Extensions to WCAG 2.0

The WCAG 2.0 standards holds good even after 7 years since they are recommended in 2008. The change in the technologies, the way users use the web and requests to improve the usability of standards by various user groups such as low vision, cognitive, learning disabilities made WCAG charter think and decide to provide extensions to meet these specific needs.

Certain task forces are already formed by WCAG working group and have started working to meet the needs of specific user groups. Mobile, low vision and cognitive are three task forces working towards the goal of extensions to meet the need of that specific user group.

What are WCAG extensions?

Extensions will be separate guideline documents, to increase the amount of coverage on particular accessibility needs. Authors and policy-makers would be able to choose to meet the guidelines with one or more extensions, which inherently meet the base WCAG 2.0 guidelines, while organizations that have policies built around WCAG 2.0 alone would not be impacted by the extensions.

How are WCAG extensions related with WCAG 2.0 standards;?

WCAG extensions are the guidelines beyond WCAG 2.0. The WCAG 2.0 standard continues to be the preeminent reference for web accessibility. A growing number of national and organizational policies around the world reference WCAG 2.0, including Canada, Australia, Japan, India, and the United States.

Though the final requirements address the conformance model of extensions, For sites to conform to a WCAG 2.0 extension, it must first conform to WCAG 2.0 on its own. If going further to conform to an extension, the conformance claim to that extension is at the same level (A, AA, or AAA) as the base WCAG 2.0 conformance level for the site. Extensions may or may not provide success criteria at all three conformance levels, but there will be a way to conform to WCAG 2.0 plus extensions at any given conformance level. On a longer run depending on the WCAG working group may consider the future generation of guidelines based on the maturity of the extensions.

The work on extensions has just started. To have a balance between meeting the needs of people with disabilities, working within existing WCAG 2.0 conformance policies, and implementability, WCAG working group have published a extensions requirements documentExternal Website. The Requirements for WCAG 2.0 Extensions. document clarifies the scope, conformance, and relationships among extensions.

Following are the goals for extension requirements.

  1. Satisfy pre-existing requirements for WCAG 2.0,
  2. Ensure that web pages which conform to WCAG 2.0 plus an extension also conform to WCAG 2.0 on its own,
  3. Ensure that all WCAG extensions are compatible with each other,
  4. Define a clear conformance model for WCAG 2.0 plus extensions, and
  5. Ensure the conformance structure utilizes the WCAG 2.0 A/AA/AAA model.

The first two requirements aim to maximize compatibility of extensions with the WCAG 2.0 base standard. This will help retain the benefits of harmonization of web accessibility practices that WCAG 2.0 has brought and help ensure that extensions can be easily applied to sites that conform to WCAG 2.0. Extensions, like WCAG 2.0, need to provide clear conformance requirements, that provide a clear accessibility benefit, are technology neutral, work on the existing and future Web, and can have their success objectively verified. Extensions can augment WCAG 2.0 success criteria, but only in a way that raises the conformance bar, not in a way that lowers it. This ensures that sites that adopt one or more extensions remain interoperable with sites that conform to WCAG 2.0 on its own.

The third requirement, that extensions are compatible with each other, was a challenge for the Working Group. If there are conflicts between extensions, sites could be unable to conform to more than one extension, thereby making the extensions less universally applicable.

Read more about SHAPING THE WCAG 2.0 EXTENSIONSExternal Website published by Michael Cooper

WCAG working group calls for a review and comment on extensions requirements documentExternal Website. Your input on this document helps in making the extensions itself successful. The WCAG working group requests to review and comment on the document on or before 5th February 2016.

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