This document provides guidelines for Web authoring tool developers. Its
purpose is two-fold: to assist developers in designing authoring tools that
generate accessible Web content and to assist developers in creating an
accessible authoring interface.
Accessible Web content is achieved by encouraging authoring tool users
("authors") to create accessible Web content through mechanisms such as
prompts, alerts, checking and repair functions, help files and automated
tools. It is equally important that all people can be the authors of Web
content, rather than merely recipients. It is therefore of critical importance
that the tools used to create this content are themselves accessible. Adoption
of these guidelines will result in the proliferation of Web pages that can be
read by a broader range of readers and in 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.
This is a Working Draft of the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines. It
is a draft document and may be updated, replaced or rendered obsolete by other
documents at any time. It is inappropriate to use W3C Working Drafts as
reference material or to cite them as other than "work in progress". This is
work in progress and does not imply endorsement by either W3C or members of
the WAI Authoring Tool (AU) Working Group.
This draft will be the basis of discussion at the Working Group's face to
face meeting in Toronto, 15 and 16 May 1999. Particular issues to be resolved
include standardizing the use of the word 'content' within this document, and
review of the sections on definitions and sample implementations.
The Techniques (including the appendix Sample Implementations) listed in
this document are intended to be informative only, and although a final form
of the document will make them available, they will not be present in the
final "normative" version.
The goals of the WAI AU Working
Group are discussed in the WAI AU charter.
Please send comments about this document to the public mailing list: firstname.lastname@example.org, archived at http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/w3c-wai-au
A list of the current AU Working Group members is
The guidelines in this document are meant to help authoring tool developers
and vendors design products that encourage authors to adopt accessible
authoring practices. For the purposes of this document the term "authoring
tool" will refer to authoring tools, generation tools, and conversion tools. These guidelines emphasize
the role of the user interface in informing, supporting, correcting, and
motivating authors during the editing process. For a more detailed discussion
of accessible Web authoring practices, see the Web
Content Accessibility Guidelines ( [WAI-WEBCONTENT] ).
These guidelines are intended to be used by developers of all tools used to
produce content for the Web. These include:
Editing tools specifically designed to produce Web content (e.g.,
editors, SMIL authoring packages);
Tools that offer the option of saving material in a Web format (e.g., word
processors or desktop publishing packages);
Tools that translate documents into Web formats (e.g., filters to translate
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);
Tools for site management or site publication, including on-the-fly conversion
and Web site publishing tools;
Tools for management of layout (e.g., CSS formatting tools).
The guidelines documents have been organized to address readers seeking
abstract principles of accessible authoring tool design and readers seeking
concrete solutions. The guidelines documents define three terms for
different levels of abstraction:
A guideline is a general principle of accessible authoring tool design. A
guideline addresses the question "What accessibility issues should I be aware
A checkpoint is a specific way of satisfying one or more guidelines. While
checkpoints describe verifiable actions that may be carried out by the
authoring tool developer, implementation details are described elsewhere. A
checkpoint answers the question "What must/should/may I do to make an
authoring tool (and the content it produces) accessible?"
A technique is an implementation of one or more checkpoints in a given
language (e.g., HTML, XML, CSS, ...). A technique answers the question "How
do I implement that in an authoring tool?"
Each checkpoint in this document is assigned a priority that indicates its
importance for users.
- [Priority 1]
This checkpoint must be implemented by authoring tools, otherwise one or more
groups of authors with disabilities will find it impossible to access some
function of the tool, or
authors using the tool will not create Web content
that is accessible. Satisfying this checkpoint is a basic requirement for some
individuals to be able to use the authoring tool or its output.
- [Priority 2]
This checkpoint should be implemented by authoring tools, otherwise one or
more groups of authors with disabilities will face significant barriers
in accessing some function of the tool, or
authors using the tool will find it
difficult to create Web content that is accessible. Satisfying this
checkpoint will remove significant barriers for some individuals
using the authoring tool or its output.
