Perfect timing for new WCAG 3 guideline considerations

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W3C Accessibility Guidelines just got a major update. Still a draft, but I love the brainstorming potentials of the newly added guidelines and outcomes. Was the release date an coincidence?

May the 16th was a big day on many levels. It was the thirteenth Global Accessibility Awareness Day on global level and second official Global Accessibility Awareness Day in Slovenia.

But that was only the beginning if we consider that W3C Accessibility Guidelines (yes, not Web, but W3C – as this is WCAG 3) got a giant update of 12 new guidelines with 174 suggested outcomes (opens in new window). Please note – these are not a standard yet and serve only to collect potential outcomes that the WCAG 3 working group will be exploring. So – don’t throw away WCAG 2 yet – it is still latest standard (in most legislation version 2.1 and I suggest you embrace version 2.2 as a default as it will eventually replace 2.1), but it’s nice to be able to get a sense about the future.

12 exploratory guidelines with 174 suggested outcomes of WCAG 3

Once again – please remember – these are exploratory and far from being accepted. But they are still a good indication about what will potentially be relevant. Well, most of them are relevant already today, if we think about making things accessible and usable (and not just conformance to WCAG 2.x). We must also keep in mind that WCAG 3 wants to cover also non-author parts of accessibility (opens in new window), like for example Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) and User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG), so some guidelines are perhaps not targeting you personally.

The original document provides guidelines in lists with sublists, but I prefer table presentation for this situation, so that I know immediately the name of the guideline before the outcome. Please note that all links in the following table open in new window/tab.

WCAG 3 with 12 guidelines and 174 outcomes (16th May of 2024)
Guideline Outcome Count
Animation and movement Audio shifting
Flashing and strobing
Forms, inputs, and errors Allow automated entry
Error association
Error identification
Error notification
Input instructions
Input labels
Persistent error notification
Visible error
Processes and task completion Adequate time
Action required
Avoid manipulation
Go back in process
Inform at start
No cognitive tests
No memorization
Optimized processes
Optional information
Save progress
Steps and direction
Task completion documentation
Image and media alternatives AI editable
Audio alternative in preferred language
Audio descriptions
Complex image alternative
Context in image alternative
Decorative image alternative
Descriptive transcripts
Finding media alternatives
Identify autogenerated text
Image alternatives
Image role
Image type
Images-of-Text alternatives
Non-text alternatives
Non-verbal cues
Persistent figure captions
Use of color
Use of visual depth
Use of sound
Use of spatial audio
Interactive components Behavior of controls
Change focus with pointer device
Control labels
Consistent labels
Control importance
Control updates
Deceptive controls
Distinguishable controls
Hover information
Interaction indicators contrast
Input control
Name, role, value, state
Non-Text contrast
Notify on change
Notify before activation
Restore focus
Relevant focus
Target size
Visual design of controls
Input / operation Comparable keyboard effort
Consistent keyboard interaction
Focus in viewport
Gestures & dragging
Keyboard commands
Keyboard focus location
Keyboard only
No keyboard trap
Pointer cancellation
Pointer location
Specific pressure
Speed insensitive
Keyboard mode
Use without body movement
Use without device movement
Varied inputs
Layout Clear navigation
Clear relationships
Clear starting point
Consistent order
Content orientation
Control location
Current location
Distinguishable relationships
Distinguishable sections
Familiar components and layout
Focus retention
Indicate 3rd party content
Interface redesign
Multistep process
Notification of change
Order of content
Organized content
Related information
Reliable positioning
Section headers
Section length
Section purpose
Visual stimulation
White spacing
Consistency across views Consistent navigation
Multiple ways
Persistent navigation
Policy and Protection Algorithm bias
Clear agreement
Disability information privacy
Exploitive behaviors
Sensitive information
Social media algorithm
Text and Wording Acronyms and abbreviations
Ambiguous numerical formatting
Ambiguous pronunciation
Appropriate tone
Conveying importance without sizing
Double negatives
Figurative language
Interface Verbosity
Maximum text contrast
Minimum text contrast
Numbered steps
Risk statements
Semantic text appearance
Sentence voice
Single idea
Supplements to numerical concepts
Text minimum
Text style
Text-to-speech supported
Topic sentence
Uncommon words
Unnecessary words or phrases
Verb tense
Help and feedback Consistent help
Contextual help
Conversational support
Data visualization help
Feedback mechanism
Help using new interfaces
Personalizable help
Sensory characteristics
Supplements to text
Support available
User Control Adjust color
Alternative presentation
AT control
Audio control
Caption control
Chunk content
Clear background
Control interruptions
Disturbing content
Haptic stimulation
Interactive audio alternative
Media alternative control
Media chapters
Preferences apply to printing.
Text Customization
3rd party content presentation
Transform content
User settings
Virtual cursor

Quick reflections

I didn’t have the time to really investigate into the details yet, but I still have some brief reflections that I want to express here;

  • Some folks already expressed stress and overwhelm at the 174 new outcomes (knowing well that this is only the beginning). The Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AGWG) tried hard to be clear about the temporary state of this situation, but it does indicate that WCAG 3 will most certainly outgrow WCAG 2.x. I think we need to make sure that UAAG and ATAG will be clearly marked, so that authors will find their responsibilities more effectively.
  • It would also help if we would have at least a hint about priority of the outcomes (like levels A, AA and AAA). I know that it can take a lot of time and basically negotiations, but it would help understanding the intentions and probably also help with more discussions.
  • Luckily there are a lot of outcomes that can be directly mapped to WCAG 2.X, so I do not consider the situation extremely new and revolutionary but I like that it really tries to be more distinct and also break some parts down, so that we will potentially have more segmented controls.

Once again – please consider this as a draft that will absolutely be changed. But also consider the fact that some outcomes are “on the radar” of the group and I can actually see the WCAG 3 to have a potential to improve also end user usability. It is still too early, but I like that progress is obvious and that GAAD got another dimension.

Author: Bogdan Cerovac

I am IAAP certified Web Accessibility Specialist (from 2020) and was Google certified Mobile Web Specialist.

Work as digital agency co-owner web developer and accessibility lead.

Sole entrepreneur behind IDEA-lab Cerovac (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility lab) after work. Check out my Accessibility Services if you want me to help your with digital accessibility.

Also head of the expert council at Institute for Digital Accessibility (in Slovenian).

Living and working in Norway (🇳🇴), originally from Slovenia (🇸🇮), loves exploring the globe (🌐).

Nurturing the web from 1999, this blog from 2019.

More about me and how to contact me:

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