WCAG 2.2 Compliance, Explained

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WCAG 2.2 Compliance, Explained

Everything you need to know about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and steps you can take to make your website conformant.

You need an accessible website — and to build content that works for real-life users, you need a way to test that content for common accessibility barriers.

That’s where the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) come in. Published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), WCAG is a set of accessibility standards that are intended to improve digital experiences for people with disabilities.

What Is WCAG 2.2?

WCAG is published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which also publishes standards for HTML (HyperText Markup Language), CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), and other internet technologies.

And while WCAG isn’t an enforceable law, many governments have adopted the guidelines as their standard for internet accessibility regulations.

Whether you’re building a new website or looking for ways to improve existing content, WCAG can be enormously helpful. It addresses issues that impact the user experience, including mistakes that prevent websites from working well with assistive technologies (AT). 

Following WCAG can make your content more useful for people with:

  • Vision disabilities.
  • Hearing disabilities.
  • Cognitive differences and disabilities.
  • Attention disorders.
  • Temporary and situational disabilities (for example, people who browse the internet with their sound turned off).

The guidelines are regularly updated to reflect changes in technologies. The latest version of WCAG is WCAG 2.2, released in 2023, which lists 86 pass-or-fail statements called success criteria.

Those success criteria address many common web design and development mistakes that impact users with disabilities:

  • Text that doesn’t have sufficient contrast with its background (low-contrast text).
  • Missing or inaccurate alternative text (alt text) for images.
  • Missing captions or transcripts for videos.
  • Missing form labels for input fields.
  • Improper use of semantic HTML. 
  • “Empty" and redundant hyperlinks.

Why Should I Care About WCAG 2.2 Compliance?

The obvious reason to care about WCAG 2.2 — and digital accessibility as a whole — is that people with disabilities are an important part of your audience. 

The World Health Organization estimates that 1 billion people worldwide live with disabilities. In the United States, about 1 out of 4 adults have disabilities — and the number is increasing due to demographic trends. 

With those statistics in mind, adopting WCAG has clear benefits: 

  • More traffic via enhanced search engine optimization (SEO) and better word of mouth.
  • A better user experience, which leads to increased sales, better engagement, and lower bounce rates.
  • Creates a more inclusive website and removes barriers users face when navigating web pages.
  • Improves accessibility to content from a variety of devices, including mobile phones, tablets, and assistive technology.
  • Limited exposure to lawsuits filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other non-discrimination laws (discussed below).

What is WCAG Compliance?

Although the term “WCAG compliance” is often used when people talk about website accessibility, “WCAG conformance” is a more accurate term. That’s because WCAG is a voluntary standard — not a law.

“WCAG conformance”means voluntarily following the guidelines. By setting a conformance goal, you can take the first step towards a more accessible website or apps and improve compliance with various non-discrimination laws.

To get started, you’ll need to understand how WCAG is organized.

Levels of WCAG 2.2 Compliance

WCAG 2.2 consists of 86 success criteria, which are pass-or-fail statements that address accessibility barriers such as low-contrast text, ambiguous anchor text, and keyboard accessibility issues.

Those success criteria are organized into three levels of conformance: Level A, Level AA, and Level AAA. Each level includes all of the success criteria from the previous level. 

In other words, Level AA includes all Level A success criteria, while Level AAA includes all Level AA and A success criteria. 

  • Level A is the least strict conformance level. It addresses essential issues that are likely to impact a large number of users. Examples of Level A criteria include requirements for alt text and descriptive page titles.
  • Level AA is more comprehensive than Level A and addresses additional issues such as maintaining appropriate color contrast, using headings appropriately, and keeping navigation elements in the same order from page to page. 
  • Level AAA is the most strict WCAG level and includes criteria that may be difficult for some creators to fulfill. For example, Level AAA requires sign language interpretations for all pre-recorded multimedia content.

The bottom line: Websites should aim for WCAG 2.2 Level AA conformance. Many digital accessibility laws specify Level AA as essential for compliance, and websites that follow all Level AA criteria are generally considered accessible for most users with disabilities.

For more detailed guidance, read Understanding the Difference Between WCAG A, AA, and AAA Conformance.

Who Needs to Follow WCAG?

Every organization should design and develop digital content with accessibility in mind. Most organizations have a legal responsibility to provide an accessible website, and WCAG provides a clear framework how to meet guidelines.

For many federal and state agencies, WCAG is an explicit legal requirement. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires organizations that receive federal funding to follow Level AA of WCAG 2.0.

WCAG conformance is also crucial for private organizations. Many ADA lawsuits have cited the guidelines, and the Justice Department has indicated that WCAG Level AA is a reasonable standard for digital compliance under Title III of the ADA.

Outside of the US, many countries have laws that explicitly require digital accessibility for both private and public organizations. For example, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires organizations in Canada to be accessible to individuals with disabilities.