- [Priority 3]
This checkpoint may be implemented by authoring tools, to make it easier for
one or more groups of authors with disabilities to access some function of the
for authors using the tool to create Web content that is accessible.
Satisfying this checkpoint will improve access for some individuals to the
authoring tool or its output.
- Conformance to other specifications
These guidelines require conformance to the Web
Content Accessibility Guidelines [WAI-WEBCONTENT] and the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines
[WAI-USERAGENT]. The priority for such conformance is analogous to that
required in those guidelines, as follows:
This section defines three levels of conformance to this document:
Conformance Level "A": all Priority 1 checkpoints are satisfied;
Conformance Level "Double-A": all Priority 1 and 2 checkpoints are satisfied;
Conformance Level "Triple-A": all Priority 1, 2, and 3 checkpoints are
Note. Conformance levels are spelled out in text so they may be understood
when rendered to speech.
Claims of conformance to this document must use one of the following two
Form 1: Specify:
The guidelines' title: "Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines"
The guidelines' URI: http://www.w3.org/WAI/AU/WAI-AUTOOLS-19990506
The conformance level satisfied: "A", "Double-A", or "Triple-A".
The scope covered by the claim (e.g., tool name and version number, upgrades
or plugins required).
Example of Form 1: "MyAuthoringTool version 2.3 conforms to W3C's
"Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines", available at http://www.w3.org/WAI/AU/WAI-AUTOOLS-19990506, level Double-A."
Form 2: Include, on each statement of conformance, one of three icons
provided by W3C and link the icon to the appropriate W3C explanation of the
[Editors' note: In the event this document becomes a Recommendation, by
that date WAI will provide a set of three icons, for "A", "Double-A", or
"Triple-A" conformance levels of "Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines",
together with a stable URI to the W3C Web site for linking the icons to
the W3C explanation of conformance claims.]
The authoring tools used to generate Web content play a critical role in
determining the form and accessibility of Web markup. It is imperative that
authoring tools generate content that is accessible, and that they handle the
accessible authoring practices applicable to the language/format being edited.
This section contains guidelines and checkpoints to ensure that the authoring
tool generates accessible content.
Accessible markup differs between languages and versions, but some general
principles of accessible markup are:
Separate structure and content from presentation;
Ensure that accessible equivalents are available for all objects that may not
otherwise be accessible (e.g., text, audio descriptions for video);
Provide consistent structure and navigation.
Authoring tools are used to automate the mechanical tasks that are part of
producing Web pages. The power of this automation can enhance the
accessibility of the Web if it is used to ensure that the code produced
promotes accessibility, and frees the author to concentrate on the higher
level problems of overall design, content, description, etc. Authoring tools
can provide this support for authors in several ways:
Producing and handling accessible content;
Encouraging the author to adopt accessible authoring practices;
Prompting the author for necessary information;
Checking, validating and where necessary repairing markup;
Providing documentation regarding accessible authoring practices;
Integrating accessibility into the general look and feel of the tool, rather
than separating it as an "optional extra".
Depending upon the design of the authoring tool, the process of creating
accessible Web content can be either frustrating and onerous or easy and
intuitive. It is up to the authoring tool to make accessible authoring
practices an integral and efficient part of creating Web content.
The first step towards accessibility is conformance with standards, which
- 2.1.1: [Priority 2]
Use applicable W3C Recommendations.
When creating document types, make full use of W3C Recommendations [W3C-RECS] (Specifications
which have been approved by the W3C. These specifications have undergone
review specifically to ensure that they do not compromise, and where possible
they enhance, accessibility). For example when creating mathematical content
for the Web use MathML rather than another markup language. Use applicable
- 2.1.2: [Priority 1]
Extensions to W3C Recommendations must not make content inaccessible.
New document types are constantly being developed, and in many cases offer
improvements to the structure and utility of Web content. In implementing a
new or extended document type it is important to ensure that a tool does not
remove access to information that had been inherent in the base document type.
An HTML example of a document type that contravenes this checkpoint is a
FRAMESET used without NOFRAMES - it precludes access to the underlying
information, whereas NOFRAMES provides a means to access the information
contained within the FRAMESET.
