How is WCAG 2.1 different from WCAG 2.0?

Illustration of a person using a tablet

WCAG 2.1 adds some important guidelines to WCAG 2.0. This article will give an overview of a few of these added guidelines.  In particular, we will look at the guidelines added to make the web more mobile-friendly. We will also look at some of the guidelines directed toward users with cognitive and learning disabilities. A complete list of the added guidelines can be found on the official w3 website. 

It is important to understand that WCAG 2.1 is not a reworking of WCAG 2.0—the guidelines presented in WCAG 2.0 still apply. This means any site compliant with WCAG 2.1 will also be compliant with WCAG 2.0. 

Added Considerations for Mobile Devices 

Mobile users now make up the majority of web traffic. WCAG 2.1 accounts for this shift in user preference and adds some considerations to ensure an accessible experience on these devices. Included in those considerations are guidelines pertaining to phone orientation. Content must be viewable and accessible from both portrait and landscape orientation. There are also guidelines pertaining to content reflow. Meaning if you increase or decrease the size of the text on a page, the page should be able to restructure itself to account for the change. 

There are new guidelines pertaining to inputs that will improve mobile user experience. One such guideline requires developers to limit or provide alternatives to complicated gestures, such as pinching or drawing. Another guideline aims to reduce accidental inputs. Sometimes when a mobile user is navigating a site using touch, they may accidentally trigger a “mouse-down” or “down-event” event. Binding to a different event, such as “mouse-up” or “up-event”, can greatly reduce these accidental inputs. 

Identifying Purpose and Timeouts

WCAG 2.1 includes new considerations for identifying the purpose of inputs, icons, regions, links, buttons, and other abstract or symbolized interface elements. These guidelines are aimed at making content more accessible to users with cognitive and learning disabilities.   

Another guideline in this category deals with Timeouts. Timeouts typically refer to sites resetting or triggering an error after a certain duration of inactivity. Timeouts can create problems for users who need more time to view content or fill in a form. This guideline requires that duration to be posted so users can plan accordingly. 

Many of the guidelines included in the WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1 are things that good designers and developers would be doing anyway. And their impact on the user experience has benefits that go beyond just accessibility considerations. As WCAG continues to grow and develop, we can all look forward to a more intuitive and robust internet.

Scroll to top