Protocols and Formats Working Group (PFWG) Charter

This charter is written in accordance with Section 6.2.6 of the 5 February 2004 W3C Process Document.

Table of Contents

  1. Mission
  2. Scope
  3. Duration
  4. Deliverables
  5. Milestones
  6. Dependencies
  7. Confidentiality
  8. Meetings
  9. Communication
  10. Voting
  11. Patent Disclosure
  12. Participation

Information on how to participate in the PFWG is available.

1. Mission

The mission of the (Member Confidential) Protocols and Formats Working Group (Member Confidential PFWG) (Public PFWG) is to increase the support for accessibility in Web specifications. This mission flows from the W3C mission of promoting universal access and interoperability across the Web.

Through its relationships with other Working Groups, and with the assistance of the Hypertext and WAI Coordination Groups, the PFWG will work to coordinate plans of action across working groups to improve the level of accessibility support in Web technology as it evolves and is implemented.

Wherever possible, the Working Group will document solutions to problems as they are worked out.  This information will help to inform future developments.  This will take the form of the XAG and various Working Group Notes as described under Deliverables below.

This mission is complementary to the work of other Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) groups within the WAI Technical Activity and the WAI International Program Office Activity. The PFWG is part of the WAI Technical Activity.

The PFWG was chartered in December 1997. It was re-chartered in November 2000.

2. Scope

The PFWG's scope of work includes:

PFWG strives to promote accessibility solutions which meet the following criteria:

People with disabilities do not encounter the failure of functions of the specified technologies as a result of their disability.
Web content and applications implemented using the specified technologies can be adapted for people with disabilities with a high level of usability.
Web technologies interoperate well with Assistive Technologies by meeting them at industry-supported open software/software interfaces. This includes client-installed AT interoperating through accessibility APIs and network-hosted assistive functions interoperating via network protocols.
Content that exhibits the above-described broad, high usability is easy to author based on the formulation of content formats and service protocols.
small footprint:
Similar functions occurring in different Web technologies are handled in similar ways for the most part. Assistive technology is able to layer over Web technology with the implementation of a compact body of interface specifications or code.

Consistent with W3C Process requirements on Task Forces, the PFWG may form task forces composed of PFWG participants or join other W3C task forces to carry out assignments when under the chartered scope of PFWG. Any such task force must have a work statement (including objectives, communication, participation, and leadership) that has been announced on the PFWG mailing list, approved by the PFWG, and is available from the PFWG home page. PFWG task forces should produce requirements documents that outline the scope and expectations for work. Task forces may set up separate teleconferences and hold face-to-face meetings per the W3C process and with the approval of the PFWG.

3. Duration

This Working Group is scheduled to last for 36 months, from 1 January 2005 through 31 December 2007.

4. Deliverables

This deliverables identified by this charter do not include any expected to reach the status of a W3C Recommendation.

4.1 Feedback to specification developers

The primary deliverable of PFWG is input to W3C Working Groups on the technologies they are developing. This will include:

Comments on Drafts
The Working Group will review working drafts of technology developers to detect and explain problems in the drafts.
Topical Discussion
From time to time the Working Group will seek real-time dialog with other groups when a point at issue requires considerable background or to frame the general issues for a technology early in its development cycle. In particular it has proven productive to seek ad-hoc discussions when the first reaction of a Working Group is to reject an comment that the PFWG has lodged. Many of these points can be resolved to mutual satisfaction with careful analysis and review of alternatives.
Expert Opinion
In a situation where a third party has inferred a disability access issue and the Working Group developing the draft either requests assistance or rejects the comment, the Protocols and Formats Working Group may offer to assist in clarification.

4.2 XML Accessibility Guidelines (XAG)

The XML Accessibility Guidelines explain best practices for creating more accessible XML-based document formats.  Generic practices identified in the course of more topical solutions will be added to this volume.  In the second year of this charter the Working Group will evaluate whether to continue developing this specification on the assumption that its end state will be as a Working Group Note, or whether to seek charter authority to mature it to become a to the W3C Recommendation.

The XML Accessibility Guidelines will be structured and edited to serve well as an extension module in the context of the Quality Assurance Framework.

4.3 Working Group Notes

At any time the PFWG may encounter a recurring or ill-understood pattern in the origins of disability barriers or in the successful delivery of disability access. When this happens the group will create a Working Draft discussing the issue and if a clear contribution to Web engineering and accessibility emerges, publish the stable form of the point paper as a Working Group Note.

The Working Draft Inaccessibility of Visually-Oriented Anti-Robot Tests exemplifies this type of output.

Additional topics that may reach Working Draft or Working Group Note status during the duration of this Charter include:

Language Assistance
A profile of techniques for clarifying language usage in Web documents and supporting comprehension assistance for those reading in a second language or with reading-affecting disabilities. Some early thoughts in this area have been collected in a working site Web page on the topic.
Document Interaction
This note would lay out a roadmap which serves the following ends:
- solve existing accessibility problems with scripted behavior in Web content
- assist the Hypertext CG in coordinating concurrent developments in interaction facilities
- assure that Assistive Technologies have adequate programmatic access (through the W3C DOM) to properties and changes
that happen as a document interacts with the user (between network communication events).

5. Milestones

The following publication and decision events are anticipated.