The same can apply to a reduced DTD. For example, producing a DTD which did
not include the "alt" attribute for IMG, or effectively working to such a DTD
by not implementing a means to include the attribute, compromises the
accessibility of any included IMG elements.
Methods for ensuring accessible markup vary with different markup
languages. If markup is automatically generated, many authors will be unaware
of the accessibility status of the final product unless they expend extra
effort to make appropriate corrections by hand. Since many authors are
unfamiliar with accessibility, these problems are likely to remain.
- 2.2.1: [Priority 1]
Implement all accessible authoring practices that have been defined for the
markup language(s) supported by the tool.
- 2.2.2: [Priority 1]
Produce content that conforms to the W3C's Web
Content Accessibility Guidelines [WAI-WEBCONTENT].
- 2.2.3: [Priority 1]
Ensure that templates to be inserted in the document conform to W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
Produce accessible representations for site maps generated by the authoring
Textual equivalents, including "alt-text", long descriptions, video
captions, and transcripts are absolutely necessary for the accessibility of
all images, applets, video, and audio files. However, the task of producing
these equivalents is probably the most time-consuming accessibility
recommendation made to the author.
The authoring tool can provide various mechanisms to assist the author in
generating textual equivalents while ensuring that the author can determine
whether the textual equivalent accurately reflects the information conveyed by
the multimedia object.
Including professionally written descriptions for all multimedia files
(e.g., clip-art) packaged with the tool will:
Save users time and effort;
Cause a significant number of professionally written descriptions to circulate
on the Web;
Provide users with convenient models to emulate when they write their own
Show authors the importance of description writing.
This will lead to an increase in the average quality of descriptions
- 2.3.1: [Priority 1]
Prompt the author to provide alternative content (e.g., captions, descriptive
Provide an author with the option of specifying alternative content, or
electing to insert null alternative content. Default to an accessibility error
such as no "alt" attribute for images.
- 2.3.2: [Priority 1]
Prompt the author for all missing structural information (e.g., in HTML LABEL,
FIELDSET, OPTGROUP and LEGEND for form controls).
- 2.3.3: [Priority 2]
Provide pre-written alternative content for all multimedia files packaged with
the authoring tool.
Use formats that allow for accessible annotation, such as PNG.
Provide long descriptions, and associated text files with appropriate
"alt-text" in clip-art collections.
Provide video description files with prepackaged video.
Provide text caption files for prepackaged audio, or video with audio
See also checkpoint 2.3.4
- 2.3.4: [Priority 3]
Provide a mechanism to manage alternative content for multimedia objects,
which retains and offers for editing pre-written or previously linked
Allow authors to add objects and alternative content to a database maintained
by the authoring tool. Whenever an object is used for which alternative
content is provided, ask if the author would like to add the object and
the alternative content to the database. Allow different alternative content
to be associated with a single object.
Allow authors to make keyword searches of a description database (to simplify
the task of finding relevant images, sound files, etc.). A paper describing a method to create searchable databases
for video and audio files is available (refer to [SEARCHABLE]).
Suggest pre-written descriptions as default text whenever one of the
associated files is inserted into the author's document.
This checkpoint is prioritized as a level 3, meaning that in itself, it does
not have a critical effect on an authoring tool's likelihood of producing
accessible mark-up. However, several limited extensions to this alternative
content mechanism (ACM) have the potential to simultaneously meet several
higher priority checkpoints and dramatically improve the usability of an
access aware authoring tool. In particular:
The ACM should maintain a list of associations between object file names and
authored responses to prompts for alternative content (as per checkpoint 2.3.1
[Priority 1]). The alternative content may take the form of short strings
(i.e. "alt"-text) or pointers to descriptive files (i.e., "longdesc",
transcripts, etc.). Multiple associations for the same object for different
languages or contexts should also be handled.
