WCAG 2.1 was initiated with the goal to improve accessibility guidance for three major groups: users with cognitive or learning disabilities, users with low vision, and users with disabilities on mobile devices. Many ways to meet these needs were proposed and evaluated, and a set of these were refined by the Working Group. Structural requirements inherited from WCAG 2.0, clarity and impact of proposals, and timeline led to the final set of success criteria included in this version. The Working Group considers that WCAG 2.1 incrementally advances web content accessibility guidance for all these areas, but underscores that not all user needs are met by these guidelines.
WCAG 2.1 builds on and is backwards compatible with WCAG 2.0, meaning web pages that conform to WCAG 2.1 also conform to WCAG 2.0. Authors that are required by policy to conform with WCAG 2.0 will be able to update content to WCAG 2.1 without losing conformance with WCAG 2.0. Authors following both sets of guidelines should be aware of the following differences:
WCAG 2.1 extends WCAG 2.0 by adding new success criteria, definitions to support them, guidelines to organize the additions, and a couple additions to the conformance section. This additive approach helps to make it clear that sites which conform to WCAG 2.1 also conform to WCAG 2.0, thereby meeting conformance obligations that are specific to WCAG 2.0. The Accessibility Guidelines Working Group recommends that sites adopt WCAG 2.1 as their new conformance target, even if formal obligations mention WCAG 2.0, to provide improved accessibility and to anticipate future policy changes.
The following Success Criteria are new in WCAG 2.1:
Many of these success criteria reference new terms that have also been added to the glossary and form part of the normative requirements of the success criteria.
In the Conformance section, a third note about page variants has been added to Full Pages, and an option for machine-readable metadata added to Optional Components of a Conformance Claim.
In order to avoid confusion for implementers for whom backwards compatibility to WCAG 2.0 is important, new success criteria in WCAG 2.1 have been appended to the end of the set of success criteria within their guideline. This avoids the need to change the section number of success criteria from WCAG 2.0, which would be caused by inserting new success critera between existing success ccriteria in the guideline, but it means success criteria in each guideline are no longer grouped by conformance level. The order of success criteria within each guideline does not imply information about conformance level; only the conformance level indicator (A / AA / AAA) on the success criterion itself indicates this. The WCAG 2.1 Quick Reference provides ways to view success criteria grouped by conformance level, along with many other filter and sort options.
WCAG 2.1 uses the same conformance model as WCAG 2.0 with a couple additions, which is described in the Conformance section. It is intended that sites that conform to WCAG 2.1 also conform to WCAG 2.0, which means they meet the requirements of any policies that reference WCAG 2.0, while also better meeting the needs of users on the current Web.