This specification 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.
Authoring tool users ("authors") can be enabled, encouraged and assisted to create accessible Web content through 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 content 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 section describes the status of this document at the time of its publication. Other documents may supersede this document. The latest status of this document series is maintained at the W3C.
This is a W3C Working Draft for review by W3C Members and other interested parties. This draft follows the working group meeting on 20 October 1999 and reflects resolutions of that meeting. A log of changes between successive working drafts is available. For further information consult the minutes of Working Group Meetings.
This specification is a revision of the last call working draft dated 3 September 1999. The Working Group anticipates no further substantial changes to this specification before asking the director to give it the status of Proposed Recommendation.
Publication as a Working Draft does not imply endorsement by the W3C membership. This is still a draft document and may be updated, replaced or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to cite W3C Working Drafts as other than "work in progress."
The goals of the WAI AU Working Group are discussed in the WAI AU charter.
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An appendix to this document [WAI-AUTOOLS-CHECKLIST] lists all checkpoints for convenient reference.
The guidelines in this specification are designed to help authoring tool developers design authoring tools that can be used by people regardless of disability, and that produce accessible Web content. In these guidelines, the term authoring tool refers to the wide range of software used for creating Web content, including:
The goals of this document can be stated as follows: that the authoring tool be accessible to authors regardless of disability, that it generate accessible content by default, and that it 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.
This document provides guidelines for designing authoring tools that generate Web content which is accessible and that support and encourage authors to create such content. This is achieved by taking steps such as ensuring conformance to accessible standards (e.g., HTML 4.0), accessibility checking and correcting, prompting, appropriate documentation and help. For detailed information about what constitutes accessible content this specification relies on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines [WAI-WEBCONTENT]. Similarly, rather than directly reproduce existing specifications that addresses general accessible software design the present specification 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 authors.
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) that provide additional information on how a tool may satisfy each checkpoint. Readers are strongly encouraged to become familiar with the techniques document. The Techniques provided in [WAI-AUTOOLS-TECHS] are suggestions for how to satisfy the checkpoints, 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..
This document includes guidelines, which are general principles of accessible design. Each guideline includes:
The checkpoint definitions in each guideline specify requirements for authoring tools to follow the guideline. Each checkpoint definition includes:
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.
An appendix to this specification [WAI-AUTOOLS-CHECKLIST] lists all checkpoints for convenient reference.
Each checkpoint has a priority level. The priority level reflects the impact of the checkpoint in meeting the goals of this document. These goals are:
The three priority levels are assigned as follows:
Some checkpoints that refer to generating, authoring, or checking Web content have multiple priorities. The priority is dependent on the priority in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines [WAI-WEBCONTENT].
For example providing text equivalents for
images and audio is a priority 1 requirement in [WAI-WEBCONTENT] since
without it one or more groups will find it impossible to access the
information. Therefore, it is a priority 1 requirement for the authoring
tool to check for (4.1) or ask the author for
(3.1) equivalent alternatives for these types of
content. Expansion of abbreviations and acronyms with
ACRONYM elements by using the "
attribute is a priority 3 in [WAI-WEBCONTENT]. Therefore it is only
priority 3 for the authoring tool to check for (4.1)
or ask the author for (3.2) this
This section defines three levels of conformance to this document:
Note. Conformance levels are spelled out in text (e.g., "Double-A" rather than "AA") so they may be understood when rendered to speech.
Claims of conformance to this document must use one of the following two forms.
Form 1: Specify:
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-19991022, level Double-A."
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 claim.
[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 claims.]
If the tool automatically generates markup, many authors will be unaware of the accessibility status of the final content 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 accessible content.
Many applications feature the ability to convert documents from other formats (e.g., Rich Text Format) into a markup format specifically intended for the Web such as HTML. Markup changes may also be made to facilitate efficient editing and manipulation. It is essential that these processes do not introduce inaccessible markup, or remove accessibility content, particularly since the markup changes are hidden from the author's view in many tools.
Conformance with standards promotes interoperability and accessibility, by making it easier to create specialized user agents that address the needs of users with disabilities. In particular many assistive technologies used with browsers and multimedia players are only able to provide access to Web documents that use valid markup. Therefore valid markup is an essential aspect of authoring tool 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.
Well structured information, and equivalent alternative information are cornerstones 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. 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. 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 and offered as a choice for the author (e.g., the function of icons in an automatically-generated navigation bar, or expansion of acronyms from a dictionary) the tool will assist the author. At the same time it can reinforce the need for such information and the author's role in ensuring that it is used appropriately in each instance.
Note. Human-authored equivalent alternatives may be available for an object whose function is known with certainty. Refer also to checkpoint 3.5 and checkpoint 3.3.
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 the author.
In supporting the creation of accessible Web content, authoring tools should take into account differing authoring styles. 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 guideline 5 rather than an intrusion on their normal work pattern. For example some users may prefer to be alerted to accessibilty problems when they occur, whereas others may prefer to perform a check at the end of an editing session. This is analogous to programming environments that allow users to decide whether to check for correct code during editing or at compile time.
Note. Validation of markup is an essential aspect of checking the accessibility of content.
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. In addition, the relative prominence of different ways to achieve the same thing can be an important factor in which method an author chooses. Therefore it is important that creating accessible content is a natural process when using an authoring tool.
The issues surrounding Web accessibility are often unknown to Web authors. Help and documentation should explain accessibility problems and solutions, with examples.
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 authoring tools.
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 rendered. 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 can require editing a 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 signposts when traversing it. Authors who use keyboard and mouse alternatives must make tiring repetitions of movement commands to navigate the document, and speed becomes an important issue. 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 it that provides the author with a good sense of the overall structure and facilitates navigating it. Developers should note that documentation, help files, and installation are part of the software and need to be available in an accessible form.
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:
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 mouse. Both a piece of software such as an authoring tool and Web content can be accessible (or not).
Certain types of content may not be accessible to all users, so alternative representations are used. For example, "text equivalents" are provided for all non-text elements because text can be flexibly output in ways that are usable to diverse populations. Specifically, text can be rendered aurally via synthesized speech for individuals who have visual or learning disabilities, tactually via braille for individuals who are blind, or as visually displayed text for individuals who are deaf or are non-disabled. Text equivalents for still images can be short ("Site Map Link") or long (e.g., "Figure 4 shows that the population of bacteria doubled approximately every twenty hours over the first one hundred hours, increasing from about 1000 per milliliter to about 32,000 per milliliter."). Text equivalents for audio clips are called "text transcripts". "Captions" are essential text equivalents for movie audio. Captions consist of a text transcript of the audio track of the movie (or other video presentation) that is synchronized with the video and audio tracks. Captions are generally displayed visually and benefit people who can see but are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or cannot hear the audio (e.g., in a noisy room). Another essential text equivalent for a movie is a "collated text transcript," which combines (collates) caption text with text descriptions of video information (descriptions of the actions, body language, graphics, and scene changes of the video track). Collated text transcripts are essential for individuals who are deaf-blind and rely on braille for access to movies and other content. An essential non-text equivalent for movies is "auditory description" of the key visual elements of a presentation. The description is either a pre-recorded human voice or a synthesized voice (recorded or generated on the fly). The auditory description is synchronized with the audio track of the presentation, usually during natural pauses in the audio track. Auditory descriptions include information about actions, body language, graphics, and scene changes.
<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
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.
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.