Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines "Wombat"

W3C Working Draft 21 December 2001

This version:
Latest version:
Latest group draft:
ATAG 1.0 Recommendation:
Jutta Treviranus - ATRC, University of Toronto
Charles McCathieNevile - W3C
Jan Richards - University of Toronto


This specification provides guidelines for Web authoring tool developers. Its purpose is two-fold: to assist developers in designing authoring tools that produce accessible Web content and to assist developers in creating an accessible authoring interface.

Authoring tools can enable, encourage, and assist users ("authors") in the creation of accessible Web content through prompts, alerts, checking and repair functions, help files and automated tools. It is just as important that all people be able to author content as it is for all people to have access to it. The tools used to create this information must therefore be accessible themselves. Adoption of these guidelines will contribute to the proliferation of Web content that can be read by a broader range of readers and authoring tools that can be used by a broader range of authors.

This document is part of a series of accessibility documents published by the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).

Status of this document

This section describes the status of this document at the time of its publication. Other documents may supersede this document. The latest status of this document series is maintained at the W3C.

This document has been produced by the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AUWG), part of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). The goals of the Working Group are discussed in the AUWG charter.

This document has been made available to the WAI Interest Group for review, but is not endorsed by them. This is a working draft, and it is not endorsed by the W3C or its members. It is inappropriate to refer to this document other than as "work in progress".

This is the first Public Working Draft of a document which may eventually supersede the W3C Recommendation Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 [ATAG10]. The Working Group has made it available for review by W3C Members and other interested parties, in accordance with W3C Process.

This draft refers to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0 for specification of accessible content. It is expected (but not guaranteed) that if Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 [WCAG20] (currently in Working Draft status) becomes a W3C Recommendation, the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines "Wombat" document will refer to WCAG 2.0 and become Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0.

The Working Group expects the current "Wombat" draft to be backwards-compatible with ATAG 1.0, or at most to make only minor changes in requirements. Before this document reaches last call, the Working Group will publish a detailed analysis of the differences in requirements. This version is expected to be easier to use. It results from experience with ATAG 1.0, and working group review of previous versions of this draft, and is intended to fulfill the requirements for a new version set by the Working Group.

As an initial internal draft, this document still refers (non-normatively) to the Techniques for Authoring Tool Accessibility1.0 [ATAG10-TECHS]. As part of development of this draft, it is expected that the working group will draft a matching version of the Techniques information.

Please send general comments about this document to the public mailing list: w3c-wai-au@w3.org (public archives). Outstanding issues identified by the Working group are marked within this document, and the Working Group particularly welcomes comment on those. Issues which are under consideration and those which have been resolved by the working group are listed in the document ATAG "Wombat" Issues. A log of changes between successive Working Drafts is available.

A list of current W3C Recommendations and other technical documents including Working Drafts and Notes can be found at http://www.w3.org/TR.

Table of Contents

An appendix to this document lists all checkpoints for convenient reference.

1. Introduction

In these guidelines, the term "authoring tool" refers to the wide range of software used for creating Web content, including:

The goals of this document can be stated as follows: that the authoring tool be accessible to authors regardless of disability, that it produce accessible content by default, and that it support and encourage the author in creating accessible content. Because most of the content of the Web is created using authoring tools, they play a critical role in ensuring the accessibility of the Web. Since the Web is both a means of receiving information and communicating information, it is important that both the Web content produced and the authoring tool itself be accessible.

To achieve these goals, authoring tool developers must take steps such as ensuring conformance to accessible standards (e.g., HTML 4), checking and correcting accessibility problems, prompting, and providing appropriate documentation and help. For detailed information about what constitutes accessible content, these guidelines rely on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 [WCAG10]. Similarly, rather than directly reproducing existing specifications that address general accessible software design, these guidelines rely on other sources. The present guidelines do address accessible design considerations specific to Web authoring tools such as providing flexible editing views, navigation aids and access to display properties for authors.

The principles set forth in these guidelines will benefit many people who do not have a disability but who have similar needs. This includes people who work in noisy or quiet environments where the use of sound is not practical, people who need to use their eyes for another task and are unable to view a screen, and people who use small mobile devices that have a small screen, no keyboard, and no mouse.

A separate document, entitled "Techniques for Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0" [ATAG10-TECHS], provides suggestions and examples of how each checkpoint might be satisfied. It also includes references to other accessibility resources (such as platform-specific software accessibility guidelines) that provide additional information on how a tool may satisfy each checkpoint. Readers are strongly encouraged to become familiar with the Techniques Document as well as "Techniques for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0" [WCAG10-TECHS] and "Techniques for User Agent Accessibility Guidelines 1.0" [UAAG10-TECHS].

Note: The techniques in [ATAG10-TECHS] are informative examples only. Other strategies may be used to satisfy the checkpoints in addition to, or in place of, those discussed in [ATAG10-TECHS].

Note: Authoring tools that conform to this document will propagate accessible Web content and be useful to anyone regardless of disability. There will also be authoring tools that produce accessible content in favorable circumstances (e.g., a text editor used by a motivated author), or provide an accessible interface to authors with certain disabilities, but that do not conform to these guidelines.