The ACM would offer the associated alternative content as a default whenever
the appropriate associated object is selected for insertion. If no previous
association is found, the field should be left empty (i.e., no purely
rule-generated alternative content should be used). Note: the term "default"
implies that the alternative content is offered for the author's approval. The
term does not imply that the default alternative content is automatically
placed without the author's approval. Such automatic placement may only occur
when in situations where the function of the object is known with certainty, as
per checkpoint 2.3.5 [Priority 1]. Such a situation might arise in the case of
a "navigation bar builder" that places a navigation bar at the bottom of every
page on a site. In this case, it would be appropriate to use the same
"alt"-text automatically for every instance of a particular image (with the
same target) on every page.
The alternative content mechanism should be closely integrated with the
pre-written alternative content provided for all packaged multimedia files, as
per checkpoint 2.3.3 [Priority 2]. This would allow the alternative content to
be automatically retrieved whenever the author selected one of the packaged
objects for insertion. An important benefit of the system would be the ease of
adding a keyword search capability that would allow efficient location of
multimedia based on its alternative content.
- 2.3.5: [Priority 1]
Do not insert automatically generated (e.g., the filename) or place-holder
(e.g., "image") equivalent text, except in cases where human-authored text has
been written for an object whose function is known with certainty.
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 application stability can be
factors affecting user acceptance of the new feature.
- 2.4.1: [Priority 2]
Ensure that the highest-priority accessible authoring practices are the most
visible and easily initiated by the author. Highlight the most accessible
solutions when presenting choices for the author.
If there is more than one option for the author, and one option is more
accessible than another, place the more accessible option first and make it
the default. For example, when requesting alternative content for an image,
offer an unchecked option for empty alternative (i.e., alt="", implying the
image has no real function) with the cursor positioned in the text entry for
an "alt" value, rather than offering the filename as a default suggestion,
with the null "alt" value selected.
- 2.4.2: [Priority 1]
Make generation of accessible content a naturally integrated part of the
Ensure that accessible authoring practices can be easily accessed by the
author in a natural, intuitive fashion
Include considerations for accessibility - such as the "alt" and "longdesc"
attributes of the IMG element - right below the "src" attribute in a dialogue
box, not buried behind an "Advanced..." button.
Allow efficient and fast access to accessibility-related settings with as few
steps as possible needed to make any changes that will generate accessible
Do not set accessibility features off to the side as some optional "module";
rather, make them a part of the core operation of the authoring tool.
The "factory settings" default configuration for the authoring tool should
favor accessible solutions "out of the box", for the benefit of newer users.
A help page that describes how to make an image map should include adding
alternative content for each AREA in the MAP as part of the process. Any
examples of code should give either block content with text links, or AREA
elements that all have relevant ALT attribute values.
When a user creates a frameset, suggest the main content page and a navigation
bar as the content for NOFRAMES.
Many applications feature the ability to convert documents from other
formats (e.g., Rich Text Format) into a markup format, such as HTML. Markup
changes may also be made to facilitate efficient editing and manipulation.
These processes are usually hidden from the user's view and may create
inaccessible content or cause inaccessible content to be produced.
- 2.5.1: [Priority 1]
The tool must recognize accessibility markup for any language or format that
it imports or converts.
- 2.5.2: [Priority 1]
Never remove markup supported by the tool that is known to promote
- 2.5.3: [Priority 2]
When removing unrecognized markup, alert the author (according to a
Provide a summary of all automated structural changes that may affect
Do not change the DTD without notifying the author.
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 may automatically identify inaccessible
content, and enable its correction even when the markup itself is hidden from
In supporting the creation of accessible Web content, authoring tools must
take into account the differing authoring styles of their users. Some users
may prefer to be alerted to problems when they occur, whereas others may
prefer to perform a check after the document is completed. This is analogous
to programming environments that allow users to decide whether to check for
correct code during editing or at compile time.
- 2.6.1: [Priority 1]
Check for and alert the author of accessibility and validity problems.
- 2.6.2: [Priority 2]
Allow users to control both the nature and timing of accessibility alerts.
Allow users to choose different alert levels based on the priority of
authoring accessibility recommendations.
