Understanding the WCAG 3 Working Draft Update

Understanding the WCAG 3 Working Draft Update

The WCAG 3 Working Draft has been updated. WCAG 3 doesn’t replace WCAG 2. WCAG 2 is used around the world and will still be required by different countries for a long time to come. 

When we published the first public working draft, we received over 300 comments.  Public feedback is an important part of the W3C process and the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AG) took the comments we received seriously. We aggregated and organized the feedback and revised our approach to WCAG 3. 

Below is an overview of what you will find in this draft: 

  • All content is labeled with content maturity levels: Placeholder, Exploratory, Developing, Refining, and Mature. There has been confusion in the past about how mature content is and when to adopt it. These maturity levels inform readers about how complete and ready to use each piece of content is.
  • You will find a placeholder list of guidelines. We have temporarily removed all of the draft guidelines that were in earlier drafts of WCAG 3. These guidelines were initial examples.  Over the next 6-9 months we will be writing an exploratory draft of outcomes for each guideline. Part of this process will be updating previous draft content, such as the APCA approach for color contrast, and adding that guidance back in within the context of the full set of guidelines.
  • This draft presents pieces of a conformance model which have shown promise during conversation and testing. These include conformance levels, percentages, pre-assessment checks, issue severity, and user generated content. This working draft does not contain a complete conformance model. We’ve reviewed numerous options but want to evaluate each for testability, repeatability, etc. before publishing the most promising model.
  • The AG is applying a more granular way of thinking about guidance based on how repeatable test results are by the same tester and across testers. Clearly identifying when tests contain a subjective component will help when explaining and applying WCAG 3.
  • We have added an approach that allows for guidance that only applies in certain conditions, such as situations where a specific language is used.
  • We have also added “Assertions”. Assertions are statements about whether a process was completed. Examples of such processes include usability testing, plain language evaluations, and assistive technology testing. Testing an assertion only includes evaluating whether an organization made an assertion, and if the required documentation is complete. Testing an assertion does not test the results of the process. The hope is that Assertions will allow WCAG to promote certain processes that improve accessibility without requiring repeatable results.

You can read more about this update at the WCAG 3 Introduction.

We are not requesting wide review, that is, we are not looking for general public feedback on this draft, but you are always welcome to comment through GitHub. If you are not able to use GitHub, email public-agwg-comments@w3.org. Please create 1 GitHub issue or send 1 email per topic.

I will be posting additional details about WCAG 3 and the next steps for the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group over the next week or two.

WCAG 2.2 Status Update

AGWG Informal Update

We have begun the process of moving WCAG 2.2 to Candidate Recommendation (CR) status. What does this mean? It means that we are moving forward and that there are several review and approval steps yet to be completed.  We are on track to release WCAG 2.2 before the end of this year.  You can view the editor’s draft which is being considered for CR. For more details, please read “What’s New in WCAG 2.2 Working Draft.”

WCAG 3 compliant? Check again

As I mentioned in my previous article, the WCAG 3 content is still exploratory. That means that the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AGWG) is iterating, changing, and even removing content. Drafts provide a way for the public to see what AGWG is doing and provide feedback. The accessibility guidelines serve a world-wide community. Crafting them takes time, careful consideration, and as many eyes and minds as possible. Sometimes, we may post alternative approaches and request feedback. As WCAG 2.2 wraps up, these changes and requests for feedback will be much more frequent.

Because WCAG 3 is still a draft, it should not be cited or treated as guidance. We welcome early adopters who are willing to try out WCAG 3 and provide feedback. In fact, we really need this type of experimentation and participation from the accessibility community and we will reach out to experts in various areas to help us. If you choose to experiment, please do not be surprised when WCAG 3 changes.

Within the AGWG, we typically differentiate between conformance and compliance. From our perspective, web content can conform to WCAG but would comply with a law that references WCAG.


1.       WCAG 3 is still in draft. Nothing can conform or comply with WCAG 3 at this time while it is in draft. It should not even be cited as guidance at this time.

2.       After W3C publishes WCAG 3 as W3C guidance, web content creators will be able to declare conformance to it.

3.       After WCAG 3 is a W3C recommendation, organizations responsible for writing law, policy, or regulation may reference or adopt it. Then compliance comes into play. The W3C does not write laws, policies, or regulations. Because those organizations responsible for this step need time to evaluate the impact of a new standard and integrate it into their existing regulatory content, this step takes time.

In short, if someone is currently claiming WCAG 3 compliance or even conformance, check again. The most reputable source for the current status of WCAG 3 is the W3C’s WCAG 3 Introduction.

WCAG 2.2 and WCAG 3 Status Updates

Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AGWG) Informal Update


As a co-chair of the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AGWG), I often read social media posts about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) with concern. There is a lot of misunderstanding and miscommunication about the AGWG standards process:

  1. How fast it can be done,
  2. Where we are in any given process,
  3. How to contribute, and
  4. When it is best to adopt.

In an effort to clarify, I will periodically post updates here on LinkedIn.

 A few notes:

  1. These posts present my perspective as a co-chair. They are not official W3C statements.
  2. Please keep the tone of comments professional. I will delete unkind posts on threads to ensure that the most people possible can read the conversation without experiencing anxiety.

WCAG 2.2

The AGWG is finalizing the contents of WCAG 2.2 and preparing to send it to implementation testing and into the final review stages. All new success criteria must be shown to work in live websites in order to move forward. The implementation process typically takes a few months. There are additional review stages by the W3C that also require a few months. We expect WCAG 2.2 to be available later this year.

We are running behind our original schedule for a few reasons. First, because the success criteria that were not included in 2.0 and 2.1 were often left out because they were difficult to define well. Many of the new success criteria in 2.2 have a number of edge cases that need to be addressed and that takes a lot of testing and careful wording. Second, we received a lot of excellent feedback in our second wide review. We value public feedback and this takes time to work through. Third, we are working on two specifications at the same time (WCAG 2.2 and WCAG 3) – there are only so many hours in a day.


WCAG 3 is still in its early stages. I can’t stress this enough. We published a first public working draft and received excellent feedback. As a result, we are reworking much of the approach included in that first draft. The draft guidelines are included as demonstrations and to get feedback. At any time they may be changed or removed. This includes the color contrast SC.

To help clarify what stage content is in, we are adding markup to the drafts:

  1. Placeholder: This content is temporary, it showcases the type of content or section to expect here. All of this is expected to be replaced. No feedback is needed on placeholder content. 
  2. Exploratory: The working group is exploring what direction to take with this section. This content is not refined, details and definitions may be missing. Feedback should be about the proposed direction.
  3. Developing: There is rough agreement on what is needed for this section, although not all high-level concerns have been settled. Details have been filled, but are yet to be worked out. Feedback should be focused on ensuring the sections are usable and reasonable in a broad sense.
  4. Refining: The working group has reach consensus on this section. It is ready for broad public review and experimental adoption. Feedback should be focused on the feasibility and implementability.
  5. Mature: Content is believed by the working group to be ready for recommendation. Feedback should be focused on edge case scenarios the working group may not have anticipated.

This markup is in the editor’s draft but not yet in the working draft. Please note that nothing in WCAG 3 is higher than exploratory right now. I will discuss drafts and how best to monitor and contribute to them in a future article.

WCAG 3 will not be available for at least 4 years. There will be many opportunities to provide feedback during that time and I will announce those opportunities here. If you see different information, please encourage the poster to refer back here.

I will be posting additional resources and information in the future.