This document provides guidelines for Web authoring tool developers. Its
purpose is two-fold: to assist developers in designing authoring tools that
generate accessible Web content and to assist developers in creating an
accessible authoring interface.
Accessible Web content is achieved by encouraging authoring tool users
("authors") to create accessible Web content through mechanisms such as
prompts, alerts, checking and repair functions, help files and automated
tools. It is equally important that all people can be the authors of Web
content, rather than merely recipients. The tools used to create this
information must therefore be accessible themselves. Adoption of these
guidelines will contribute to the proliferation of Web pages that can be read
by a broader range of readers and in authoring tools that can be used by a
broader range of authors.
This document is part of a series of accessibility documents published by
the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative.
This is a draft document and may be updated, replaced or rendered obsolete
by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to use W3C Working Drafts
as reference material or to cite them as other than "work in progress". This
is work in progress and does not imply endorsement by either W3C or its member
The goals of the WAI AU Working
Group are discussed in the WAI AU charter.
Please send comments about this document to the public mailing list: email@example.com, archived at http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/w3c-wai-au
A list of the current AU Working
Group members is available.
The guidelines in this document are designed to help authoring tool
developers understand, and thereby reduce, barriers to the creation of
accessible Web content. In these guidelines, the term authoring tool refers
to the wide range of software used for creating Web content, including:
- Editing tools specifically designed to produce Web content (e.g.,
WYSIWYG HTML and XML editors);
- Tools that offer the option of saving material in a Web format (e.g.,
word processors or desktop publishing packages);
- Tools that translate documents into Web formats (e.g., filters to
translate desktop publishing formats to HTML);
- Tools that produce multimedia, especially where it is intended for use
on the Web (e.g., video production and editing suites, SMIL authoring
- Tools for site management or site publication, including tools which
generate Websites dynamically from a database, on-the-fly conversion and
Web site publishing tools;
- Tools for management of layout (e.g., CSS formatting tools).
An accessible authoring tool is accessible software that produces
accessible content for the Web. Thus the goals of this document can be stated
as follows: that the authoring tool be accessible to authors regardless of
disability, that the authoring tool generate accessible content by default,
and that the authoring tool support and encourage the author in creating
accessible content. Because most of the content of the Web is created using
authoring tools, they play a critical role in ensuring the accessibility of
the Web. Since the Web is both a means of receiving information and
communicating information, it is important that both the Web content produced
and the authoring tool itself be accessible.
For detailed information about what constitutes accessible content this
document relies on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
[WAI-WEBCONTENT]. This document provides guidelines for designing authoring
tools that generate Web content that conforms to the Web Content Accessibility
Guidelines and that support and encourage authors to create content that
conforms to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. This is achieved by
taking steps such as conformance to accessible standards (i.e., HTML 4.0),
accessibility checking and correcting, prompting, appropriate documentation
and help. Similarly, this document does not address general accessible
software design but relies on other sources. It does address accessible design
considerations specific to Web authoring tools such as providing flexible
editing views, navigation aids and access to display properties for
A separate document, entitled Techniques for Authoring Tool Accessibility
[WAI-AUTOOLS-TECHS], provides suggestions and examples of how each
checkpoint might be satisfied, It also includes references to other
accessibility resources (such as platform-specific software accessibility
guidelines) which give additional information on how a tool may satisfy each
checkpoint. Readers are strongly encouraged to become familiar with the
techniques document. Please note that while there may be many helpful
suggestions there, the requirements that need to be fulfilled are the
checkpoints in this document, and ways other than those suggested may be
appropriate for some tools.
This document includes guidelines which are general principles of
accessible design. Each guideline includes:
- The guideline number;
- The statement of the guideline;
- The rationale behind the guideline;
- A list of checkpoint definitions.
The checkpoint definitions in each guideline
specify requirements for authoring tools to follow the guideline. Each
checkpoint definition includes:
- The checkpoint number;
- The statement of the checkpoint;
- The priority of the checkpoint;
- In some cases informative notes, clarifying examples, or cross
references to related guidelines or checkpoints;
- A link to a section of the Techniques Document ([WAI-AUTOOLS-TECHS])
where implementations and examples of the checkpoint are discussed;
Each checkpoint is intended to be specific enough that it can be verified,
while being sufficiently general to allow developers the freedom to use the
most appropriate strategies to meet the checkpoint.
The Techniques provided in the techniques document are suggestions for
how implementation might be done, or where further information can be found.
