HTML Accessibility Task Force Consensus Procedures

Status: This document was archived on 31 October 2013. The HTML Accessibility Task Force will be subject to the updated Consensus Procedures as of this date. Updated $Date: 2013-11-04 16:04:09 $, by $Author: msadecki $

This document explains the consensus process of the HTML Accessibility Task Force. We document it out of our desire to explain our process and our goals as clearly as we can.

We are aware there are divergent opinions on several issues before us. It is very important that all views are expressed and considered. However, it would be unproductive to continue debating once it becomes clear that a significant majority has come to a conclusion. Consensus, after all, is not unanimity. Thus our process aims at providing ample opportunity for debate and for documenting various views. But, it is primarily oriented toward reaching an understanding that an overwhelming majority of Task Force members support—a consensus viewpoint.

The Working Groups use their own procedures for how to handle the advice. Formal decisions of the task force are advisory only and do not bind the sponsoring Working Groups to a particular course of action, as required by the task force work statement.

  1. Discussion on a topic proceeds until the facilitators believe that all expressed points of view have been heard and considered. In order to keep the task force moving on its topics, the facilitators normally hope to carry out discussion for two weeks, but may allow longer discussion time if necessary.
  2. When the facilitators believe the task force is ready to make a decision, a member of the task force documents a draft task force decision for discussion at a task force teleconference. In order to ensure the opportunity for advance input, the draft decision must be made available at least two working days before the teleconference at which it is to be discussed. During this two-day review period, participants who do not expect to attend the teleconference must submit feedback by email, by two hours before the teleconference at the latest.
  3. The draft decision is reviewed at a task force teleconference, considering also advance input received by email. The discussion may conclude in one of two ways:
    1. If the task force accepts the draft decision, the meeting scribe records a resolution to accept the draft decision.
    2. If the task force does not accept the draft decision, the facilitators may either
      1. request a new draft be prepared (return to step 2), or
      2. reopen discussion (return to step 1).
  4. A candidate task force decision containing any amendments to the draft task force decision is prepared. The facilitators then announce a call for consensus in the form of a Web-based survey, with a minimum deadline of three working days to respond.
    1. If no objections are received by the deadline, the draft decision becomes a formal decision of the task force.
    2. If objections are received but the facilitators believe the objections have already been considered and addressed, the draft decision becomes a formal decision with objections of the task force. Objections are recorded as an appendix to the formal decision.
    3. If objections are received that the facilitators believe present substantive new information, they may choose to reopen the discussion (return to step 1). However, in order to avoid multiple cycles of the decision process, they may elect not to reopen discussion if they believe the new information could have and should have been presented during the main discussion, particularly if the discussion has been reopened at least once before.
  5. Formal decisions, once finalized, are referred to the sponsoring Working Groups as advice of the HTML Accessibility Task Force.

Flowchart of the consensus procedure

This decision policy requires task force participants and facilitators to act in good faith. During discussion on a topic, participants should raise objections liberally to make sure all angles are considered. However, when the facilitators issue a call for objections, objections should only be raised if the individual strongly believes the decision is the wrong one in spite of discussion, and the individual cannot "live with" the decision. Compromise on points that the individual considers suboptimal but can "live with" is an essential part of group decisions that must meet various requirements.

The facilitators, in turn, should not act prematurely or presumptuously in calling for a draft task force decision, or deciding to record a formal decision in spite of objections. Nevertheless, the appropriate course of action is intrinsically a judgment call. If a participant believes the facilitators have not exercised sound judgment in following this policy, they should express their concern first to a chair of one of the sponsoring Working Groups, escalating if needed to a staff contact of a sponsoring Working Group, and escalating if needed to a W3C Interaction or Accessibility Domain Lead.