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WCAG 3.0 and the Future of Video Accessibility

WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) represents a set of international standards and recommendations to help make web content more accessible to all users, including people with physical, sensory, cognitive, and/or other disabilities.

These standards are developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international public-interest, non-profit organization that works to develop standards and guidelines to help everyone build a web-based on the principles of accessibility, internationalization, privacy, and security.

The Four WCAG Principles

There are four major WCAG principles of web accessibility that every web content creator should adhere to:

  1. Web content should be perceivable - all website visitors should be able to accurately see and read the content
  2. Web content should be operable - websites should be responsive and feature an interface that is easy to navigate for all users
  3. Web content should be understandable - websites should feature language that is clear, easy to interpret and be understood by all users
  4. Web content should be robust - websites should be compatible with assistive technology tools

The Current WCAG Standards

The currently existing standards are WCAG 2.0 (published in December 2008), WCAG 2.1 (published in June 2018 and updated in September 2023), and WCAG 2.2 (published in October 2023).

It’s important to note that those WCAG 2.1 and 2.2. updates do not deprecate or supersede WCAG 2.0. The latest version of the WCAG guidelines is simply an encouragement by W3C for content creators to develop or update web accessibility policies to maximize their future applicability.

WCAG 3.0

WCAG 3.0 is the newest version of the accessibility guidelines and standards for web content, which is intended to explain how to make web content, apps, tools, publishing, and emerging technologies on the web more accessible to people with disabilities.

Its most recent working draft was published on July 24, 2023 (note that the first public working draft was published on January 21, 2021).

However, it’s worth noting that this draft is still incomplete, that many of its substantial issues remain under discussion (particularly about testing and conformance), and that it will take a few years until WCAG 3.0 becomes a W3C international standard.

This latest draft includes many changes incorporated based on public feedback, and further updated drafts are expected to be published every 3-6 months. There is currently no date set for when WCAG 3.0 is expected to become the new international standard.

Upcoming WCAG 3.0 Changes

WCAG 3.0 isn’t meant to reinvent the wheel but simply build upon the guidelines established by the previous WCAG versions. However, there is a growing need for a more comprehensive and flexible model to address web content accessibility due to changing technologies and changing needs of people with disabilities.

Among its goals, WCAG 3.0 should be easier to understand, cover more user needs, and be more flexible in addressing a wider variety of web content, apps, tools, and organizations.

WCAG 3.0 still aims to provide guidance in making web content accessible to people with disabilities. However, it will have a different structure, different conformance model, and broader scope (beyond just web content) than the previous versions.

According to W3C authors, WCAG 3.0 should be much easier to understand and feature a more flexible outcome-based model. These outcomes are expected to be more specific instead of broad and written in plain language, that will make them more transparent and understandable to people who are not technology experts.

While current versions of WCAG use A, AA, and AAA conformance levels (where A is the most basic and AAA the most advanced), WCAG 3.0 will replace it with Bronze, Silver, and Gold status. Bronze will be considered the basic conformance level, roughly equal to WCAG 2.1 Level AA, which is the current required standard. A web page will need to pass 96% of applicable tests to reach WCAG 3.0 Bronze conformance level.

The Future of Video Accessibility

The most recent draft of WCAG 3.0 doesn’t specifically address any major changes to video accessibility guidelines as of yet. However, it does state that WCAG 3.0 will require conformance for user-generated content, including but not limited to social media postings and comments, uploaded photographs, uploaded videos, or other multimedia.

That means that all videos posted on social media (such as YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, X, Facebook, and others) will likely require conformance to the WCAG guidelines to ensure that user-generated content is fully accessible to all web users, including users with disabilities. In other words, WCAG 3.0 will affect not only the web content of public and private sector organizations but also all content posted on social media.

As mentioned above, WCAG 3.0 will also cast a wider net, addressing a wider variety of web content, apps, tools, organizations, and video content involved therein. Consequently, conforming to accessibility standards will become a necessity for a larger number of content creators, but it will also make that content fully accessible to more worldwide users than ever before.

How to Prepare for Evolving Accessibility Standards

In order to prepare for evolving accessibility standards, all content creators can start by ensuring their video content meets or exceeds the current standards set by WCAG 2.0, 2.1, and 2.2. That means including the following:

  1. Captions and/or subtitles - creating synchronized text version of speech and non-speech audio information for pre-recorded and live video content; important not only to people who are deaf or hard of hearing, but also to those in loud or quiet environments, and those who process written information better than audio
  2. Audio descriptions - creating voiceover that provides visual information for people who are blind or have visual impairments so that they can fully understand the content of the video
  3. Transcripts - creating text version of speech and non-speech audio information for pre-recorded video content; intended for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, people who have difficulty processing auditory information, people who process written information better than audio, and people who can’t listen to or clearly hear the audio due to environmental factors
  4. Colour contrasts - creating sufficient colour contrast between the text (such as captions or subtitles) and the background for people with low vision, colour blindness, or other vision impairments, as well as not relying on colour alone to convey meaning or information
  5. Keyboard accessibility - ensuring that video content (as well as its volume level) can be fully controllable by the use of the keyboard alone; intended for those users who may not be able to or prefer not to rely on the mouse to play and control web content
  6. Video player accessibility - using media player that features functionality that can support all of the above mentioned accessibility requirements

If you’re a video content creator, Subly can save you hours of media creation work by creating highly accurate subtitles or captions to your video in over 30 languages and dialects, creating  transcriptions, audio descriptions, translations in over 70 languages, and improving colour contrasts that boost the accessibility of your video files. And all of this in a matter of minutes so you can solely focus on creating video content that best represents you and your brand.

Even though it will take a few more years before WCAG 3.0 is officially published, it’s never too early for video content creators to take steps to ensure their work is accessible to as many people (and potential customers) as possible in the foreseeable future.

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