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WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, but it never defines what is meant by "web content".

Many of the success criteria are defined in terms of "user agent" as if they meant a web browser, but the WCAG 2.0 Glossary defines "user agent" again in the terms of "web content", while it also mentions a "media player" as an example of a user agent that "...helps retrieving and rendering Web content". So if a stream of video data is considered web content, then even multiplayer video games can be considered as rendering web content?

Then there is this 2015 document How WCAG 2.0 and Other W3C/WAI Guidelines Apply to Mobile that specifically mentions "...native applications (also known as "mobile apps")", but then it says "[the document] provides informative guidance, but does not set requirements."

I am perplexed.

My question: Does the WCAG 2.1 success criteria apply to native (iOS, Android) mobile apps?

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Not as such.

And in addition WCAG is still just a guideline as mentioned in the name. And as mentioned in the name it is a guideline about web content.

From WCAG 2.1

These guidelines address accessibility of web content on desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices. Following these guidelines will also often make Web content more usable to users in general.

W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) defines web content in their overview of WCAG as:

The WCAG documents explain how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. Web “content” generally refers to the information in a web page or web application, including:

  • natural information such as text, images, and sounds
  • code or markup that defines structure, presentation, etc.

Because WCAG is just a guideline to help designers and developers to create accessible web content, there are no sanctions for not complying with the guidelines. There is legislation that impose sanctions if something isn't accessible though. EU directive 2016/2102 is one such legislation. Directive is based on European standard EN 301 549 v2.1.2 which in turn is based on WCAG 2.1.

This standard extends WCAG 2.1 to software.

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    The definition of "web content" by WAI that you posted is clear enough - WCAG does not apply to native mobile apps. I will only add that the EN 301 549 extends many of the WCAG requirements to native mobile apps, for instance, the Landscape/Portrait orientation requirement (see 11.1.3.4). – daniel.sedlacek Jun 10 '20 at 13:21

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