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WCAG 2.1 under exploration, comments requested by 1 November

From: Judy Brewer <jbrewer@w3.org>
Date: Wed, 12 Oct 2016 18:31:25 -0400
To: WAI Interest Group <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <cd704b9c-ed29-f53a-7d66-471d2aed32de@w3.org>
Dear WAI Interest Group Participants,

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group announces a plan 
to develop WCAG 2.1, which builds on but does not supersede WCAG 2.0. 
This information is also announced on the W3C QA blog [1], and any 
updates will be posted there.  Feel free to circulate this message to 
other lists; please avoid cross-postings where possible.

[1] https://www.w3.org/blog/2016/10/wcag-2-1-under-exploration/

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 [2] became a W3C 
Recommendation on 11 December 2008. It has been one of the major 
resources for making web content accessible to users with disabilities, 
referenced by accessibility policies of many countries and 
organizations, translated into twenty languages [3], and it has become 
an ISO standard (ISO/IEC 40500:2012 [4]). Supporting these references, 
WCAG 2.0 was structured to be a stable resource, and technology-specific 
implementation guidance was provided separately (in the Techniques and 
Understanding supporting documents) and updated as web technologies evolve.

[2] https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/
[3] https://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/translations
[4] 
http://www.iso.org/iso/iso_catalogue/catalogue_tc/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=58625

WCAG remains relevant nearly a decade after finalization. Technology 
has, however, evolved in new directions. For instance, the widespread 
use of mobile devices with small screens and primarily touch-based user 
input methodologies has led to challenges making content that conforms 
to WCAG 2.0 accessible on those devices. Technology evolution makes it 
possible to meet the needs of more users, and users with low vision, or 
with cognitive, language, or learning disabilities see new benefits that 
should be better represented in guidelines. Further, the increasing role 
of the web in our lives means technologies such as digital books, 
payment systems, driverless vehicles, etc. now need to be addressed by 
web accessibility guidelines.

In 2015, the WCAG Working Group had chosen to develop extensions to WCAG 
2.0, in order to provide targeted guidance quickly, without changing the 
meaning of conformance to WCAG 2.0 itself or disturbing policies that 
reference WCAG 2.0. In review of the Requirements for WCAG 2.0 
Extensions [5], however, it became apparent that the interrelationship 
of extensions could be complicated, and accessibility for some user 
groups could vary if organizations chose to meet some extensions but not 
others.

[5] https://www.w3.org/TR/wcag2-ext-req/

After careful deliberation and consultation, the Working Group has now 
decided not to put the new guidance in extensions, and instead to work 
on an updated version of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. This 
dot-release, WCAG 2.1, will build on WCAG 2.0 to provide guidance 
urgently needed for today’s technologies. As a dot-release, it will have 
a restricted scope, be as similar to WCAG 2.0 as possible, and be fully 
backwards compatible. While WCAG 2.1 will be available to organizations 
that wish to follow updated advice, /WCAG 2.0 will not be retired/. 
References to WCAG 2.0 and within it will continue to be valid, and 
sites that conform to WCAG 2.0 will still have valid conformance claims. 
Over time, the hope is that policies and sites will migrate to the newer 
guidelines at times that make sense for them. Because of the backwards 
compatibility, sites conforming either to WCAG 2.0 or to WCAG 2.1 will 
share a common base of accessibility conformance.

In order to develop WCAG 2.1, the Working Group needs to obtain support 
from the W3C Membership. The current WCAG charter [6] anticipated this 
refresh and indicated a plan to combine content, user agents, and 
authoring tools within a single Working Group (and thus the scope of Web 
Content Accessibility Guidelines, Authoring Tool Accessibility 
Guidelines [7], and User Agent Accessibility Guidelines [8]). The 
Working Group plans to propose a new charter (current draft in-progress 
at [9]) to include WCAG 2.1 and then publish a first review version of 
WCAG 2.1 in early 2017, aiming to finalize the new 2.1 specification by 
mid 2018. This is fast work for standards of this type, and it will be 
necessary to focus on the most critical issues for today’s technology, 
while reserving other issues for future work. The group will also work 
on requirements and a first draft for a new major version update (3.0 
version) of accessibility guidelines that encompasses the full scopes 
listed above. Issues that cannot be resolved in time for the mid-2018 
publication of WCAG 2.1 are expected to be deferred to later versions of 
WCAG 2 or to the restructured 3.0 guidelines.

[6] http://www.w3.org/2015/09/wcag-charter
[7] https://www.w3.org/TR/ATAG20/
[8] https://www.w3.org/TR/UAAG20/
[9] https://www.w3.org/2016/09/draft-wcag-charter

Input about this project will help to ensure that it meets the needs of 
content developers and web users, and is beneficial, not disruptive, to 
organizations that use WCAG 2.0.

At a high-level, we call reviewers' attention to the following points 
and aspects of the WCAG WG’s ongoing work-mode:

  * WCAG 2.0 remains an active Recommendation, available for reference
    by sites and policies.
  * New web accessibility guidance may address technology changes.
  * Updated guidance will be incorporated via dot-releases such as WCAG
    2.1 (and ultimately 3.0) rather than through extensions.

To send feedback to the working group, please send email to 
public-comments-wcag20@w3.org. You can also reply to this message to 
carry out discussion on this list. In order for us to process feedback 
in time to take next steps on this plan, we request feedback as early as 
possible, and *by 1 November 2016*. If you would like to be more 
involved in shaping this work, consider joining the WCAG Working Group. [11]

[11] https://www.w3.org/WAI/GL/participation

Thank you for your time in helping keeping web accessibility guidelines 
current.

For Andrew Kirkpatrick, WCAG WG co-chair
Joshue O Connor, WCAG WG co-chair
Michael Cooper, WCAG WG staff contact


-- 
Judy Brewer
Director, Web Accessibility Initiative
at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
32 Vassar St. Room G-385, MIT/CSAIL
Cambridge MA 02149 USA
www.w3.org/WAI/
Received on Wednesday, 12 October 2016 22:31:32 UTC

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