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Implementation Techniques for
Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 2.0

W3C Working Draft 29 October 2003


This version:
Latest version:
Editor of this chapter:
Katie Haritos-Shea
Jutta Treviranus - ATRC, University of Toronto
Jan Richards - ATRC, University of Toronto
Matt May - W3C

Accessibility (Also: Accessible)
Within these guidelines,"accessible Web content" and "accessible authoring tool" mean that the content and tool can be used by people regardless of disability. To understand the accessibility issues relevant to authoring tool design, consider that many authors may be creating content in contexts very different from your own:
  • They may not be able to see, hear, move, or may not be able to process some types of information easily or at all;
  • They may have difficulty reading or comprehending text;
  • They may not have or be able to use a keyboard or mouse;
  • They may have a text-only display, or a small screen.
Accessible design will benefit people in these different authoring scenarios and also many people who do not have a physical disability but who have similar needs. For example, someone may be working in a noisy environment and thus require an alternative representation of audio information. Similarly, someone may be working in an eyes-busy environment and thus require an audio equivalent to information they cannot view. Users of small mobile devices (with small screens, no keyboard, and no mouse) have similar functional needs as some users with disabilities.
Accessibility Information
"Accessibility information" is content, including information and markup, that is used to improve the accessibility of a document. Accessibility information includes, but is not limited to, equivalent alternative information.
Accessibility Problem (Also: Inaccessible Markup)
Inaccessible Web content or authoring tools cannot be used by some people with disabilities. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 [WCAG20] describes how to create accessible Web content.
Accessible Authoring Practice
"Accessible authoring practices" improve the accessibility of Web content. Both authors and tools engage in accessible authoring practices. For example, authors write clearly, structure their content, and provide navigation aids. Tools automatically generate valid markup and assist authors in providing and managing appropriate equivalent alternatives.
An "alert" draws the author's attention to an event or situation. It may require a response from the author.
Alternative Information (Also: Equivalent Alternative)
Content is "equivalent" to other content when both fulfill essentially the same function or purpose upon presentation to the user. Equivalent alternatives play an important role in accessible authoring practices since certain types of content may not be accessible to all users (e.g., video, images, audio, etc.). Authors are encouraged to provide text equivalents for non-text content since text may be rendered as synthesized speech for individuals who have visual or learning disabilities, as Braille for individuals who are blind, or as graphical text for individuals who are deaf or do not have a disability. For more information about equivalent alternatives, please refer to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG 2.0 [WCAG20].
This document uses the term "attribute" as used in SGML and XML [XML]: Element types may be defined as having any number of attributes. Some attributes are integral to the accessibility of content (e.g., the "alt", "title", and "longdesc" attributes in HTML).
Auditory Description
An "auditory description" provides information about actions, body language, graphics, and scene changes in a video. Auditory descriptions are commonly used by people who are blind or have low vision, although they may also be used as a low-bandwidth equivalent on the Web. An auditory description is either a pre-recorded human voice or a synthesized voice (recorded or automatically generated in real time). The auditory description must be synchronized with the auditory track of a video presentation, usually during natural pauses in the auditory track.
Authored "by hand"
When the author specifies the precise text string, as by typing into a text editor.
Authoring Tool
Any software or service that authors may use to create or modify Web content. This includes software that enables authors to perform any of the following functions:
1. Text Editing: Authors manipulate plain text data (e.g. markup text, program code, etc.). [Example 1]
2. Symbol-Level Editing: Authors manipulate symbols (not WYSIWYG renderings) that represent low-level functional groups in the underlying plain text data (e.g. symbols in place of markup elements, programming code operations, multi-element placeholder, etc.) .[Example 2]
3. WYSIWYG Editing: Authors manipulate browser-like renderings of the underlying plain text data (e.g. rendered text, images, etc. in place of markup elements). [Example 3]
4. Graphics Editing: Authors manipulate renderings of object-oriented graphics (e.g. rendered lines, etc. in place of markup elements in a drawing program, animation tool stage, etc.). [Example 4]
5. Content Management: Authors exercise control of changes to Web content across whole documents or groups of documents, rather than at the level of individual instances of content (e.g. site building wizards, site management tools, courseware, content aggregators, etc.). [Example 5]
6. Constrained Editing: Authors make highly constrained inputs that are structured and styled according to static templates (e.g. guest books, message boards, etc.). [Example 6]
7. Timeline Editing: Authors manipulate time-dependent Web content (e.g. animation, music, etc.) using a user interface that represents a series of frames. [Example 7]
8. Format Conversion: Authors are assisted in causing Web content encoded in one format to become encoded in another (e.g. saving Web content created in one format in a different format, importing Web content from a different format, etc.) [Example 8]