They are informative only, and other strategies may be used to meet the
checkpoint as well as, or in place of, those discussed.
Each checkpoint has a priority level. The priority level reflects the
impact of the checkpoint in meeting the goals of this document. These goals
- That the authoring tool be accessible
- That the authoring tool generate accessible content by default
- That the authoring tool encourage the creation of accessible
The three priority levels are assigned as follows:
- [Priority 1]
- If the checkpoint is essential to meeting those goals
- [Priority 2]
- If the checkpoint is important to meeting those goals
- [Priority 3]
- If the checkpoint is beneficial to meeting those goals
- [Relative Priority]
- Some checkpoints talk about production, generation, checking etc of
various content that have different priorities in WCAG. The priority for
these checkpoints in ATAG varies according to the priority of the
checkpoints in WCAG.
Relative Priority is used for ATAG checkpoints which relate to
different types of content, to ensure that the priority of each feature
matches the priority given to the feature in WCAG, as follows:
- It is priority 1 to implement the checkpoint for content features
which are a priority 1 requirement in WCAG.
- It is priority 2 to implement the checkpoint for content features
which are a priority 2 requirement in WCAG.
- It is priority 3 to implement the checkpoint for content features
which are a priority 3 requirement in WCAG.
For example, checking for accessibility errors
(4.1) has relative priority. This means that it is
priority 1 for a tool to check for accessibility errors that are
[WEB-CONTENT-PRIORITY] Priority 1, but priority 2 to check for
accessibility errors that are [WEB-CONTENT-PRIORITY] Priority 2.
This section defines three levels of conformance to this document:
- Conformance Level "A": all Priority 1 checkpoints are satisfied;
- Conformance Level "Double-A": all Priority 1 and 2 checkpoints are
- Conformance Level "Triple-A": all Priority 1, 2, and 3 checkpoints are
Note. Conformance levels are spelled out in text (e.g.,
"Double-A" rather than "AA") so they may be understood when rendered to
Claims of conformance to this document must use one of the following two
Form 1: Specify:
- The guidelines' title: "Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (working draft)"
- The guidelines' URI: http://www.w3.org/WAI/AU/WAI-AUTOOLS-19991014
- The conformance level satisfied: "A", "Double-A", or "Triple-A".
- The product covered by the claim (e.g., tool name and version number,
upgrades or plug-ins required).
Example of Form 1: "MyAuthoringTool version 2.3 conforms to W3C's
"Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (working draft)", available at http://www.w3.org/WAI/AU/WAI-AUTOOLS-19991014, level
Form 2: Include, on each statement of conformance, one of three icons
provided by W3C and link the icon to the appropriate W3C explanation of the
[Editors' note: In the event this document becomes a Recommendation, by
that date WAI will provide a set of three icons, for "A", "Double-A", or
"Triple-A" conformance levels of "Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (working draft)", together with a stable URI to
the W3C Web site for linking the icons to the W3C explanation of conformance
Methods for ensuring accessible markup vary with different markup
languages. If markup is automatically generated, many authors will be unaware
of the accessibility status of the final product unless they expend extra
effort to make appropriate corrections by hand. Since many authors are
unfamiliar with accessibility, the onus is on the authoring tool to generate
accessible markup, and where appropriate, to guide the author in producing
Many applications feature the ability to convert documents from other
formats (e.g., Rich Text Format) into a markup format, such as HTML. Markup
changes may also be made to facilitate efficient editing and manipulation.
These processes are usually hidden from the user's view and may create
inaccessible markup or cause inaccessible markup to be produced.
- 1.1 Ensure that the author can produce accessible content in the markup language(s) supported by the tool. [Priority 1]
- 1.2 Ensure that the tool generates markup that conforms to the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines [WAI-WEBCONTENT]. [Relative Priority]
- 1.3 Ensure that templates provided by the tool conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines [WAI-WEBCONTENT]. [Relative Priority]
- 1.4 Ensure that the tool preserves all accessibility information during authoring, transformations and conversions. [Priority 1]
Conformance with standards promotes interoperability and accessibility.
Where applicable use W3C Recommendations, which have been reviewed to ensure
accessibility and interoperability. If there are no applicable W3C
Recommendations, use a published standard that enables accessibility.
- 2.1 Use the latest versions of W3C Recommendations when they are available and appropriate for a task. [Priority 2]
- These specifications have undergone review specifically to ensure that
they do not compromise, and where possible they enhance,
- 2.2 Ensure that the tool generates valid markup. [Priority 1]
- This is necessary for user agents to be able to transform Web content
to a presentation appropriate to a particular user's needs.
