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WAI: Strategies, guidelines, resources to make the Web accessible to people with disabilities

[How WAI Accessibility Guidelines are Developed with Community Input]

NOTE: This document is an early, unapproved draft and should not be referenced or quoted under any circumstances.

WAI's Accessibility Guidelines are developed following a process designed to reach consensus and ensure broad community input. This document tells you how WAI works within the W3C Process to develop Web standards for accessibility. [or This document introduces how WAI works under the W3C Process to develop Web standards for accessibility.]

WAI Documents in the W3C Process

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) develops Web standards such as HTML, XML, CSS, etc. The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is part of W3C and follows the W3C Process, which defines how W3C operates and develops Web standards. W3C Web standards are called W3C Recommendationsand Technical Reports. The W3C Recommendations that WAI has developed include:

image: [WAI Guidelines] = [W3C Recommendations] = [Web Standards]

(To learn how these WAI guidelines fit in with Web development, see Essential Components of Web Accessibility, particularly the Guidelines for Different Components section.)

WAI also develops other types of [supporting]documents to help you implement the guidelines. For example, Techniques for UAAG 1.0 gives you specific details on how to meet the guidelines. The Techniques documents are W3C Notes, rather than Recommendations. This page, the Overview pages linked in the list above, and most of the other pages in the WAI Web site are WAI Resources.

What's the diff between the types of documents? Basically: W3C Recommendations are stable, long-term Web standards; whereas Notes and Resources are the supporting documents that can be updated more frequently to include evolving best practices for implementing the standards.

Getting Involved in WAI Work

WAI documents are developed in Working Groups with input from the public. Requirements for actively participating in W3C WAI Working Groups include contributing time to develop documents and in weekly teleconferences. (The formal parameters of Working Groups are defined in the W3C Process Document, Section 6.)

WAI Working Groups' work is public (with the exception of PFWG). Even if you are not an active participant in a Working Group, you can|may read meeting minutes and mailing lists. You can|may comment on WAI documents at any time.

WAI actively encourages broad participation, review, and comment [of our work]from industry, disability organizations, accessibility researchers, government, and others interested in Web accessibility. To find out how you can contribute to WAI's Web accessibility work, see:

If you're looking at a specific document, here's how to tell status and where to send comments:

Generally the earlier you comment on a draft document [the better]. W3C has a formal process for soliciting review and comments, and for progressing a document towards a W3C Recommendation.

Document Stages to a W3C Recommendation

Below is a simplified description of stages a document goes through on its way to becoming a W3C Recommendation. If you want the definitive descriptions, see the W3C Process Document, Section 7: W3C Technical Report Development Process.

  1. Working Draft: Public Working Drafts are published and announced specifically to get review and input from [interested parties] the community, including W3C Members, the public, and other organizations. Usually multiple Working Drafts are published. Comments received now are most easily addressed.
  2. Last Call Working Draft: Publication as a Last Call Working Draft indicates that the Working Group believes it has addressed all substantive issues and that the document is stable. Sometimes there are more than one Last Call Working Draft when there are significant edits. Last Call review periods lasts at least 3 weeks.
  3. Candidate Recommendation: The Working Group believes the document has been has been widely reviewed, all comments have been addressed, and it satisfies the technical requirements. The main purpose of Candidate Recommendation is to gather implementation experience; that is, for people to follow the specification in Web development.
  4. Proposed Recommendation: Is a mature technical specification that has been reviewed for technical soundness and implementability... each feature of the technical report has been implemented (and at least twice). Proposed Recommendations are sent to the W3C Advisory Committee for final endorsement. The W3C Advisory Committee is made up of one representative from each W3C Member. The Proposed Recommendation review periods lasts at least 4 weeks.
  5. W3C Recommendation (Web Standard): has received significant support from the public, and endorsement by W3C Members and the W3C Director. W3C Recommendations are similar to the standards published by other organizations.

When WAI documents are at the stages above, we send notifications through several channels, including:

Follow the links above for directions on how to subscribe to get notifications from WAI.