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An Evening With WCAG 2.1?

Last Tuesday evening I went along with my new employers to a free session being hosted by the RNIB in London entitled “What’s New – WCAG 2.0 and Current Issues”.

The Speaker was Shawn Henry from the W3C Web Initiative and having read Joe Clarke’s well documented A List Apart article ‘To Hell with WCAG 2‘ last year I was interested to hear first hand about the now much revised version.

Having not had chance yet to look at the revised version I have been getting the impression that people in the web industry are coming around to WCAG 2 with this new release.

The first public working draft for WCAG 2 was posted on January 25, 2001 – over 6 years ago, so it’s fair to say the current standards we officially work to as web designers need updating sooner rather than later… lets face it things have moved on a little on the web in that time!

The important point that Shawn Henry made about WCAG 2 is that it is being developed to apply broadly to different web technologies now and in the future.

The examples she gave were now supported by a quick reference guide that has been developed by the W3C. This can be customised to the technologies that you are using within a project. Looking through the examples, guidelines about things like colour contrast do seem to be a lot clearer now.

The point was made that although the new guidelines are very substantial in size, this is actually an advantage in terms of giving us proper detailed reference material to work from.

There were a lot of good questions asked with some mild debate amongst the audience and I think there are definitely some areas to be ironed out through the ongoing feedback process.

WCAG 2.0 is still a working draft and from what I could gather from this session we won’t be seeing the finished article this year. That said, Shawn was keen to encourage people to start using parts of the guidelines in their work as soon as possible.

The issue of authoring tools and giving people ways of creating accessible content came out as a theme towards the end of the sesson as did the example of teaching people how to get the most out of their web content… the example of the BBC’s My Web/My Way was given. I really like the idea of showing people how to change styles/text sizes from within their own browsers rather than giving them built-in tools that may vary from site-to-site. In the long term this will benefit everyone.

So, overall this was a good session and I now feel more confident of finding useful information in WCAG 2.0… or as someone asked 2.1? …it has changed considerably enough to surely be 2.1 but as it’s still in development/draft it’s still just version 2.0… but then again 2.0 suggests web 2.0 = cool?

Shawn Henry’s book, Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design is available to be read online if anyone wants to look further into her accessibility work.

For information about the RNIB and web accessibility visit their Web Access Centre Blog.

Ben Holliday is an experienced designer, leader, writer and speaker. This is his blog (started in 2005). You can follow all of Ben's blog posts by subscribing to the RSS feed, or follow him on Twitter for more regular updates.