Accessibility Guidelines 3.0
What is AG 3.0 / Silver?
How does it differ from WCAG 2.0 / 2.1?
The WCAG 2.0 guidelines were published in 2008 and are the primary guidelines used to assess the accessibility of a website throughout the world.
Trouble is, 2008 was a long time ago, light years in technology terms. The guidelines can be clarified, but not change as they are an agreed upon standard. So they have become very outdated and, in my opinion, quite hard to follow.
While the 2.0 guidelines couldn't be amended, it was becoming known that there were some significant gaps in them. Accessibility issues with modern websites that were getting through under WCAG 2.0
So, in 2018, the W3C published WCAG 2.1. This is basically exactly the same as WCAG 2.0, but with additional criteria to cover the holes.
That only solved a tiny portion of the issues. The WCAG guidelines are still confusing, and the way the levels work is not ideal.
They needed a complete overhaul, and in late 2016 a taskforce was put together to create a brand new version, WCAG 3.0.
Except that it won't be called WCAG 3.0, because the team are trying to broaden its purpose away from the WCAG roots. At the moment, the entire project is codenamed Silver.
When is Silver going to be ready?
The team's current project plan has a Candidate Recommendation, (which is essentially an approved first draft) coming in late 2021, with the final guidelines launched in late 2022.
So why do I need to care now?
The Silver guidelines will be the guidelines that we as developers will work to for years to come. We need to keep an eye on the development of these guidelines to ensure that we are able to respond quickly and easily when new legislation comes in.
We also want to make our websites as accessible and simple to use as reasonably possible. If the Silver team meet their aims with this project, the guidelines will help us to do just that.
Will Silver have Level A, AA and AAA?
No. The team are working on a different model for measuring conformance. There will still be a number of criteria to meet though.
At the moment, the level A, AA or AAA model is pretty good for making statements about whether a site meets legal guidelines. What it doesn't do is provide a decent assessemnt of how accessible a site is on a sliding scale.
In WCAG 2.0, a site could meet all the Level AA criteria and 24/25 of the Level A criteria. It would not meet any of the levels at all. The site is forced to declare that it does not meet even the minimum standard of Level A, when in reality that site would likely be very accessible for the majority of people.
More nuance is needed to grade the 98% of sites that do not currently meet WCAG Level AA, as they will vary hugely in their accessibility provision.
The Silver team have not agreed on an approach for this yet. It is possible that it could be some form of points scoring system.
Watch this space
I am going to be adding more content here as more about Silver is known.
Eventually, as we reach the first official draft of the guidelines, I will put together a full course on how to meet them.