How Does WCAG Affect Accessibility laws?

We’ve noted that WCAG is not a law: It’s a voluntary set of standards. 

But while WCAG itself is not legally enforceable, it’s the basis for many non-discrimination laws. Some of those laws incorporate WCAG by reference — the success criteria from WCAG appear within the text of the law, word for word.

Other laws, such as the ADA, do not have specific technical standards. However, there’s substantial precedent establishing WCAG Level AA conformance as a reasonable level of accessibility.

Below, we’ll explain how WCAG conformance impacts compliance with three major digital accessibility laws. For additional examples, check out our International Accessibility Law Repository post.

The Americans with Disabilities Act

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in public accommodations and commercial facilities.

Think of the ADA as a rule that ensures no one is left out just because they might experience the world differently. That applies to web content, too: If your website doesn’t work for people with disabilities, it can be just as serious of an issue as a missing wheelchair ramp or another physical barrier.

But don’t take our word for it — the Department of Justice, which enforces ADA compliance, has issued web guidance that recommends following WCAG or the government’s own Section 508 standards (which are based on WCAG).

Title III of the ADA applies to:

  • Private businesses
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Other agencies that operate as “places of public accommodation”

Title II of the ADA, which applies to state and local government agencies, also requires web accessibility. In 2023, the DOJ also proposed a rule that would establish clear technical standards for Title II compliance, and those standards certainly align with WCAG Level AA. 

Following any version of WCAG can improve compliance with the ADA. However, the best practice is to follow the latest version of the guidelines. Currently, that’s WCAG 2.2 — and if your content is fully conformant, you’re in a great position to demonstrate compliance.

Learn more about the ADA →

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits federal agencies from discriminating against people with disabilities. It also requires federal agencies to make their electronic information technology accessible, including web pages, digital documents (such as PDFs), and software.

Of course, that’s much easier with clear technical standards. In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to create those standards. Over time, Congress has approved additional updates to make sure that the requirements of Section 508 are appropriate for current technologies.

Section 508 applies to:

  • Federal agencies in the United States.
  • State, county, and municipal authorities that receive financial assistance from the US government
  • Universities, museums, galleries, medical centers, and other organizations that receive federal funding
  • Any contractor — regardless of size or services offered — that wants to work with the US government

In 2018, Section 508 was “refreshed” to incorporate WCAG 2.0 Level AA success criteria. At this time, it doesn’t require conformance with WCAG 2.2. 

However, WCAG 2.2 includes all of the success criteria from WCAG 2.0, and following the additional criteria can greatly benefit users. That’s extremely important for organizations that serve the public. If people can’t use your content, you’re leaving them out of the conversation. 

And since the ADA’s Title II standards may be updated in the near future, it’s in agencies' best interest to follow the latest version of WCAG.

Learn more about Section 508 →

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Not all non-discrimination laws are federal. States and provinces can also enforce digital accessibility — and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is a great example.

The AODA is a broad law that aims to improve transportation, customer service, and employment opportunities for Ontarians with disabilities. It also includes requirements for information and communications, which are based on (you guessed it) WCAG.

The AODA applies to:

  • Government bodies in Ontario.
  • Non-profit organizations in Ontario.
  • Commercial organizations in Ontario with 50 or more employees.

The AODA requires conformance with WCAG 2.0 Level A and Level AA. Once again, WCAG 2.2 isn’t explicitly necessary for AODA compliance — but since the law includes a process for changing the AODA standards over time, following the latest version of WCAG is strongly recommended.

Learn more about the AODA →

What Does WCAG 2.2 Mean?

WCAG 2.2 is the newest version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and the official recommendation of the W3C. That means that while other versions of WCAG are still relevant, the W3C strongly recommends following WCAG 2.2 to keep content accessible for modern internet users.

So, how is WCAG 2.2 different from earlier versions? In many ways, it isn’t. It includes the success criteria from WCAG 2.1 and WCAG 2.0. However, it adds 9 additional success criteria, which address issues like pointer target size, accessible authentication, and focus appearance

If your website already follows WCAG 2.1, you don’t have to do much work to meet WCAG 2.2. But the new success criteria are still important, since they address issues that impact real users.

Every version of WCAG is intended to make the internet a better place for folks with disabilities, and following the latest version of the guidelines helps you provide better experiences for your visitors.

WCAG Versions

WCAG is occasionally updated to reflect changes in technology or to better accommodate folks with certain disabilities. Here’s a brief overview of the history of the guidelines: 

  • WCAG 1.0 – May 5, 1999 (obsolete): The first version of WCAG included basic considerations for creating accessible content. While it was an important first step, it was mostly focused on HTML and had limited applicability to other technologies.
  • WCAG 2.0 – December, 2008: WCAG 2.0 introduced a principle-oriented framework and success criteria that could apply to different types of technologies. 
  • WCAG 2.1 – June 5, 2018: WCAG 2.1 introduced new success criteria while incorporating all of the original requirements of WCAG 2.0. The new criteria focused on mobile experiences and on barriers that impact users with low vision and cognitive disabilities.
  • WCAG 2.2 – October 2023: WCAG 2.2 includes nine criteria that focus on making navigation and user interactions more accessible.

