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29 December 2021

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) has had another busy year despite the ongoing global pandemic with lots of new developments around accessibility standards and guidance. Here’s an overview on some of the major developments that were released or progressed in 2021.

WCAG 2.2 draft

The updated version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standard continues its development with a release slated for early 2022. With the addition of new Success Criteria relating to the provision of help features on websites, improved cognitive support and the reclassification of Focus Visible, the standard is likely to be an important update for the new year. The latest WCAG 2.2 draft can be found on the W3C website.

WCAG 3.0

If one new version of WCAG wasn’t enough, we’ve also seen significant development this year on the W3C Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 3.0. The latest WCAG 3.0 draft was only released two weeks ago. This version of WCAG will not be released until 2024 at the earliest, but its importance cannot be overstated as it marks a completely new approach to the standard to the point where even the word ‘web’ has been dropped from its acronym. It’s still very early days but the current draft provides some insights into its development process.

XR Accessibility User Requirements (XAUR)

This year saw the release of several working group Notes to provide formalised guidance on the accessibility of current and emerging areas. One such area is the rapid growth of immersive environments such as virtual and augmented reality. XR, used as an umbrella term for immersive environments, has been explored in WAI to identify specific disability use cases to support developers in making XR content accessible. Some examples of use cases include the need for a map for people with low vision that use a zoom feature so they don’t lose track of where they are in a 360 degree environment, cognitive support so that words can be swapped out for a familiar symbol set when navigating around the XR space, an avatar to support people using sign language and tactile interaction to support deaf-blind users. The XAUR Note was published in August 2021 and is available on the W3C website.

RAUR and remote meetings

The last pick for our highlights consists of two complementary developments, the published Note for the Real Time Communications Accessibility User Requirements (RAUR) and the first public working draft of the Accessibility of Remote meetings document. The RAUR provides important guidance to developers to ensure that all accessibility features are considered in any real-time communication such as managing the provision of captions and multiple audio streams including audio description. The Remote Meetings document provides a different focus, designed to bring together guidance across a range of different audiences to create a one-stop-shop of accessibility guidance for the procurement, development hosting, attending and creating of accessible content for remote meetings. CFA Australia CEO Dr Scott Hollier is also heavily involved in the development of this document as lead author/editor for the guidance. Given the world’s reliance on remote meeting platforms, this work will likely grow in significance into 2022.

CFA Australia commends the great work undertake by all staff and volunteers at W3C WAI and looks forward to more significant accessibility standards and guidance in 2022.