are people online every day who have cognitive and learning disabilities, memory impairments, low vision, and mobility impairment, and they struggle to use websites and other interactive media because user interface (UI) elements (aka, controls) are hidden until discovered – in some cases by accident. There are many user stories in which this is a problem, here are two:

  • Low vision users cannot find UI elements at all if they’re revealed only on hover.
  • Memory impaired users cannot recall where an element was located.

Keep these guidelines handy, from the W3C:

Information needed to identify controls must be visible when the controls are needed without hover interaction or keyboard focus. Controls can be available through a persistent visible entry point, such as a menu button that opens subitems. In a multi-step process or multi-part form, controls may be hidden in an earlier step or part; however, at the time the user can move the process forward, the information needed to identify the control, which is usually the control itself, must be visible without hover interaction or keyboard focus.”

Accessible Authentication: Success Criterion 3.3.7, Level A

All web users encounter cognitive function tests with little thought. Every day we’re asked to enter our username and password to access various accounts. The reality is very few web users can remember their username and password combinations without prompts or saving them. Those web users with cognitive and memory disabilities are at a greater disadvantage. “Memorizing a username and password (or transcribing it manually) places a very high or impossible burden upon people with certain cognitive disabilities,” according to the W3C. In a nutshell, cognitive function tests will exclude some people unless an additional method of authenticating is available.

Lately, we’re seeing a positive trend, websites are optionally allowing users to see their passwords as they’re typing it in. Who does this benefit? Many people! We highly recommend checking out the authentication examples from the W3C’s 3.3.7 Success Criteria.

Redundant Entry Success Criterion Level 3.3.8, Level A

Almost 30 years ago, Jakob Nielsen released a set of usability heuristics, and number 6 on the list of 10 best practices was “minimizing the user’s memory load…users should not have to remember information from one part of the interface to another.” That’s more than useful for people with cognitive or memory difficulties, and it helps ensure they complete tasks efficiently instead of giving up due to fatigue or frustration.

The “Redundant Entry” Success Criterion is similar. It removes the burden of recalling information when it’s asked for more than once or was given in a prior step. A classic example of removing redundant entry is the ecommerce checkout entry fields for delivery and billing addresses. When they are the same users can skip entry redundant information.

If previously provided information is required again, the better design is to auto-populate it or make the information available for a web user to select. There are exceptions though:

  • If re-entering this info is essential
  • Information is required (security reasons)
  • Previously entered information is no longer valid

That’s All for the WCAG 2.2 Accessibility Series, Folks!

To learn more about creating an accessible design strategy for your business, download our guide, Digitally Accessible Experiences: Why It Matters and How to Create Them, and read our UX for Accessible Design series and UpSkill series. To get started on enhancing your digital accessibility, contact our experts about our Accessibility IQ today.

About the Author

I'm a Senior Manager User Insights & Research out of the Atlanta office.

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