The recent Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.2 update brings improvements to aspects of operating and understanding websites. This is our first in a three-part blog series giving you a tour of the updates.
The long-awaited Web Content Accessibility Guidelines update, WCAG 2.2, is finally slated for release in May 2023.
We can expect WCAG 2.2 to include nine new success criteria. Additionally, criterion 2.4.7: Focus Visible has been modified. Let’s take a look at the first four changes.
Potential new guidelines
2.4.7: Focus Visible (Level A)
WCAG 2.2 moves 2.4.7 from level AA to level A. By moving this criterion to a lower level, the WCAG will put greater emphasis on the need for focus indicators. This improvement harmonizes with other new criteria which dig into the specifics of how focus indicators should look and behave.
Focus indicators are important for users which navigate via keyboard. Currently, WCAG 2.1 requires indicators, but doesn’t specify how they should look or behave. This has created confusion and frustration for developers and users alike. Some focus indicators are visually apparent and maintain a good contrast ratio against surrounding colors. Other focus indicators might end up too small, have little or no contrast ratio, or other elements may intermittently obscure them.
2.4.11: Focus Appearance (Level AA)
Criterion 2.4.11 is about the appearance of focus indicators regarding their size and contrast requirements. It names the minimum number of pixels which change color to maintain at least 3:1 contrast ratio against surrounding colors. While this takes a step towards improving focus indicators, the finalized minimum pixel requirement will show whether it goes far enough. If they set the minimum pixel requirement too small, some users may still struggle to identify thin focus indicators if they struggle with color contrast already.
2.4.12 Focus Not Obscured Minimum (Level AA)
2.11.12 requires that elements may only partially obscure visible focus indicators. An exception is provided for when:
“The focus indicator is determined by the user agent and cannot be adjusted by the author,”
“The focus indicator and the indicator’s background color are not modified by the author.”
Again, a step in the right direction. While this criterion will ensure focus indicators always appear at least partially visible, it might be better at Level A, as some users may become confused when attempting to scan for an indicator when its shape changes due to an element covering it.
2.4.13: Focus Not Obscured Enhanced (Level AAA)
2.4.13 requires that author-created content cannot obscure focus indicators at all.
The obvious benefit to this improvement is that keyboard navigation and low vision users will have a much easier time tracking their visible focus indicators. Under this criterion, elements such as currently focused navigation links or control buttons will be quickly identifiable when focused.
WCAG 2.2 improves the operation and understanding of websites. The first four new and updated criteria improve support for focus indicators, which make it easier for keyboard and other non-pointer users to interact with interfaces. WCAG 2.2 will not replace WCAG 2.1, but it does provide much needed improvements to the current set of guidelines.
Now would be a good time to bookmark the WCAG 2.2 updates page, explore WCAG 2.2, and start a conversation with us about how we can help you prepare for WCAG 2.2 and beyond. We encourage you to contact us with any questions.
Check out for Part Two to learn more about more of the new success criteria!