- 2.3 If markup generated by the tool differs from W3C specifications, inform the author. [Priority 3]
- This allows the author to choose to conform.
Generating equivalent information, such as textual alternatives for images
and audio descriptions of video, can be one of the most challenging aspects of
Web design. Along with the necessity for structural information it is a
cornerstone of accessible design, allowing information to be presented in a
way most appropriate for the needs of the user without constraining the
creativity of the author.
Automating the mechanics of this process, by prompting authors to include
the relevant information at appropriate times, can greatly ease the burden for
authors. Where such information can be mechanically determined (e.g., the
function of icons in an automatically-generated navigation bar, or expansion
of acronyms from a dictionary) and offered as a choice for the author the tool
will assist the author, at the same time as it reinforces the need for such
information and the author's role in ensuring that it is used appropriately in
- 3.1 Assist the author in providing alternative information (e.g., captions, long descriptions of graphics). [Relative Priority]
- 3.2 Help the author create structured content and separate information from its presentation. [Relative Priority]
- 3.3 Ensure that prepackaged content conforms to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines [WAI-WEBCONTENT]. [Relative Priority]
- For example include synchronized text and audio equivalents with
movies. Refer also to checkpoint
- 3.4 Do not insert automatically generated or place-holder equivalent alternatives. [Priority 1]
- For example, in an automatically generated
navigation bar, "search" may be appropriate alternative information for
a button linked to a search function, but the filename of an image
should not be inserted as a default.
Note. Human-authored content may be available for an
object whose function is known with certainty. Refer also to
checkpoint 3.5 Provide a mechanism to manage alternative information for multimedia objects, that retains and offers for editing pre-written or previously linked alternative information. [Priority 3]
and checkpoint 3.3 Ensure that prepackaged content conforms to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines [WAI-WEBCONTENT]. [Relative Priority]
- 3.5 Provide a mechanism to manage alternative information for multimedia objects, that retains and offers for editing pre-written or previously linked alternative information. [Priority 3]
Many authoring tools allow authors to create documents with little or no
knowledge about the underlying markup. To ensure accessibility, authoring
tools must be designed so that they can automatically identify inaccessible
markup, and enable its correction even when the markup itself is hidden from
In supporting the creation of accessible Web content, authoring tools
should take into account the differing authoring styles of their users. In
general, authors will prefer to be able to configure their tools to support
their working style. Tools that allow such configuration can help authors to
feel that accessible authoring is a natural practice (refer also to the
previous guideline) rather than an intrusion on their normal work pattern. For
example some users may prefer to be alerted to problems when they occur,
whereas others may prefer to perform a check after the document is completed.
This is analogous to programming environments that allow users to decide
whether to check for correct code during editing or at compile time.
Note. Many assistive technologies used with browsers and
multimedia players are only able to provide access to Web documents that use
valid mark-up. Therefore validation of mark-up is an essential aspect of
authoring tool accessibility.
- 4.1 Check for and alert the author to accessibility problems. [Relative Priority]
- Some accessibility problems cannot be detected
automatically, and will require the user to make decisions.
- 4.2 Assist authors in correcting accessibility problems. [Relative Priority]
- At a minimum, provide context-sensitive help with
the accessibility checking required by 4.1
- 4.3 Allow the author to preserve markup not recognized by the tool. [Priority 2]
- Note. The author may have included
or imported markup that is not recognized by the tool, but which
- 4.4 Provide the author with a summary of the document accessibility status. [Priority 3]
- 4.5 Allow the author to transform presentation markup that is misused to convey structure into structural markup, and to transform presentation markup that is stylistic into style sheet markup. [Priority 3]
When a new feature is added to an existing software tool without proper
integration, the result is often an obvious discontinuity. Differing color
schemes, fonts, interaction styles and even application stability can be
factors affecting user acceptance of the new feature.
- 5.1 Ensure that functionalities related to accessible Authoring practices are integrated into the tool. [Priority 2]
- 5.2 Ensure that the [WEB-CONTENT-PRIORITY] Priority 1 accessible authoring practices are among the most obvious and easily initiated by the author. [Priority 2]
The issues surrounding Web accessibility are often unknown to Web authors.