"Captions" are essential text equivalents for movie audio. Captions consist of a text transcript of the auditory track of the movie (or other video presentation) that is synchronized with the video and auditory tracks. Captions are generally rendered graphically and benefit people who can see but are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or cannot hear the audio.
Conversion Tool
A "conversion tool" is any application or application feature (e.g.,"Save as HTML") that transforms convert in one format to another format (such as a markup language).
Check for
As used in checkpoint 4.1,"check for" can refer to three types of checking:
  1. In some instances, an authoring tool will be able to check for accessibility problems automatically. For example, checking for validity (checkpoint 2.2) or testing whether an image is the only content of a link.
  2. In some cases, the tool will be able to "suspect" or "guess" that there is a problem, but will need confirmation from the author. For example, in making sure that a sensible reading order is preserved a tool can present a linearized version of a page to the author.
  3. In some cases, a tool must rely mostly on the author, and can only ask the author to check. For example, the tool may prompt the author to verify that equivalent alternatives for multimedia are appropriate. This is the minimal standard to be satisfied. Subtle, rather than extensive, prompting is more likely to be effective in encouraging the author to verify accessibility where it cannot be done automatically.
A "document" is a series of elements that are defined by a markup language (e.g., HTML 4 or an XML application).
Editing View
An "editing view" is a view provided by the authoring tool that allows editing.
An "element" is any identifiable object within a document, for example, a character, word, image, paragraph or spreadsheet cell. In [HTML4] and [ XML], an element refers to a pair of tags and their content, or an "empty" tag - one that requires no closing tag or content.
To "inform" is to make the author aware of an event or situation through alert, prompt, sound, flash, or other means.
Markup Language
Authors encode information using a "markup language" such as HTML [HTML4], SVG [ SVG], or MathML [MATHML].
Presentation Markup
"Presentation markup" is markup language that encodes information about the desired presentation or layout of the content. For example, Cascading Style Sheets [CSS1], [CSS2] can be used to control fonts, colors, aural rendering, and graphical positioning. Presentation markup should not be used in place of structural markup to convey structure. For example, authors should mark up lists in HTML with proper list markup and style them with CSS (e.g., to control spacing, bullets, numbering, etc.). Authors should not use other CSS or HTML incorrectly to lay out content graphically so that it resembles a list.
In this document prompt does not refer to the narrow software sense of a "prompt," rather it is used as a verb meaning to urge, suggest and encourage. The form and timing that this prompting takes can be user configurable. "Prompting" does not depend upon the author to seek out the support but is initiated by the tool. "Prompting" is more than checking, correcting, and providing help and documentation as encompassed in guidelines 4, 5, 6. The goal of prompting the author is to encourage, urge and support the author in creating meaningful equivalent text without causing frustration that may cause the author to avoid access options. Prompting should be implemented in such a way that it causes a positive disposition and awareness on the part of the author toward accessible authoring practices.
A "property" is a piece of information about an element, for example structural information (e.g., it is item number 7 in a list, or plain text) or presentation information (e.g., that it is marked as bold, its font size is 14). In XML and HTML, properties of an element include the type of the element (e.g., IMG or DL), the values of its attributes, and information associated by means of a style sheet. In a database, properties of a particular element may include values of the entry, and acceptable data types for that entry.
Structural Markup
"Structural markup" is markup language that encodes information about the structural role of elements of the content. For example, headings, sections, members of a list, and components of a complex diagram can be identified using structural markup. Structural markup should not be used incorrectly to control presentation or layout. For example, authors should not use the BLOCKQUOTE element in HTML [HTML4]to achieve an indentation visual layout effect. Structural markup should be used correctly to communicate the roles of the elements of the content and presentation markup should be used separately to control the presentation and layout.
A "transcript" is a text representation of sounds in an audio clip or an auditory track of a multimedia presentation. A "collated text transcript" for a video combines (collates) caption text with text descriptions of video information (descriptions of the actions, body language, graphics, and scene changes of the visual track). Collated text transcripts are essential for individuals who are deaf-blind and rely on Braille for access to movies and other content.
A "transformation" is a process that changes a document or object into another, equivalent, object according to a discrete set of rules. This includes conversion tools, software that allows the author to change the DTD defined for the original document to another DTD, and the ability to change the markup of lists and convert them into tables.
User Agent
A "user agent" is software that retrieves and renders Web content. User agents include browsers, plug-ins for a particular media type, and some assistive technologies.
Authoring tools may render the same content in a variety of ways; each rendering is called a "view". Some authoring tools will have several different types of view, and some allow views of several documents at once. For instance, one view may show raw markup, a second may show a structured tree, a third may show markup with rendered objects while a final view shows an example of how the document may appear if it were to be rendered by a particular browser. A typical way to distinguish views in a graphic environment is to place each in a separate window.

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