If interruptive warnings are used, provide a means for the author to quickly
set the warning to non-obtrusive to avoid frustration.
Include alerts for [Web-Content-Priority
1] checkpoints in the default configuration.
Allow authors to control both the nature and timing of the correction process.
- 2.6.3: [Priority 1]
Assist authors in correcting accessibility and validity problems.
- 2.6.4: [Priority 3]
Provide the author with a summary of the accessibility status on a
- 2.6.5: [Priority 3]
Allow the author to perform tag transformations. For example, to transform
visually formatted elements to structure elements, or tables to lists.
Allow the user to define transformations for imported documents which have
presentation, rather than structural, markup.
Include pre-written transformations to rationalize multiple tables, and to
transform (deprecated) presentation HTML into style sheets.
The issues surrounding Web accessibility are often unknown to Web authors.
Help and documentation should explain accessibility problems and solutions,
- 2.7.1: [Priority 1]
Integrate accessible authoring practices in all applicable help topics.
Ensure that accessibility solutions are present in all help text descriptions
of markup practices (e.g., IMG elements should appear with "alt-text" and a
"longdesc" attribute wherever appropriate).
Provide examples of all accessibility solutions in help text, including those
of lower Web-Content-Priority.
Link from help text to any automated correction utilities.
Implement context-sensitive help for all special accessibility terms as well
as tasks related to accessibility.
Link those mechanisms used to identify accessibility problems (e.g., icons,
outlining or other emphasis within the user interface) to help files.
- 2.7.2: [Priority 1]
Explain the use of accessible authoring practices supported by the authoring
Include help documentation for all accessible authoring practices supported by
- 2.7.3: [Priority 1]
Examples must not use inaccessible markup.
- 2.7.4: [Priority 3]
Emphasize the universal benefit of accessible design.
In help text, when explaining the accessibility barriers of non-deprecated
elements, emphasize appropriate solutions rather than explicitly discouraging
the use of the element.
Explain the importance of utilizing accessibility features generally and for
In help text, emphasize accessibility features that benefit multiple groups.
Web authors have a broad range of skills and needs. Guidelines in this
section address the accessibility of the authoring tools to Web authors.
Principles to consider in making the authoring tool accessible to authors
with disabilities relate to three classes of functionality:
The authoring tool is a software program with standard user interface elements
and as such should follow relevant user interface accessibility guidelines.
The authoring tool frequently encompasses the functionality of a user agent or
browser and as such should follow the User Agent
Accessibility Guidelines. [WAI-USERAGENT]
The authoring tool has unique functionality as a Web content editor.
Software can be made accessible by building in a range of options for
displaying information and controlling the application, and by making the tool
compatible with third party assistive technology (e.g., text to speech devices
or alternative keyboards). Although implementation requirements and techniques
vary from platform to platform, the following general principles should be
Use system standards.
Support device independence.
Enable user configurability.
Provide appropriate programmatic interfaces.
The authoring tool is a software program with standard user interface
elements and as such should follow relevant user interface accessibility
- 3.1.1: [Priority 1]
Use operating system and accessibility standards and conventions for the
platform(s) the tool runs on.
Guidelines for specific platforms include
Microsoft accessibility guidelines
IBM accessibility guidelines
Apple accessibility guidelines
Java accessibility guidelines
General guidelines for producing accessible software include:
- 3.1.2: [Priority 1]
Ensure that user agent functionality offered by the tool (e.g., in a preview
mode) conforms to the W3C's User Agent
Accessibility Guidelines. [WAI-USERAGENT]
The author may need a different presentation to edit the Web content than
the one they wish ultimately to be displayed. This implies display preferences
that do not manifest themselves in the ultimate markup or style
- 3.2.1: [Priority 1]
Ensure the rendering used while authoring is independent of styles used for
the published document (e.g., the font size, letter and line spacing, and text
and background color, etc.).
In representing the source structure of a document mark elements with textual
brackets rather than purely graphic representations. For example "</>" is
regarded as a textual bracket, since it is made of character elements.
Allow the user to create audio style sheets using a visual representation
rather than an audio one (with accessible representation, of course).
