W3C logoWeb Accessibility Initiative (WAI)         logo

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

[How WAI Accessibility Guidelines are Developed]

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.]


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 documents, called Technical Reports,include:

WAI also develops [educational] supporting documents, such as this page and many of the other pages in the WAI Web site. @@ link to site map not expected@@

WAI's W3C Recommendations, W3C Notes, and Resources are developed in Working Groups with input from the public. WAI actively encourages broad participation, review, and comment [of our work]from industry, disability organizations, accessibility researchers, government, and others interested in Web accessibility. Participating in WAI describes a range of ways to contribute to WAI's accessibility work, from volunteering to review guidelines to dedicated participation in a Working Group.

The next section talks about the stages that a document|Technical Report goes through on its way to becoming a W3C Recommendation.


W3C has a formal process for soliciting review and comments, and for progressing a document|Technical Report towards a W3C Recommendation. @@stages a document goes through on its way to becoming a W3C Recommendation

  1. Working Draft: Public Working Drafts are published and announced specifically to ask for review and input from the community. Often there are specific issues that a Working Group would particularly like input on. Usually multiple Working Drafts are published. For example, there have been 9 Working Drafts of WCAG 2.0.
  2. Last Call Working Draft: Publication as a Last Call Working Draft indicates that a Working Group believes it has addressed all substantive issues and the document is stable. W3C strongly encourages reviewers to comment at this stage, rather than waiting until later.
    A Working Group must formally address all comments received @@also later stages@@. It often takes several weeks or months for a Working Group to address comments and make necessary revisions. If there are significant changes, a Working Group publishes another Last Call Working Draft before moving to the next stage.
  3. Candidate Recommendation: The main purpose of Candidate Recommendation is to gather implementation experience; that is, for people to follow the technical report in Web development. Anyone can submit comments during this stage.
    The Candidate Recommendation announcment includes a minimum time for this stage in order to allow time for comment, as this is the last stage for public comment. It may also include an estimated amount of time expected in this stage to gather sufficient implementations.
  4. Proposed Recommendation: Proposed Recommendation is the last stage where it is sent for final endorsement to the W3C Advisory Committee, which 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): Recommendations have 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.

That was a simplified description of stages. If you want the definitive descriptions, see the W3C Process Document, Section 7: W3C Technical Report Development Process.

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.