1st quarter 2005
Document Interaction Note, First Public Working Draft

Language Assistance Note, First Public Working Draft

2nd quarter 2005
XAG updated Public Working Draft

3rd quarter 2005
Document Interaction Note update

2nd quarter 2006
Review end-state expectations for XAG

6. Dependencies

W3C Dependencies

Since the mission of PFWG is to detect otherwise unrecognized interactions between technical features of W3C technologies and usability by people with disabilities, it is not possible to enumerate all dependencies in advance.

The accessibility and usability of the Web depends most directly on the protocols and formats that interact most directly with the user. These include formats such as HTML, SVG and SSML, and protocols and algorithms used in presentation adaptation such as content negotiation in HTTP or the cascading algorithm in CSS. These technologies are mostly developed by groups represented in the Hypertext Coordination Group. The PFWG also participates in this group, to maintain awareness of workflow, issues, and to share cross-technology perspectives arising from the broad review of W3C technologies.

The PFWG is also dependent on its fellow groups in the WAI Technical Activity for knowledge of the actual dependencies of functional, usable, and authorable Web experiences on technology factors. This dependency is managed through the regular meetings of the WAI Coordination Group.

External Dependencies

Formal relationships outside the W3C are managed by the WAI International Program Office. If an outside group will be best connected with the work of PFWG though a formal relationship, the relationship will be referred to the International Program Office.

On the other hand, PFWG seeks to maintain liaisons with important technical initiatives outside the W3C which:

This is a major source of knowledge as to the true use cases and requirements that should guide technology development. The DAISY/NISO Standard Digital Talking Book, ANSI/NISO Z39.86-2002 and the newly-announced Accessibility activity in the Free Standards Group are examples of this outreach.

7. Confidentiality

The PFWG is a Member-confidential group as defined by Section 4.1 of the W3C Process Document. The Working Group maintains a public mailing list at  When to use the public list vs. the Member-confidential list is discussed below under Communication.

8. Meetings

The PFWG works primarily by a combination of email and telephone conferences. However face-to-face meetings will be held two to three times a year.

Telephone conferences

PFWG meets weekly by teleconference.

Face-to-face meetings

The PFWG will hold face-to-face meetings

9. Communication

Communication within the Working Group

RSVP notices of meetings, instant minutes, and general correspondence concerning the current issues before the group are carried by the archived Member-only mailing list with email address

The group will maintain a list of open issues, and track their progress toward closure. These will be reflected on the Member Confidential PFWG home page and as appropriate as well on the Public Working Group page at <>.

Communication within the WAI Domain

PFWG will not normally take a Group position on issues within the chartered areas of other groups within the WAI Domain. PFWG will not represent itself as authoritative in interpreting W3C specifications to other WAI Groups but will assist the WAI Groups in obtaining clarification from the W3C Groups that maintain or that originally developed a specification. PFWG will take up and seek Group consensus on issues referred to PFWG for discussion by the WAI CG.

Correspondence of a process planning nature (such as coordinating when issues of joint interest will be on the agenda in what group) flows from Chair to Chair with copies to the affected Team Contacts and if more than two groups are interested the WAI CG.

Communication outside the WAI Domain but within W3C

Communication on behalf of the group to other W3C Groups shall:

The PFWG maintains a professional and cordial relationship with other W3C Working Groups so that these other groups take the initiative to bring questions to the attention of the PFWG.

Member visibility into Group activity

PFWG shall maintain a Member Confidential PFWG home page which presents a central point of reference for Advisory Committee Representatives and other Member representatives to find Group information including Participants in Good Standing and IPR Disclosures.

Communication outside the W3C

Public visibility into Group activity

The primary channel for PFWG communication will be through the Notes discussed above in 4 Deliverables above. The development and release of these Notes shall follow the policies in the W3C Process Document effective at the time the work is performed and the procedures established by the W3C Communications Team.

In addition the PFWG shall maintain a Public Working Group page at <> which presents a central point of reference for members of the public to find Group information including the Charter, published Notes, etc.

No Formal Representation

PFWG shall not otherwise formally represent W3C or WAI outside the W3C, unless delegated this responsibility from the WAI International Program Office. In the latter case communication will follow whatever protocol is established in the governing memorandum of understanding.

10. Voting


The primary means of decision-making in the PFWG is consensus. This charter is written in accordance with Section 3.4, Votes of the 5 February 2004 W3C Process Document and includes no voting procedures beyond what the Process Document requires.


Participants may appeal Working Group decisions. Decision authority rests with the Director, however appeals should be made first to the WAI Coordination Group (through the CG chair) and then to the W3C team (first the Domain leader and then the Director).

11. Patent Disclosure

The PFWG provides an opportunity to share perspectives on Web accessibility. W3C reminds PFWG participants of their obligation to comply with patent disclosure obligations as set out in Section 6 of the 5 February 2004 W3C Patent Policy. While the PFWG does not produce Recommendation-track documents, when PFWG participants review Recommendation-track specifications from Working Groups, the patent disclosure obligations do apply.

12. Participation

W3C Member and Invited Expert participation

To be a Participant of the PFWG, an individual must meet all the requirements set out in the Working Group and Interest Group Participation section of the Process Document. In particular, PFWG Participants to remain in Good Standing are expected to:

Information about how to participate in the PFWG is available in a separate page.

Level of Involvement of Team

Matthew May spends 40% of his time as Team Contact on PFWG.

The PFWG Chair is Alfred S. Gilman (Alfred.S.Gilman -at- IEEE -dot- org).

Last updated: $Date: 2005/01/04 18:50:24 $ Matthew May (<>), W3C

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