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Digital accessibility is always changing. Since the 1990s, technology has encompassed far more areas of our lives than ever thought possible. In response, digital accessibility has adapted. Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) is usually touted as the gold standard by those working in digital accessibility because it sets a high benchmark of what makes an accessible website.
For example, in the United States judges have used WCAG requirements to evaluate companies in breach of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In the United Kingdom, the British government says all websites should adhere to WCAG 2.1 AA. Yet, WCAG 2.0 was released just a year after Apple shipped the original iPhone. Clearly, a lot has changed since then. Today, experts in digital accessibility are working toward a WCAG fit for 2030 and beyond to respond to changes in technology — WCAG 3.0.
The goal of developing WCAG 3.0 is to update the rules to respond to newer technologies. Back in 2008, smart TVs, smartwatches, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) didn’t really exist, at least not to the majority of consumers. Today the internet has changed, many more devices are connected to the internet than ever before and offer new kinds of services that were previously not possible, such as voice assistants.
The objective of WCAG 3.0 is to make accessibility fit for the 2030s and beyond by recognising that the technology we’re using today and will use in the future, is inherently different from those of the recent past. With talk about the “metaverse”, who knows what digital accessibility will look like in the 2050s? It’s always good to know WCAG standards are continuously being updated to keep pace with the changes in technology. One way this is being done is by addressing newer types of web content, such as mobile apps and software applications.
Making emerging digital products more accessible is the primary goal. One way this is being done is through updating grading and testing criteria, allowing the new WCAG 3.0 to offer more rigorous standards than its previous, though still comprehensive, standards.
WCAG 3.0 is also determined to support a wider range of disabilities, taking advantage of the possibilities the latest technology offers. Specifically, this also means paying more attention to people with varying levels of vision impairment (i.e., low vision) as well as cognitive impairments. This is because the binary nature of the WCAG 2.0 scale didn’t conform to those users’ needs as well as it could have.
WCAG 3.0 will also require a more holistic approach to testing, meaning that a greater emphasis will be placed on qualitative research done by members of the disabled community instead of focussing on data alone.
Although WCAG 3.0 is still like its previous version in some respects, it maintains its goal of providing guidance on making web content and digital products, such as apps, accessible to people with disabilities. Just like WCAG 2.0, this new version will offer fundamental and specific accessibility requirements.
Ultimately, WCAG 3.0 will offer more flexible and inclusive guidelines than the earlier iteration while looking forward to emerging technologies.
As it is still in its drafting stages, WCAG 3.0 is not currently a legal requirement in any nation. When it’s finally published, the final version could look different from what we currently know. Still, it’s always a good idea to keep up to date concerning changes in digital accessibility as changes to the law can be swift and liable to change without warning. If you’re not currently compliant with WCAG 2.0, then it’s best to get compliant as soon as possible – before you know it, a new standard will prevail.
Digital accessibility is a global phenomenon. From its origins with the rise of the world wide web in the 1990s...