1.1 How the Guidelines are organized

The seven guidelines in this document are general principles for accessible design. Each guideline includes:

The checkpoint definitions in each guideline specify requirements for authoring tools to follow the guideline. Each checkpoint definition includes:

Each checkpoint is intended to be specific enough that it can be verified, while being sufficiently general to allow developers the freedom to use the most appropriate strategies to satisfy it.

An appendix to this specification [WOMBAT-CHECKLIST] lists all checkpoints, ordered by priority, for convenient reference.

1.2 Checkpoint Priorities

Each checkpoint has a priority level. The priority level reflects the impact of the checkpoint in meeting the goals of this specification. These goals are:

The priority levels are assigned as follows:

[Priority 1]
If the checkpoint is essential to meeting the goals.
[Priority 2]
If the checkpoint is important to meeting the goals.
[Priority 3]
If the checkpoint is beneficial to meeting the goals.
[Relative Priority]

Some checkpoints that refer to generating, authoring, or checking Web content have multiple priorities. The priority depends on the corresponding priority in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0 [WCAG10].

  • It is priority 1 to satisfy the checkpoint for content features that are a priority 1 requirement in WCAG 1.0.
  • It is priority 2 to satisfy the checkpoint for content features that are a priority 2 requirement in WCAG 1.0.
  • It is priority 3 to satisfy the checkpoint for content features that are a priority 3 requirement in WCAG 1.0.

For example:

  • Providing text equivalents for images and audio is a priority 1 requirement in WCAG 1.0 since without it one or more groups will find it impossible to access the information. Therefore, it is a priority 1 requirement for the authoring tool to check for (4.1) or ask the author for (3.1) equivalent alternatives for these types of content.
  • Grouping links in navigation bars is a priority 3 in WCAG 1.0. Therefore, it is only priority 3 for the authoring tool to check for (4.1) or ask the author for (3.2) groups of links that are not grouped in the markup as a navigation mechanism.

When a checkpoint in this document refers to the WCAG 1.0 [WCAG10], only the WCAG 1.0 checkpoints that refer to content supported or automatically generated by the authoring tool apply. Some of the applicable WCAG 1.0 checkpoints may be satisfied automatically (without author participation) while others require human judgment and support from the tool in the form of prompts and documentation. Different tools may satisfy the same checkpoint differently.

The priority level for each checkpoint has been chosen based on the assumption that the author is a competent, but not necessarily expert, user of the authoring tool, and that the author has little or no knowledge of accessibility. For example, the author is not expected to have read all of the documentation, but is expected to know how to turn to the documentation for assistance.

1.3 Conformance to these Guidelines

This section explains how to make a valid claim that an authoring tool conforms to this document. Anyone may make a claim (e.g., vendors about their own products, third parties about those products, journalists about products, etc.). Claims may be published anywhere (e.g., on the Web or in product documentation).

The conformance icons provided for Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 are not valid for expressing conformance to this draft

Conformance levels

A conformance claim must indicate what conformance level is met:

Note: Conformance levels are spelled out in text (e.g., "Double-A" rather than "AA") so they may be understood when rendered as speech.

Well-formed conformance claims

A well-formed claim must include the following information:

  1. The guidelines title/version: "Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines "wombat" Working Group Internal Draft, 30 May 2001 ";
  2. The URI of the guidelines: "http://www.w3.org/WAI/AU/wombat/010530";
  3. The conformance level satisfied: "A", "Double-A", or "Triple-A";
  4. The version number and operating system of the software covered by the claim. Also indicate whether any upgrades or plug-ins are required;
  5. The date of the claim;
  6. The checkpoints of the chosen conformance level considered not applicable.

This information may be provided in text or metadata markup (e.g., using the Resource Description Framework (RDF) [RDF10] and an RDF schema designed for WAI conformance claims). All content in a claim provided other than as metadata must be accessible according to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 [WCAG10].

Here is an example of a claim expressed in HTML:

<p>MyAuthoringTool version 2.3 on MyOperatingSystem conforms to <abbr title="the World Wide Web Consortium">W3C</abbr>'s "Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines "wombat" Working Group Internal Draft, 22 June 2001", available at http://www.w3.org/WAI/AU/wombat/010622, level Double-A. Details of this claim are provided at <a href="http://example.com/details"> http://example.com/details</a>.</p>

Validity of a claim

A conformance claim is valid for a given conformance level if:

  1. The claim is well-formed, and
  2. The authoring tool satisfies all the checkpoints for that level.

Claimants (or relevant assuring parties) are responsible for the validity of a claim. As of the publication of this document, W3C does not act as an assuring party, but it may do so in the future, or establish recommendations for assuring parties.

Claimants are expected to modify or retract a claim if it may be demonstrated that the claim is not valid. Please note that it is not currently possible to validate claims completely automatically.

Conformance Icons

There are currently no conformance icons available for this draft specification. If it becomes a recommendation it is expected that there will be conformance icons like those available for Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0.

2. Guidelines

Guideline 1. Support accessible authoring practices.