Help and documentation should explain accessibility problems and solutions,
- 6.1 Document all features that promote the production of accessible content. [Priority 1]
- 6.2 Ensure that creating accessible content is a naturally integrated part of the documentation, including examples. [Priority 2]
- 6.3 In a dedicated section, document all features of the tool that promote the production of accessible content. [Priority 3]
The authoring tool is a software program with standard user interface
elements and as such should follow relevant user interface accessibility
guidelines. In addition to applicable general interface accessibility
guidelines there are interface design considerations that are specific to Web
One such consideration is that the author may need a different presentation
to edit the Web content than the one they wish ultimately to be displayed.
This implies display preferences that do not manifest themselves in the
ultimate markup or style declarations.
Another consideration relates to the process of navigating and manipulating
the document while authoring. Authoring Web content requires editing a
potentially large and complex document. In order to edit a document the author
must be able to locate and select specific elements, efficiently traverse the
document, and quickly find and mark insertion points. Authors who use screen
readers, refreshable braille displays, or screen magnifiers can make limited
use (if at all) of visual artifacts that communicate the structure of the
document and act as sign posts when traversing the document. Authors who use
keyboard and mouse alternatives must make tiring repetitions of movement
commands to navigate the document. There are strategies that make it easier to
navigate and manipulate a marked-up document. Using the structure of a Web
document, the author can be given a view of the document which allows the
author to both get a good sense of the overall document and to navigate that
document more easily.
- 7.1 Use all applicable operating system and accessibility standards and conventions (Priority 1 for standards and conventions which are essential to accessibility, Priority 2 for those that are important to accessibility, Priority 3 for those that are beneficial to accessibility). [Priority 1]
- 7.2 Allow the author to change the presentation within editing views without affecting the document markup. [Priority 1]
- This allows the author to edit the document according to their
personal requirements, without changing the way the document looks or is
rendered when published.
- 7.3 Allow the author to edit all properties of each element and object in an accessible fashion. [Priority 1]
- 7.4 Ensure the editing view allows navigation via the structure of the document in an accessible fashion. [Priority 1]
- 7.5 Enable editing of the structure of the document in an accessible fashion. [Priority 2]
- 7.6 Allow the author to search within editing views. [Priority 2]
- Accessible, Accessibility
- Within these guidelines, Accessible and Accessibility are used in the
sense of being accessible to people regardless of disability.
To understand the accessibility issues relevant to authoring tool
design, consider that many users may be creating documents 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.
In addition, accessible design will benefit many people who do not
have a physical disability but with similar needs. For example they may
be working in a noisy environment and unable to hear, or need to use
their eyes for another task, and be unable to view a screen. They may be
using a small mobile device, with a small screen, no keyboard and no
- Accessibility Awareness
- The term accessibility awareness is used to describe an application
that has been designed to maximize the ease of use of the interface and
its products for people with differing needs, abilities and
technologies. In the case of authoring tools, this means that (1) care
has been taken to ensure that the content produced by user-authors is
accessible and (2) that the user interface has been designed to be
usable with a variety of display and control technologies.
- Accessibility Information
- Accessibility information is content, including information and
markup, which is used to improve the accessibility of a document.
- Accessibility Solution,
Accessible Authoring Practice
- These terms refer to Authoring practices that improve the
accessibility of content generated by the tool.
- Alerts notify the author of something, or mark something for the
author's attention. They may or may not require author response.
- Alternative Presentations and Alternative
- Certain types of content may not be accessible to all users (e.g.,
images or audio presentations), so alternative representations are used,
such as transcripts for audio, or short functionally equivalent text
(e.g., "site map link") and/or descriptive text equivalents (e.g.,
"Graph 2.5 shows that the population has doubled approximately every ten
years for the last fifty years, increasing from about 10 million to 330
million in that time"). An object may have several alternative
representations, for example a video, captions of the audio, audio
description of the video, a series of still images, and textual
representations of each of these.
- in XML and HTML, an element may have any number of attributes. In the
following example, the attributes of the beverage element are flavor,
which has the value "lots", and colour, which has the value "red":
<beverage flavor="lots" colour="red">my favorite</beverage> Some
attributes are integral to document accessibility (e.g., the "alt",
"title", and "longdesc" attributes in HTML
- Authoring Tool
- As used in this document, an Authoring Tool is any software
that is used to generate content for publishing on the Web. Refer also
to section 1.3 Scope of these
- Automated Markup Insertion Function
- Automated markup insertion functions are the features of an authoring
tool that allow the user to produce markup without directly typing it.
