How WAI Develops Accessibility Guidelines through the W3C Process:
Milestones and Opportunities to Contribute
NOTE: This document is an unapproved draft and should not be referenced or quoted under any circumstances.
The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) develops Web accessibility guidelines and technical reports 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)
The stages that a document, called 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 publishes a Last Call Working Draft. This stage provides 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 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 Web projects. The technical report is stable at this stage; however, it may change based on implementation experience.
- Proposed Recommendation: After there are implmentations of each feature of the technical report, W3C announces it as a Proposed Recommendation. The purpose of this stage is for W3C to gather endorsement of the stable technical report.
- W3C Recommendation (Web Standard): Once the technical report has received significant support from the public, and endorsement by W3C Members and the W3C Director, it is published as a Recommendation. W3C encourages widespread deployment of its Recommendations.
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.
WAI also develops documents that support the Guidelines and do not go through the stages 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 WAI documents at any time. The best time to comment on technical reports is during the Working Draft and Last Call Working Draft stages, when your comments can be used most effectively. While there are other review periods, a Working Group may not readily make substantive changes later in the process. To get announcements when WAI documents are in a review period, you can subscribe to the following:
The announcements tell you the dates for the review period and where to send comments.