If the tool automatically generates markup, many authors will be unaware of the accessibility status of the final content unless they expend extra effort to review it and make appropriate corrections by hand. Since many authors are unfamiliar with accessibility, authoring tools are responsible for automatically generating accessible markup, and where appropriate, for guiding the author in producing accessible content.

Many applications feature the ability to convert documents from other formats (e.g., Rich Text Format) into a markup format specifically intended for the Web such as HTML. Markup changes may also be made to facilitate efficient editing and manipulation. It is essential that these processes do not introduce inaccessible markup or remove accessibility content, particularly when a tool hides the markup changes from the author's view.


1.1 Ensure that the author can produce accessible content in the markup language(s) supported by the tool. [Priority 1]

Rationale: this is a basic requirement to allow the author to create accessible content within the tool.

At minimum (required basic functionality): the author can add or edit any elements or element properties of the language that can enhance accessibility.

More advanced (optional suggested functionality): provide an integrated interface to properties affecting accessibility (see also )

See also: checkpoint 7.2, techniques for checkpoint 1.1

1.2 Ensure that the tool preserves all accessibility information during transformations, and conversions. [Priority 1]
Rationale: Accessibility information is often vulnerable to loss when content is converted or transformed from one format into another.

At minimum (required basic functionality):Accessibility content must be preserved. Where sufficient structure information to allow reversal of the transformation is not preserved, the author must be notified that the transformation cannot be reversed accessibly. [@@issue 1: this requirement is still under discussion]

Optional advanced implementation: use markup, or some other mechanism to record the transformation and ensure reversibility.

Note this checkpoint covers importing from a format the tool does not use.

See also Techniques for checkpoint 1.2

1.3 Ensure that when the tool automatically generates markup it conforms to the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 [WCAG10]. [Relative Priority]
At minimum (required basic functionality) : Any decisions made for the author by the tool should optimize the accessibility of the content (as per WCAG). This applies to the choice of markup type, file type, and markup practices. The author may be able to override the choices proposed or made by the tool.
See also Techniques for checkpoint 1.3
1.4 Ensure that all pre-authored content for the tool conforms to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 [WCAG10]. [Relative Priority]
For example, templates must include accessible markup and content. Images and multimedia libraries must include accessible alternatives, such as alt text and long descriptions for images and captions, auditory descriptions and collated text transcriptions for movies. Applets and scripts must be accessible and include functional alternatives.

At minimum templates, clip art, scripts, applets, example pages, etc supplied with the tool must conform to WCAG 1 (to the conformance level claimed by the tool)

See also Techniques for checkpoint 1.4

1.5 Allow the author to preserve markup not recognized by the tool. [Priority 2]
At minimum (required basic functionality): prompt the author to confirm before removing or changing unrecognized markup. It is acceptable for a tool to reject a document it cannot process.

More advanced implementations may integrate this with the checking and repair functions of guideline 4, allowing the author finer-grained control.

Note: The author may have included or imported markup that enhances accessibility but is not recognized by the tool.

Techniques for checkpoint 1.5

Guideline 2. Generate standard markup.

Conformance with standards promotes interoperability and accessibility by making it easier to create specialized user agents that address the needs of users with disabilities. In particular, many assistive technologies used with browsers and multimedia players are only able to provide access to Web documents that use valid markup. Therefore, valid markup is an essential aspect of authoring tool accessibility.

Where applicable use W3C Recommendations, which have been reviewed to ensure accessibility and interoperability. If there are no applicable W3C Recommendations, use a published standard that enables accessibility.


2.1 Use the latest versions of W3C Recommendations when they are available and appropriate for a task. [Priority 2]
At minimum (required basic functionality): If the markup does not conform to W3C Recommendations, inform the author. [@@issue 3: How do you decide when something is available (and when is it appropriate) - e.g. when does a tool have to support XHTML to conform?]

More advanced: Provide a mechanism for importing new language definitions

Rationale: W3C specifications have undergone review specifically to ensure that they do not compromise accessibility, and where possible, they enhance it.

See also: Techniques for checkpoint 2.1

2.2 Ensure that markup which the tool automatically generates is valid for the language the tool is generating. [Priority 1]
At minimum (required basic functionality): All markup generated by the tool must be valid [@@issue 4: do we need an at minimum for here?]

Rationale: This is necessary for user agents to be able to render Web content in a manner appropriate to a particular user's needs.

See also: Techniques for checkpoint 2.2, Checkpoint 4.1

Guideline 3. Guide the author to produce accessible content.

Well-structured information and equivalent alternative information are cornerstones of accessible design, allowing information to be presented in a way most appropriate for the needs of the user without constraining the creativity of the author. Yet producing equivalent information, such as text alternatives for images and auditory descriptions of video, can be one of the most challenging aspects of Web design, and authoring tool developers should attempt to facilitate and automate the mechanics of this process. For example, prompting authors to include equivalent alternative information such as text equivalents, captions, and auditory descriptions at appropriate times can greatly ease the burden for authors. Where such information can be mechanically determined and offered as a choice for the author (e.g., the function of icons in an automatically-generated navigation bar, or expansion of acronyms from a dictionary), the tool can assist the author. At the same time, the tool can reinforce the need for such information and the author's role in ensuring that it is used appropriately in each instance.