This includes a wide range of tools from simple markup insertion aids
(such as a bold button on a toolbar) to markup managers (such as table
makers that include powerful tools such as "split cells" that can make
multiple changes) to high level site building wizards that produce
almost complete documents on the basis of a series of user
- Conversion Tool
- A Conversion Tool is any application or application feature
that allows content in some other format (proprietary or not) to be
converted automatically into a particular markup language. This includes
software whose primary function is to convert documents to a particular
markup language as well as "save as HTML" (or other markup language)
features in non-markup applications.
- A document is a series of elements that are defined by a
language (e.g., HTML 4.0 or an XML application).
- Editing an element
- Editing View
- What is displayed by the authoring tool to the author during the
- An element is any identifiable object within a document, for example a
character, word, image, paragraph or spreadsheet cell. In HTML 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.
- Generation Tool
- A Generation Tool is a program or script that produces
automatic markup "on the fly" by following a template or set of rules.
The generation may be performed on either the server or client
- Image Editor
- A graphics program that provides a variety of options for altering
images of different formats.
- Inaccessible Markup, Inaccessible
Element, Inaccessible Attribute, Inaccessible Authoring Practice and Access
- These terms are used to mean markup or practices which do not meet (or
produce content which does not meet) checkpoints of the Web Content
Accessibility Guidelines [WAI-WEBCONTENT].
- Markup Language
- The term markup language is used in this document to refer
to the encoding language of a document, such as HTML, SVG, or
- Multi-media Authoring Tool
- Software that facilitates integration of diverse media elements into
an comprehensive presentation format. May incorporate video, audio,
images, animations, simulations, and other interactive components.
- Prompts are requests for user input, either information or a decision.
Prompts require author response.
- 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
name 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 element.
- Publishing Tool
- A tool that allows content to be uploaded in an integrated fashion.
Sometimes these tools makes changes such as local hyper-reference
modifications. Although these tools sometimes stand alone, they may also
be integrated into site management tools.
- Rendered Content
- The rendered content is that which an element actually
causes to be rendered by the user agent. This may differ from the
element's structural content. For example, some elements cause external
data to be rendered (e.g., the IMG element in HTML), and in some cases,
browsers may render the value of an attribute (e.g., "alt", "title") in
place of the element's content.
- Site Management Tool
- A tool that provides an overview of an entire Web site indicating
hierarchical structure. It will facilitate management through functions
that may include automatic index creation, automatic link updating, and
broken link checking.
- A transcript is a line by line record of all dialog and action within
a video or audio clip.
- A process whereby one object is changed, according to a discrete set
of rules, into another, equivalent, object. This includes any
application or application feature that allows content
that is marked up in a particular markup language to be transformed into
another markup language, such as software that allows the author to
change the DTD defined for the original document to another DTD. .
- User Agent
- The term User Agent in this document refers to an application which is
used to read web content, such as a browser, a plug-in for a particular
media type, or a piece of assistive technology.
- User Configurable Schedule
- A user configurable schedule allows the user to determine the type of
prompts and alerts that are used, including when they are presented.
- Video Captions
- A video caption is a textual message that is stored in the text track
of a video file. The video caption describes the action and dialog for
the scene in which it is displayed.
- Video Editor
- A tool that facilitates the process of manipulating video images.
Video editing includes cutting segments (trimming), re-sequencing clips,
and adding transitions and other special effects.
- An authoring tool may offer several views of the same
document. For instance, one view may show raw markup, a second may show
a structured tree view, 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.
- Markup Language
- The term markup language is used in this document to refer
to the encoding language of a document, such as HTML, SVG, or
Many thanks to the following people who have contributed through review and
comment: Jim Allan, Denis Anson, Kitch Barnicle, Kynn Bartlett, Harvey
Bingham, Judy Brewer, Carl Brown, Dick Brown, Wendy Chisholm, Rob Cumming,
Daniel Dardailler, Mark Day, BK Delong, Martin Dürst, Kelly Ford, Jamie
Fox, Edna French, Sylvain Galineau, Al Gilman, Eric Hansen, Phill Jenkins, Len
Kasday, Brian Kelly, Marja-Riitta Koivunen, Sho Kuwamoto, Jaap van Lelieveld,
William Loughborough, Karen McCall, Charles Oppermann, Dave Pawson, Dave
Poehlman, Bruce Roberts, Chris Ridpath, Gregory Rosmaita, Janina Sajka, Jim
Thatcher, Irène Vatton, Gregg Vanderheiden, Pawan Vora, Jason White,
and Lauren Wood.
For the latest version of any W3C specification please consult the list of
W3C Technical Reports.