With WCAG 3.0 in the works, WCAG 2.2 is expected to be the final version of WCAG 2.X.

To learn more about how WCAG has changed since its introduction, read A Brief History of Digital Accessibility.

The Four Key Principles of WCAG

WCAG outlines four guiding principles for digital accessibility: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Together, these principles form the acronym POUR — and they can be used to help businesses create content that is accessible for everyone.

Get into the habit of using the POUR principles when creating your content. They’re a great way to improve conformance with WCAG, and more importantly, they help you anticipate issues that might impact your users.


“Perceivable" simply means that all information and user interface (UI) components must be presentable and perceivable to all users. Nothing should be “invisible” to any of their senses, and you shouldn’t rely on a certain type of sensory perception.

Here are a few ways to make content perceivable:

  • Provide text alternatives for any non-text content: This involves offering a text description for images, graphs, or videos, ensuring that users who can't see these elements still have access to the same information. This also increases compatibility with screen readers.
  • Add captions to video content: Incorporate captions into pre-recorded and live videos. This helps people who are Deaf or hard of hearing by providing a textual representation of the audio.
  • Add pre-recorded audio descriptions to video content: For videos that are not live, include audio descriptions. These narrations describe visual elements, catering to users who are blind or have low vision.
  • Ensure adequate color contrast: Make sure there is sufficient color contrast between text and its background, using tools like AudioEye’s free color accessibility checker. This is important for readability, especially for users with color vision deficiency (CVD) and other vision impairments.


“Operable" means that people can use your content. They can fill out forms, order products, and navigate with the technologies that they use every day. Web or device interface and navigation, such as controls and buttons, should be operable in a variety of ways to make sure people with different abilities can use them.

When your website is truly operable, it works with all of those technologies, and it doesn’t require users to do something that they cannot do.

Here are a few ways to make content operable:

  • Make all functionality keyboard accessible: Your users should be able to operate your website with a keyboard alone (without a mouse). You can test this by learning basic keyboard commands and navigating your content. 
  • Avoid flashing content: Avoid content that flashes more than three times in any one-second period, or keeping the flash below WCAG’s thresholds. This limits seizure risks for certain users and makes content much more operable for people with vision disabilities and neurocognitive conditions.
  • Avoid time limits: Provide enough time for users to read and use content. If you must use time limits, notify users — don’t surprise them by logging them out or ending a process.


“Understandable" means following the best practices of user experience (UX) design: People of all abilities can figure out how your website works without too much effort.

In other words, the content and user interface should be easy to understand. Here are a few ways to make content understandable:

  • Use language tags: Specifying the language (for example, English) of content on a page allows screen readers to determine the correct pronunciation rules. Visual browsers can also display appropriate characters.
  • Use consistent navigation: Make sure repeated navigation elements appear in the same order on every page. This helps people get where they want to go — and while it’s particularly useful for some users with cognitive conditions, it’s helpful for everyone.
  • Provide instructions and labels: Write relevant, clear, and simple instructions when user input is required. Use appropriate labels so that fields are understandable for people who use assistive tech.


“Robust" means that content works well and remains accessible, even as technologies and user agents (such as web browsers) evolve.

Here are a few ways make content more robust:

  • Establish the name, role, and value of each element: Ensure that the name and role of each user interface element can be programmatically determined (read by a machine). Otherwise, some technologies (such as screen readers) may not be able to present the content to users.
  • Create accessible status messages: Status messages must be programmatically determinable so that they can be presented to the user without receiving focus.

Maintain Compliance with AudioEye

To follow WCAG 2.2 Level AA, test your content regularly, remediate issues as you find them, and test each fix. Just as importantly, you’ll need to fix those problems the right way. Otherwise, you may accidentally introduce new issues that impact your users.

AudioEye can help. Our Digital Accessibility Platform is designed to make WCAG 2.2 much easier — and to allow businesses of all sizes to benefit from the best practices of accessibility.

Our solution combines powerful AI-based automated testing with human-based expert assessments. Features include:

  • Active Monitoring that tests content with every visit. 
  • Automated Remediations that address many common barriers as the page loads.
  • The Accessibility Health Advisor, which provides guidance for custom remediations along with an overview of your current conformance.
  • Expert legal support, managed remediations, custom training, and more.

From start-up businesses to eCommerce enterprises, AudioEye provides complete resources for building sustainable, long-term digital compliance.

Get started with a free automated assessment, which tests your website against WCAG 2.2 Level A/AA success criteria, or book a demo to learn more.

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