3.1 Prompt the author to provide equivalent alternative information (e.g., captions, auditory descriptions, and collated text transcripts for video). [Relative Priority]
At minimum (required basic functionality): A method for adding alternative information, appropriate to the author-tool interaction, must be provided to the author whenever a non-text object (see Note) has been inserted.

Rationale:This checkpoint requires authoring tools to ask for (and support the creation of) alternate text, captions, auditory descriptions, collated text transcripts for video, etc. at times appropriate to the author-tool interaction.

Note: Some checkpoints in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 [WCAG10] do not apply. [@@issue 5: identify which checkpoints apply]

More advanced implementations might provide special authoring facilities that automate some of the process of generating alternative information (ex. voice recognition to produce collated text transcripts).

See also: Checkpoint 3.4, Techniques for checkpoint 3.1

3.2 Help the author create structured content and separate information from its presentation. [Relative Priority]
At minimum: A method for adding alternative information, appropriate to the author-tool interaction, must be provided to the author whenever a non-text object (see Note) has been inserted.

Note: Some checkpoints in Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 [WCAG10] do not apply. [@@issue 6: identify which ones]

Techniques for checkpoint 3.2
3.3 Do not automatically generate equivalent alternatives or reuse previously authored alternatives without author confirmation, except when the function is known with certainty. [Priority 1]
Rationale: Improperly generated alternatives can interfere with accessibility checking.

At minimum basic required functionality: Usually, when a new object is inserted, the function is unknown, so the tool should prompt the author to enter an appropriate equivalent alternative without providing a generated default entry (e.g. the file name and size). However, alternatives may be automatically generated or re-used when the tool has either placed the object for a specific purpose (e.g. navigation bar) or the user has defined a purpose for the object. Only an alternative that has been explicitly associated with an object may be offered as a default entry for the author to approve.

See also: checkpoint 1.4 and checkpoint 3.4, Techniques for checkpoint 3.3

3.4 Provide functionality for managing, editing, and reusing alternative equivalents for multimedia objects. [Priority 3]

Rationale: Compliance with checkpoint 3.3 may be simplified by providing an alternative equivalent management system.

At minimum: store associations between the multimedia objects and alternatives created by the author, allowing the author to edit the alternatives and reuse them easily.

More advanced implementations might collect alternatives from a variety of sources (the author, prepackaged, the Web) and provide powerful tools for managing the associations, including search functions and object similarity estimates.

See also: Techniques for checkpoint 3.4

Guideline 4. Provide ways of checking and correcting inaccessible content.

Many authoring tools allow authors to create documents with little or no knowledge about the underlying markup. To ensure accessibility, authoring tools must be designed so that they can (where possible, automatically) identify inaccessible markup, and enable its correction even when the markup itself is hidden from the author.

Authoring tool support for the creation of accessible Web content should account for different authoring styles. Authors who can configure the tool's accessibility features to support their regular work patterns are more likely to accept accessible authoring practices (refer to guideline 5). For example, some authors may prefer to be alerted to accessibility problems when they occur, whereas others may prefer to perform a check at the end of an editing session. This is analogous to programming environments that allow users to decide whether to check for correct code during editing or at compilation.

Note: Validation of markup is an essential aspect of checking the accessibility of content.


4.1 Check for and inform the author of accessibility problems. [Relative Priority]
At minimum (required basic functionality): this utility must provide at least one, automated or manual, check for each WCAG checkpoint (of relevant priority). When this utility runs it must always check those questions pertaining to "In General" WCAG checkpoints, but only those "conditional" WCAG checkpoints that have their conditions fulfilled by the document.

Rationale: provide the author with a utility that helps check documents for accessibility problems.

More advanced implementation: the checks should be automated to the greatest extent possible.

See also: Techniques for checkpoint 4.1

4.2 Assist authors in correcting accessibility problems. [Relative Priority]
Rationale: once accessibility problems have been found, authoring tools help the author to correct them properly.

At a minimum, provide context-sensitive help with the accessibility checking required by checkpoint 4.1.

Advanced implementations: provide the author with automated or semi-automated correction tools, in addition to guidelines and examples.

See also: checkpoint 4.1 Techniques for checkpoint 4.2

4.3 Provide the author with a summary of the document's accessibility status. [Priority 3]
Rationale: encourage authoring tools to notify authors of accessibility problems in a coherent way.

At minimum (required basic functionality): provide a list of the problems by type.

Advanced implementations might integrate the summary with the tool's repair functionality to increase the flexibility with which problems can be corrected (see checkpoint 4.2).

See also: Techniques for checkpoint 4.3

Guideline 5. Integrate accessibility solutions into the overall "look and feel".

When a new feature is added to an existing software tool without proper integration, the result is often an obvious discontinuity. Differing color schemes, fonts, interaction styles, and even software stability can be factors affecting author acceptance of the new feature. In addition, the relative prominence of different ways to accomplish the same task can influence which one the author chooses. Therefore, it is important that creating accessible content be a natural process when using an authoring tool.


