World Wide Web Consortium Issues Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines as a Recommendation

New Guidelines Spur Development of Tools that Help Produce Accessible Web Content

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http://www.w3.org/ -- 3 February 2000 -- The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) today announced the release of the "Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0" (ATAG 1.0) specification, providing guidance to developers on how to design accessible authoring tools that produce accessible Web content. As a W3C Recommendation, the specification is stable, contributes to the universality of the Web, and has been reviewed by the W3C Membership. W3C encourages developers to promote Web accessibility by implementing this Recommendation.

ATAG 1.0 Provides Guidance for Tool Developers

The Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 explain how developers of authoring tools, such as HTML editors and site management tools, can encourage and assist in the production of accessible Web content through prompts, alerts, checking, repair functions, and help files in their tools. In addition to their value to accessibility, many of the principles addressed in the specification, such as the importance of producing and preserving valid markup, promote interoperability of the Web in general.

The Guidelines address not only the accessibility of content produced by tools, but the accessibility of the tool itself. The Web is not a read-only medium, and accessible authoring tools will enable all people to publish to the Web, regardless of disability.

ATAG 1.0 Will Contribute to Increase in Accessible Web Content

There has been an increasing interest in creating accessible Web sites particularly since the May 1999 release of W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0, and a correspondingly greater demand for tools that produce accessible content. Implementation of ATAG 1.0 will contribute to the proliferation of accessible Web content.

"Most content on the Web is created using authoring tools. If authoring tools seamlessly guide authors in creating accessible content, the wealth of information on the Web will become more accessible," said Jutta Treviranus, Chair of the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines Working Group and Director of the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre at the University of Toronto. "Just as important, the Web as a means of expression should not be reserved for people without disabilities. These guidelines promote authoring tools that create content that is accessible, and authoring tools that are usable by people with disabilities, thereby cultivating a World Wide Web that we can all participate in."

ATAG 1.0 Addresses a Wide Array of Authoring Tools

The Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 address a broad range of tools, including WYSIWYG editors, "save-as-HTML" conversion tools, tools that dynamically generate content from databases, formatting tools, image editors, and site management tools.

ATAG 1.0 consists of twenty-eight requirements, called "checkpoints," for developing accessible authoring tools that produce accessible content. The checkpoints are organized according to seven overriding design principles, called "guidelines."

As with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0, ATAG 1.0 checkpoints have three priority levels, which correspond to their importance for accessibility. There is a checklist providing a quick overview of the checkpoints by priority. W3C has made icons available for products claiming any one of the three conformance levels.

Broad Support, Multiple Implementations Under Development

The ATAG 1.0 Recommendation was written by members of the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AUWG), composed of key industry players as well as disability and research organizations. A list of AUWG members is available.

The Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines Working Group is preparing a variety of implementation support materials to assist developers, including the "Techniques for Authoring Tool Accessibility," published today as a W3C Note. At the time of this release, every requirement of the Guidelines has been implemented by one or more existing tools, though no tool yet satisfies all checkpoints. In addition, authoring tool developers are planning ATAG 1.0 support in upcoming products, indicated among the wide range of testimonials.

About the Web Accessibility Initiative

W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), in partnership with organizations around the world, is pursuing accessibility of the Web through five activities:

  1. ensuring that core technologies of the Web support accessibility;
  2. developing guidelines for Web content, user agents, and authoring tools;
  3. developing evaluation and repair tools for accessibility;
  4. conducting education and outreach;
  5. coordinating with research and development that can affect future accessibility of the Web.

The WAI International Program Office is supported in part by funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, European Commission's DG XIII Telematics Applications Programme for Disabled and Elderly, the Government of Canada, IBM, Lotus Development Corporation, Microsoft Corporation, and Bell Atlantic. For more information see http://www.w3.org/WAI.

About the World Wide Web Consortium [W3C]

The W3C was created to lead the Web to its full potential by developing common protocols that promote its evolution and ensure its interoperability. It is an international industry consortium jointly run by the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (MIT LCS) in the USA, the National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA) in France and Keio University in Japan. Services provided by the Consortium include: a repository of information about the World Wide Web for developers and users, reference code implementations to embody and promote standards, and various prototype and sample applications to demonstrate use of new technology. To date, 390 organizations are Members of the Consortium. For more information see http://www.w3.org/