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

[How WAI Develops Accessibility Guidelines]

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

WAI develops Web accessibility guidelines to help make the Web accessible to people with disabilities. WAI brings together people from industry, disability organizations, accessibility researchers, government, and others interested in Web accessibility from around the world. WAI strives to develop guidelines that meet the needs of people with disabilities, Web developers, and other stakeholders in the real world, through a process designed to:

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 for developing Web standards.

W3C's Web standards are called W3C Recommendations. WAI has developed the following W3C Recommendations:

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

WAI develops material to 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's Techniques documents are W3C Notes. W3C Notes are advisory, not standards.

image: [WAI Accessibility Guidelines] = [W3C Recommendations] are technical specifications
compare with: [WAI Techniques] = [W3C Notes] are practical implementation guidance

WAI also develops [educational | supporting documents] such as this page, Overview of WCAG 2.0 Documents, Quick Tips to Make Accessible Web Sites, and many other WAI Resources covering a wide range of Web accessibility topics.


WAI's W3C Recommendations, W3C Notes, and WAI Resources are developed in WAI Working Groups with input from the community. Participating in WAI describes ways that you can contribute to WAI's accessibility work, including reviewing and commenting on WAI Guidelines as they are being developed.

You can comment on documents at any time. We encourage you to comment early in the process, because then your comments can be more effectively addressed. The best time to comment on developing WAI Guidelines is during the Working Draft stages described below.


W3C has a formal process for developing Web standards to ensure that they receive sufficient community review, input from relevant stakeholders, are technically sound, and can be implemented. The stages that a document, called a technical report, goes through on its way to becoming a W3C Recommendation are listed below, along with some information on the timeframe for the stages.

  1. Working Draft: Public Working Drafts are published and announced specifically to ask for review and input from the public. Often there are specific issues that a Working Group would particularly like input on. Usually multiple Working Drafts of a technical report are published; for example, there were 9 WCAG 2.0 Working Drafts announced before Last Call.
  2. Last Call Working Draft: The Last Call Working Draft stage means that a Working Group believes it has addressed all technical requirements and the document is stable.
    After the Last Call comment period, it often takes several weeks or months for a Working Group to formally address all comments, document 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.
  3. Candidate Recommendation: The main purpose of Candidate Recommendation is to gather implementation experience; that is, for Web developers to follow the technical specifications in their Web development projects to make sure they work in the real world.
    When a Working Group announces Candidate Recommendation it includes a date for sending comments, and may also include an estimated amount of time expected in this stage to gather sufficient implementations.
  4. Proposed Recommendation: At this stage, W3C seeks endorsement of the stable technical report. This review period lasts at least 4 weeks.
  5. W3C Recommendation (Web Standard)

That was a simplified description of the stages and process. For the definitive version, see the W3C Process Document, Section 7: W3C Technical Report Development Process. For more on reviews and commenting, see W3C Process Document, Section 7.3 Reviews and Review Responsibilities.

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

Follow the links above for directions on how to subscribe to get announcements from WAI. The announcements give you information about the review and where to send comments.