5.1 Ensure that the functionalities for checkpoints 3.1, 3.2 and 4.1 are always clearly available to the user [Priority 1]
Rationale: The user must be easily able to turn on accessibility support functionality

Minimum (required basic functionality): The user interface component to initiate the function must be a visible part of the main user interface

More advanced (suggested): Allow the user to configure this to happen on a schedule or at user request

See also: checkpoints 3.1, 3.2, 4.1, 4.2 Techniques for checkpoint 5.2

5.2 Ensure that accessible authoring practices supporting Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 [WCAG10] Priority 1 checkpoints are among the most obvious and easily initiated by the author. [Priority 2]
Note: This checkpoint extends the requirements of checkpoint 5.1 to cover more functionalities

Rationale: that accessibility-related functionality be integrated as seamlessly as possible.

At minimum, the accessibility features should not contrast with the normal operation of the tool. This means that they should be operable with approximately the same number of mouse clicks or keystrokes, the same amount of instruction, and the same degree of flexibility as other features.

For example, if an element's properties are displayed in a floating toolbar, accessibility-related prompts should be added to this toolbar, not implemented as intrusive pop-up boxes.

More advanced implementations might see accessibility features such as checking, integrated to the same level as analogous features unrelated to accessibility.

For example, if underlining or color changes are used to notify the author, while they work, of syntax and spelling errors, accessibility problems should be similarly flagged.

See also: Techniques for checkpoint 5.2

5.3 Ensure that all functionality (prompts, checkers, information icons, etc.) related to accessible authoring practices is naturally integrated into the overall look and feel of the tool. [Priority 2]
Rationale: user interfaces can increase the probability that authors will use accessible authoring practices, even when less accessible alternatives are provided by the tool for reasons of completeness.

At minimum, when there is an accessible and a less accessible means for performing an action, the user interface of the tool should be organized so that the accessible means is at least as visible in the user interface and at least as easy to activate in terms of mouse clicks and keystrokes than the less accessible means.

More advanced solutions might purposefully impede the visibility and use of the less accessible means.

See also: Techniques for checkpoint 5.3

5.4 Ensure that creating accessible content is a naturally integrated part of the documentation, including examples. [Relative Priority]
This checkpoint promotes the production of accessible content by implicitly demonstrating to the author that all content, regardless of purpose, should comply with the WCAG guidelines.

At minimum (required basic functionality): all documented examples of the authoring tool interface (i.e. dialog boxes, code views, etc.) should include any relevant accessible authoring practices.

See also: Techniques for checkpoint 5.4

Guideline 6. Promote accessibility in help and documentation.

Web authors may not be familiar with accessibility issues that arise when creating Web content. Therefore, help and documentation must include explanations of accessibility problems, and should demonstrate solutions with examples.


6.1 Document all features that promote the production of accessible content. [Priority 1]
Rationale: Documenting each accessibility related feature of the tool (dialog boxes, utility, code views, etc.) will help authors to learn how to use them effectively.

At minimum (required basic functionality): Document the purpose and use of all features of the tool that help create accessible content.

More advanced implementations Provide context-sensitive links to this documentation from the actual features, within the authoring tool user interface. Also provide a dedicated "Accessibility" section of the documentation for this material.

See also: checkpoint 5.4, Techniques for checkpoint 6.1

6.2 Document the process of using the tool to produce accessible content. [Relative Priority]
Rationale: Motivated users of the tool may be able to produce accessible content without the support provided by mechanisms such as accessibility checking and repair functions.

At minimum (required basic functionality): Document the techniques required to meet all WCAG checkpoints at the relevant priority level - (these may include work-around methods where the tool does not yet have the appropriate functionality).

Optional advanced functionality: Automating the process of producing accessible content will mean that nothing special needs to be done to meet this checkpoint. But providing context-sensitive linking to this documentation may be an intermediary development strategy.

See also: Techniques for checkpoint 6.2

Guideline 7. Ensure that the authoring tool is accessible to authors with disabilities.

The authoring tool is a software program with standard user interface elements and as such must be designed according to relevant user interface accessibility guidelines. When custom interface components are created, it is essential that they be accessible through the standard access mechanisms for the relevant platform so that assistive technologies can be used with them.

Some additional user interface design considerations apply specifically to Web authoring tools. For instance, authoring tools must ensure that the author can edit (in an editing view) using one set of stylistic preferences and publish using different styles. Authors with low vision may need large text when editing but want to publish with a smaller default text size. The style preferences of the editing view must not affect the markup of the published document.

Authoring tools must also ensure that the author can navigate a document efficiently while editing, regardless of disability. Authors who use screen readers, refreshable braille displays, or screen magnifiers can make limited use (if at all) of graphical artifacts that communicate the structure of the document and act as signposts when traversing it. Authors who cannot use a mouse (e.g., people with physical disabilities or who are blind) must use the slow and tiring process of moving one step at a time through the document to access the desired content, unless more efficient navigation methods are available. Authoring tools should therefore provide an editing view that conveys a sense of the overall structure and allows structured navigation.

Note: Documentation, help files, and installation are part of the software and need to be available in an accessible form.


