How WAI Develops Accessibility Guidelines through the W3C Process:
Milestones and Opportunities to Contribute
The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) develops Web accessibility guidelines, technical reports, and educational resources to help make the Web accessible to people with disabilities. This document introduces how WAI works through a process designed to:
- ensure broad community input, and
- encourage consensus development.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) develops Web standards such as HTML, XML, CSS, etc. WAI is part of W3C and follows the W3C Process for developing Web standards.
W3C's Web standards are called W3C Recommendations. WAI has developed the following W3C Recommendations:
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines: WCAG Overview, WCAG 1.0 (May 1999)
- Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines: ATAG Overview, ATAG 1.0 (February 2000)
- User Agent Accessibility Guidelines: UAAG Overview, UAAG 1.0 (December 2002)
[WAI Accessibility Guidelines] are [W3C Recommendations] are [Web Standards]
WAI is currently working on advanced versions of guidelines and other technical reports. The milestones that a technical report goes through on its way to becoming a W3C Recommendation are listed below.
- Working Draft: Working Drafts are published and announced specifically to ask for review and input from the community. Often there are issues that a Working Group would particularly like input on. Usually multiple Working Drafts of a technical report are published; for example, there were several WCAG 2.0 Working Drafts announced before Last Call.
- Last Call Working Draft: When a Working Group believes it has addressed all technical requirements, it announces a Last Call Working Draft. The main purpose of the Last Call is to provide a complete document for thorough community review. After the Last Call comment period, it can take weeks or months for a Working Group to formally address all comments, document the resolutions, and make necessary changes. If there are substantive changes, the Working Group goes through another Last Call Working Draft before moving to the next stage.
- Candidate Recommendation: The main purpose of Candidate Recommendation is to ensure that the technical report can be implemented. W3C encourages developers to use the technical report in their projects. The technical report is stable at this stage; however, it may change based on implementation experience.
- Proposed Recommendation: After there are implementations of each feature of the technical report, W3C announces it as a Proposed Recommendation. The purpose of this stage is for W3C to gather endorsements of the stable technical report.
- W3C Recommendation (Web Standard): Once there is significant support for the technical report from the W3C Members, the W3C Director, and the public, it is published as a Recommendation. W3C encourages widespread deployment of its Recommendations.
That was a simplified description of the process. For the definitive version, see the W3C Process Document, Section 7: W3C Technical Report Development Process.
WAI also develops documents that support the guidelines and do not go through the process described above.
- W3C Working Group Notes are advisory technical reports, not standards. WAI's Techniques documents are Notes. They help developers implement the WAI Guidelines; for example, Techniques for UAAG 1.0 gives specific details and practical examples of how to meet UAAG.
- WAI Resources cover a wide range of Web accessibility topics, such as Overview of WCAG 2.0 Documents, Quick Tips to Make Accessible Web Sites, Essential Components of Web Accessibility, and many others listed in the WAI Resources.
WAI's W3C Recommendations, Working Group Notes, and Resources are developed in WAI Working Groups with input from the community. WAI actively encourages broad participation from industry, disability organizations, accessibility researchers, government, and others interested in Web accessibility. Participating in WAI describes ways that you can contribute to WAI's accessibility work, including reviewing and commenting on WAI guidelines and technical reports as they are being developed.
You can comment on documents at any time; however, the best time to comment on technical reports is when WAI announces Working Drafts for review. Please send any technical comments before or during the Last Call Working Draft review period. It may be difficult for a Working Group to make substantive changes later in the process. To get WAI announcements, you can subscribe to the following:
The review announcements tell you the review period dates and where to send comments.