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Digital Accessibility – Are you ready for WCAG 2.2?

It’s been fantastic to see so many of our partners shining a spotlight on digital accessibility this month around Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

Hart District Council have been running their own empathy labs, using simulations for staff to experience the challenges faced by people with disabilities. Waverley Borough Council went back to basics, raising awareness with some ‘stand out’ posters in busy office corridors that really resonated with staff and councillors.

Of course, digital accessibility matters everyday, it’s all about making our services more inclusive. This is why local authorities are working so hard to meet the updated Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.2 (WCAG 2.2).

WCAG 2.2

WCAG 2.2 is the latest update to the guidelines, building on 2.1, with the primary goal of making the web more accessible for a broader range of people.

The four main principles, perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust, remain the same.

The three levels of compliance, Level A, Level AA, and Level AAA, also stay the same.

The difference being there are now 9 new criteria, which specifically address issues faced by people with cognitive conditions, those with low vision, and mobility disabilities.

The new criteria

2.4.11 Focus Not Obscured Minimum (AA) and 2.4.12 Focus Not Obscured Enhanced (AAA)

Goal: Keep the focused item visible
What to do: Ensure when an item gets keyboard focus, it is at least partially visible (completely visible for AAA)
Why it matters: Imagine you can’t use a mouse, and you want to know what’s in focus as you tab through a site. If pop ups and other messages get in the way, you can’t tell where you are on the site.

2.4.13 Focus Appearance (AAA)

Goal: Make it easier to spot the keyboard focus.
What to do: Use a focus indicator of sufficient size and contrast.
Why it matters: Many people can’t see small changes in visual appearance, so make it obvious.

2.5.7 Dragging Movements (AA)

Goal: Don’t rely on dragging for user actions.
What to do: Don’t use any action that involves dragging, provide a simple pointer alternative.
Why it matters: Dragging and dropping is a difficult action. This will help those with motor impairments who cannot hold down the mouse button, or don’t have the fine motor control to move the mouse with specific accuracy whilst holding a button down.

2.5.8 Target Size (Minimum) (AA)

Goal: Make controls easier to activate.
What to do: Ensure clickable targets meet a minimum size or have sufficient spacing around them.
Why it matters: Small buttons close together are a challenge for lots of people. This will help those with motor impairments who cannot click small buttons that are close together, especially difficult on mobiles and in shaky environments, such as on the train.

3.2.6 Consistent Help (A)

Goal: Make it easier to find help and support.
What to do: Keep help in the same place across multiple pages.
Why it matters: Consistency helps everyone to find things easily. It will help those with cognitive impairments to understand where they can find help to complete a process.

3.3.7 Redundant Entry (A)

Goal: Make it easier for users to complete multi-step processes.
What to do: Don’t ask for the same information twice in one session.
Why it matters: Repeating tasks can be annoying and tough for some. This will help those with cognitive impairments who may find remembering and inputting details difficult. Also helps those with mobility impairments.

3.3.8 Accessible Authentication (Minimum) (AA) and 3.3.9 Accessible Authentication (Enhanced) (AAA)

Goal: Make logins possible with less mental effort.
What to do: Don’t make people solve, recall, or transcribe something to log in.
Why it matters: Everyone likes simple logins. This will also help those with cognitive impairments who may find solving puzzles, memorising a username and password, or retyping a one-time passcode difficult.

What this means for local authorities

Local authority websites play a crucial role in sharing information and providing services to the public, making compliance with WCAG 2.2 vital for ensuring inclusivity. Because of this the government will start monitoring the new WCAG 2.2 success criteria in October 2024.

SDS are working with their local authority partners to help them prepare for this by:

  • Carrying out website audits to ensure compliance with the new criteria.
  • User testing websites to identify areas for improvement and enhance accessibility.
  • Raising awareness of the new criteria though workshops, training and e-learning.

WCAG 2.2 brings with it a renewed commitment to inclusivity on the web, providing an opportunity for local authorities to reassess and enhance their digital accessibility efforts. By embracing the new criteria, local authorities can ensure that their content and services are accessible to everyone.

Please get in touch if you would like to find out more about how we can help.