7.1 Ensure that the authoring interface follows all operating environment conventions that benefit accessibility (Applies at three priority levels: [Priority 1] for standards and conventions that are essential to accessibility; [Priority 2] for those that are important to accessibility; [Priority 3] for those that are beneficial to accessibility).
This checkpoint requires all aspects of the authoring interface to be accessible to the author. This wide scope means that the checkpoint applies to the implementation of all the other checkpoints in this guidelines document. The techniques for this checkpoint include references to checklists and guidelines for a number of platforms and to general guidelines for accessible applications. In many cases several sets of standards will be applicable. [@@issue 7 - there is no minimum requirement here]

See also: Techniques for checkpoint 7.1

7.2 Ensure that the authoring interface enables accessible editing of all element and object properties. [Priority 1]
Note This checkpoint is a special case of checkpoint 7.1 that is especially important to authoring tools.

At minimum (required basic functionality): provide at least one accessible way to edit every element and object property supported by the tool.

More advanced implementations might ensure that all of the ways in which the tool allows element and object properties to be edited should be accessible.

See also

Techniques for checkpoint 7.2
7.3 Ensure that the authoring interface enables the author to edit the structure of the document [Priority 2]
Note This checkpoint is a special case of checkpoint 7.1 that is especially important to authoring tools.

At minimum (required basic functionality): the checkpoint requires that the author be able to copy, cut or paste an element and its content at any level of the document tree hierarchy.

More advanced implementations might provide more powerful ways to edit elements or groups of elements in the structure.

See also: Techniques for checkpoint 7.3

7.4 Allow the display preferences of the authoring interface to be changed without affecting the document markup. [Priority 1]
Note This checkpoint applies primarily to WYSIWYG markup editing tools and requires that the author be able to view the content, as it is being authored, in a way that differs from the presumed default appearance of the rendered content.

At minimum there must be some mechanism for changing the document display independently of the document markup.

There are a number of ways that this can be achieved, including supporting operating environment display preferences and allowing the author to specify an editing style sheet that is different from those included with the end document. In addition, there must be some means by which textual alternatives can be displayed to the author in place of non-text elements. [@@issue 8 - need to clean this paragraph up - some is techniques, plus wording and some is useful for the checkpoint]

See also: Techniques for checkpoint 7.4

7.5 Ensure that the authoring interface enables accessible navigation of editing views via the document structure. [Priority 2 (was P1 in ATAG10)]
Rationale: simplify navigation for the author.

At minimum, the author should be able to move from element to element. [@@issue 9: is this actually what we need?]

More advanced implementations might provide highly flexible mechanisms that take advantage of the hierarchical nature of the document tree.

See also: Techniques for checkpoint 7.5

7.6 Ensure the authoring interface allows the author to search within the editing views. [Priority 2]
Note This checkpoint requires that tools provide a search facility. While this is a common feature in most text markup editing tools, it is less common for other authoring tools (i.e. SVG and editors).

At minimum, the tool should allow basic text search with a choice of skipping or including markup

More advanced implementations might have more powerful mechanisms that, for example, can search on the basis of structure or similarity.

