Last week a new charter for the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Working Group (WG) was formally approved by W3C after having been reviewed by the W3C Member organizations. For the first time since the finalization of WCAG 2.0 in 2008, this charter allows the Working Group to explore ways to provide guidelines beyond WCAG 2.0.
The WCAG 2.0 standard continues to be the preeminent reference for web accessibility. A growing number of national and organizational policies around the world reference WCAG 2.0, including Canada, Australia, Japan, India, and the United States. WCAG 2.0 holds up well today despite significant changes in technology.
There have been some changes to the technology landscape, however, that were not fully anticipated in the development of WCAG 2.0. Changes in how people access the Web on mobile devices require success criteria that address those situations more specifically. Users with cognitive and learning disabilities and users with low vision have suggested ways in which success criteria could better address their requirements. In recent years the WCAG Working Group formed task forces on mobile, cognitive, and low vision accessibility to define requirements and candidate success criteria for these three areas. New technologies on the horizon and the rapid evolution of the underlying technologies for user interaction on the Web are likely to continue to drive the need for new guidance.
To address these needs, the WCAG Working Group has begun to develop a framework for WCAG 2.0 extensions. These would be separate guideline documents, to increase the amount of coverage on particular accessibility needs. Authors and policy-makers would be able to choose to meet the guidelines with one or more extensions, which inherently meet the base WCAG 2.0 guidelines, while organizations that have policies built around WCAG 2.0 alone would not be impacted by the extensions.
The WCAG charter just approved will serve as bridge to begin work on extensions now while we continue to define what the next generation of WAI guidelines will look like. The Working Group is gathering requirements that may lead to the creation of an updated version of WCAG, or a new set of accessibility guidelines altogether, or both. In order to better integrate the components of web accessibility into a single set of guidelines, the Working Group is exploring the possibility of merging with the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines and User Agent Accessibility Guidelines Working Groups. The Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (ATAG WG) has just published the completed Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) 2.0; and the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (UAWG) has just published an updated working draft, rolling in comments from browser vendors and others, and will be publishing the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) 2.0 as a Working Group Note soon.
WCAG 2.0 extensions and setting the stage for next-generation accessibility guidelines means this is an excellent time to join the WCAG Working Group!