See also: Techniques for checkpoint 7.6

3. Glossary of Terms and Definitions

Accessibility (Also: Accessible)
Within these guidelines, "accessible Web content" and "accessible authoring tool" mean that the content and tool can be used by people regardless of disability.
To understand the accessibility issues relevant to authoring tool design, consider that many authors may be creating content in contexts very different from your own:
  • They may not be able to see, hear, move, or may not be able to process some types of information easily or at all;
  • They may have difficulty reading or comprehending text;
  • They may not have or be able to use a keyboard or mouse;
  • They may have a text-only display, or a small screen.
Accessible design will benefit people in these different authoring scenarios and also many people who do not have a physical disability but who have similar needs. For example, someone may be working in a noisy environment and thus require an alternative representation of audio information. Similarly, someone may be working in an eyes-busy environment and thus require an audio equivalent to information they cannot view. Users of small mobile devices (with small screens, no keyboard, and no mouse) have similar functional needs as some users with disabilities.
Accessibility Information
"Accessibility information" is content, including information and markup, that is used to improve the accessibility of a document. Accessibility information includes, but is not limited to, equivalent alternative information.
Accessibility Problem (Also: Inaccessible Markup)
Inaccessible Web content or authoring tools cannot be used by some people with disabilities. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 [WCAG10] describes how to create accessible Web content.
Accessible Authoring Practice
"Accessible authoring practices" improve the accessibility of Web content. Both authors and tools engage in accessible authoring practices. For example, authors write clearly, structure their content, and provide navigation aids. Tools automatically generate valid markup and assist authors in providing and managing appropriate equivalent alternatives.
An "alert" draws the author's attention to an event or situation. It may require a response from the author.
Alternative Information (Also: Equivalent Alternative)
Content is "equivalent" to other content when both fulfill essentially the same function or purpose upon presentation to the user. Equivalent alternatives play an important role in accessible authoring practices since certain types of content may not be accessible to all users (e.g., video, images, audio, etc.). Authors are encouraged to provide text equivalents for non-text content since text may be rendered as synthesized speech for individuals who have visual or learning disabilities, as braille for individuals who are blind, or as graphical text for individuals who are deaf or do not have a disability. For more information about equivalent alternatives, please refer to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG 1.0 [WCAG10].
This document uses the term "attribute" as used in SGML and XML ([XML]): Element types may be defined as having any number of attributes. Some attributes are integral to the accessibility of content (e.g., the "alt", "title", and "longdesc" attributes in HTML).
Auditory Description
An "auditory description" provides information about actions, body language, graphics, and scene changes in a video. Auditory descriptions are commonly used by people who are blind or have low vision, although they may also be used as a low-bandwidth equivalent on the Web. An auditory description is either a pre-recorded human voice or a synthesized voice (recorded or automatically generated in real time). The auditory description must be synchronized with the auditory track of a video presentation, usually during natural pauses in the auditory track.
Authoring Tool
An "authoring tool" is any software that is used to produce content for publishing on the Web. Authoring tools include:
  • Editing tools specifically designed to produce Web content (e.g., WYSIWYG HTML and XML editors);
  • Tools that offer the option of saving material in a Web format (e.g., word processors or desktop publishing packages);
  • Tools that transform documents into Web formats (e.g., filters to transform desktop publishing formats to HTML);
  • Tools that produce multimedia, especially where it is intended for use on the Web (e.g., video production and editing suites, SMIL authoring packages);
  • Tools for site management or site publication, including tools that automatically generate Web sites dynamically from a database, on-the-fly conversion and Web site publishing tools;
  • Tools for management of layout (e.g., CSS formatting tools).
"Captions" are essential text equivalents for movie audio. Captions consist of a text transcript of the auditory track of the movie (or other video presentation) that is synchronized with the video and auditory tracks. Captions are generally rendered graphically and benefit people who can see but are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or cannot hear the audio.
Conversion Tool
A "conversion tool" is any application or application feature (e.g., "Save as HTML") that transforms convent in one format to another format (such as a markup language).
Check for
As used in checkpoint 4.1, "check for" can refer to three types of checking:
  1. In some instances, an authoring tool will be able to check for accessibility problems automatically. For example, checking for validity (checkpoint 2.2) or testing whether an image is the only content of a link.
  2. In some cases, the tool will be able to "suspect" or "guess" that there is a problem, but will need confirmation from the author. For example, in making sure that a sensible reading order is preserved a tool can present a linearized version of a page to the author.
  3. In some cases, a tool must rely mostly on the author, and can only ask the author to check. For example, the tool may prompt the author to verify that equivalent alternatives for multimedia are appropriate. This is the minimal standard to be satisfied. Subtle, rather than extensive, prompting is more likely to be effective in encouraging the author to verify accessibility where it cannot be done automatically.
A "document" is a series of elements that are defined by a markup language (e.g., HTML 4 or an XML application).
Editing View
An "editing view" is a view provided by the authoring tool that allows editing.
An "element" is any identifiable object within a document, for example, a character, word, image, paragraph or spreadsheet cell. In [HTML4] and [XML], an element refers to a pair of tags and their content, or an "empty" tag - one that requires no closing tag or content.
To "inform" is to make the author aware of an event or situation through alert, prompt, sound, flash, or other means.
Markup Language
Authors encode information using a "markup language" such as HTML [HTML4], SVG [SVG], or MathML [MATHML].
Presentation Markup
"Presentation markup" is markup language that encodes information about the desired presentation or layout of the content. For example, Cascading Style Sheets ([CSS1], [CSS2]) can be used to control fonts, colors, aural rendering, and graphical positioning. Presentation markup should not be used in place of structural markup to convey structure. For example, authors should mark up lists in HTML with proper list markup and style them with CSS (e.g., to control spacing, bullets, numbering, etc.). Authors should not use other CSS or HTML incorrectly to lay out content graphically so that it resembles a list.
In this document prompt does not refer to the narrow software sense of a "prompt," rather it is used as a verb meaning to urge, suggest and encourage. The form and timing that this prompting takes can be user configurable. "Prompting" does not depend upon the author to seek out the support but is initiated by the tool. "Prompting" is more than checking, correcting, and providing help and documentation as encompassed in guidelines 4, 5, 6. The goal of prompting the author is to encourage, urge and support the author in creating meaningful equivalent text without causing frustration that may cause the author to turn off access options. Prompting should be implemented in such a way that it causes a positive disposition and awareness on the part of the author toward accessible authoring practices.
A "property" is a piece of information about an element, for example structural information (e.g., it is item number 7 in a list, or plain text) or presentation information (e.g., that it is marked as bold, its font size is 14). In XML and HTML, properties of an element include the type of the element (e.g., IMG or DL), the values of its attributes, and information associated by means of a style sheet. In a database, properties of a particular element may include values of the entry, and acceptable data types for that entry.
Structural Markup
"Structural markup" is markup language that encodes information about the structural role of elements of the content. For example, headings, sections, members of a list, and components of a complex diagram can be identified using structural markup. Structural markup should not be used incorrectly to control presentation or layout. For example, authors should not use the BLOCKQUOTE element in HTML [HTML4] to achieve an indentation visual layout effect. Structural markup should be used correctly to communicate the roles of the elements of the content and presentation markup should be used separately to control the presentation and layout.
A "transcript" is a text representation of sounds in an audio clip or an auditory track of a multimedia presentation. A "collated text transcript" for a video combines (collates) caption text with text descriptions of video information (descriptions of the actions, body language, graphics, and scene changes of the visual track). Collated text transcripts are essential for individuals who are deaf-blind and rely on braille for access to movies and other content.
A "transformation" is a process that changes a document or object into another, equivalent, object according to a discrete set of rules. This includes conversion tools, software that allows the author to change the DTD defined for the original document to another DTD, and the ability to change the markup of lists and convert them into tables.
User Agent
A "user agent" is software that retrieves and renders Web content. User agents include browsers, plug-ins for a particular media type, and some assistive technologies.
Authoring tools may render the same content in a variety of ways; each rendering is called a "view." Some authoring tools will have several different types of view, and some allow views of several documents at once. For instance, one view may show raw markup, a second may show a structured tree, a third may show markup with rendered objects while a final view shows an example of how the document may appear if it were to be rendered by a particular browser. A typical way to distinguish views in a graphic environment is to place each in a separate window.

4. Acknowledgments

Many thanks to the following people who have contributed through review and comment: Giorgio Brajnik, Daniel Dardailler, Katie Haritos-Shea, Phill Jenkins, Len Kasday, Marjolein Katsma, William Loughborough, Matthias Müller-Prove, Graham Oliver, Chris Ridpath, Gregory Rosmaita, Heather Swayne, Carlos Velasco.

This document would not have been possible without the work of those who contributed to The Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0

5. References

For the latest version of any W3C specification please consult the list of W3C Technical Reports at http://www.w3.org/TR.

"Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0", J. Treviranus, C. McCathieNevile, I. Jacobs, and J. Richards, eds., 3 February 2000. This W3C Recommendation is http://www.w3.org/TR/2000/REC-ATAG10-20000203/.
"Techniques for Authoring Tool Accessibility," J. Treviranus, J. Richards, I. Jacobs, and C. McCathieNevile editors. The latest version is available at http://www.w3.org/TR/ATAG10-TECHS.
"Conformance icons for ATAG 1.0." Information about ATAG 1.0 conformance icons is available at http://www.w3.org/WAI/ATAG10-Conformance.
"CSS, level 1 Recommendation," B. Bos and H. Wium Lie, editors., 17 December 1996, revised 11 January 1999. This CSS1 Recommendation is http://www.w3.org/TR/1999/REC-CSS1-19990111. The latest version of CSS1 is available at http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-CSS1. Note: CSS1 has been superseded by CSS2. Tools should implement the CSS2 cascade in particular.
"CSS, level 2 Recommendation," B. Bos, H. Wium Lie, C. Lilley, and I. Jacobs, editors., 12 May 1998. This CSS2 Recommendation is http://www.w3.org/TR/1998/REC-CSS2-19980512. The latest version of CSS2 is available at http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-CSS2.
"HTML 4.01 Recommendation," D. Raggett, A. Le Hors, and I. Jacobs, editors., 24 December 1999. This HTML 4.01 Recommendation is http://www.w3.org/TR/1999/REC-html401-19991224. The latest version of HTML 4 is available at http://www.w3.org/TR/html4.
"Mathematical Markup Language," P. Ion and R. Miner, editors., 7 April 1998, revised 7 July 1999. This MathML 1.0 Recommendation is http://www.w3.org/TR/1998/REC-MathML-19990707. The latest version of MathML 1.0 is available at http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-MathML.
"Resource Description Framework (RDF) Model and Syntax Specification," O. Lassila, R. Swick, editors. The 22 February 1999 Recommendation is http://www.w3.org/TR/1999/REC-rdf-syntax-19990222. The latest version of RDF 1.0 is available at http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-rdf-syntax.
"Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) 1.0 Specification (Working Draft)," J. Ferraiolo, editor. The latest version of the SVG specification is available at http://www.w3.org/TR/SVG.
"Techniques for User Agent Accessibility Guidelines 1.0," J. Gunderson, and I. Jacobs, editors. The latest version of Techniques for User Agent Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 is available at http://www.w3.org/TR/UAAG10-TECHS/.
"Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0," W. Chisholm, G. Vanderheiden, and I. Jacobs, editors., 5 May 1999. This Recommendation is http://www.w3.org/TR/1999/WAI-WEBCONTENT-19990505. The latest version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0" is available at http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/.
"Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (Working Draft)," W. Chisholm, G. Vanderheiden, and J. White, editors. The latest version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 is available at http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/.
"Techniques for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0," W. Chisholm, G. Vanderheiden, and I. Jacobs, editors. The latest version of Techniques for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 is available at http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10-TECHS/.
An appendix to this document lists all of the checkpoints, sorted by priority.
"The Extensible Markup Language (XML) 1.0," T. Bray, J. Paoli, C. M. Sperberg-McQueen, editors., 10 February 1998. This XML 1.0 Recommendation is http://www.w3.org/TR/1998/REC-xml-19980210. The latest version of the XML specification is available at http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-xml.

Level Double-A conformance icon, W3C-WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 Valid CSS! Valid XHTML 1.0!