- 3.2.2: [Priority 1]
Allow the author to display a textual equivalent of content while editing.
For a site management tool, allow the author to display a site map in text
form (e.g., as a structured tree file).
Allow the author to specify that filenames or alternative content are rendered
in place of images or other multimedia content while editing.
- 3.2.3: [Priority 1]
For each element of a document, the properties of that element must be
accessible to the author.
Enable the author to view a document in its "source" mode.
Include attributes / properties of elements in a view of the structure.
Provide access to a list of properties via a "context menu" for each element.
Graphically represented elements cannot be identified by assistive
technologies that translate text to braille, speech, or large print, unless
there is appropriate information available as text. For example, some HTML
authoring tools display start and end tags as graphics.
[Editors' note: The name of this guideline will be revised to reflect
dealing with the structure of a document]
Authoring Web content requires editing a potentially large and complex
document. In order to edit a document the author must be able to locate and
select specific blocks of text, efficiently traverse the document and quickly
find and mark insertion points. Authors who use screen readers, refreshable
braille displays, or screen magnifiers can make limited use (if at all) of
visual artifacts that communicate the structure of the document and act as
sign posts when traversing the document. There are strategies that make it
easier to navigate and manipulate a marked up document . A compressed view of
the document allows the author to both get a good sense of the overall
structure and to navigate that structure more easily.
- 3.3.1: [Priority 1]
Enable navigation and editing via the structure of the document.
Allow the author to navigate via an "outline" or "structure" of the document
being edited. This is particularly important for people who are using a slow
interface such as a small braille device, or speech output, or a single switch
input device. It is equivalent to the ability provided by a mouse interface to
move rapidly around the document.
To minimally satisfy this checkpoint, allow navigation from element to
- 3.3.2: [Priority 2]
Enable editing of the structure of the document.
The Sample Implementations are not Guidelines, they are
Techniques. The section has been included to illustrate how the design
principles embodied in the guidelines sections can be applied to concrete
issues. The specific ideas discussed in this section are meant to be used only
The A-prompt tool ( [APROMPT] ) is an example tool
that allows for checking of many accessibility features in HTML pages, and
incorporates an "alt text registry" to manage alternative content for known
resources. The tool is built in such a way that the functions can be
incorporated into an authoring tool.
[Editors' note: This section has not kept pace with the development of the
guidelines. It will be updated in future drafts.]
"Alt-text" is generally considered the most important aid to accessibility.
For this reason, the issue of "alt-text" has been chosen as the subject for a
- 2.1 Generate standard markup
Implementation: In any content produced, the IMG element is always
properly formed as defined in the HTML4 specification. This means that the
element contains both a "src" attribute and an "alt" attribute.
- 2.2 Support all accessible authoring practices of W3C Recommendations
Implementation: Due to the [Web-Content-Priority 1] recommendation
status of "alt-text" in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, special
attention will be devoted to prompting and guiding the user toward full "alt"
- 2.3 Ensure that no accessibility content is missing
Implementation: The authoring tool is shipped with many ready-to-use
clip art and other images. For each of these images a short "alt-text" string
and a longer description have been pre-written and stored in an "alt-text"
- 2.4 Integrate accessibility solutions into the overall "look and feel"
Implementation: At no point do "alt-text" requests appear on
their own or in a non-standard manner. Instead "alt-text" notices and
emphasis appear as integrated and necessary as the "src" attribute.
- 2.5 Preserve existing accessible structure or content
Implementation: The authoring tool has the capability of opening and
converting word processor documents into HTML. If an image is encountered
during this process, the user will be prompted for "alt-text". The authoring
tool sometimes makes changes to the HTML it works with to allow more efficient
manipulation. These changes never result in the removal or
modification of "alt-text" entries.
- 2.6 Provide methods of checking and correcting inaccessible content
Implementation: If the user opens content or pastes in markup
containing an IMG element that lacks "alt-text", the author is prompted to add
them (unless they have configured the tool to postpone this task).
- 2.7 Promote accessibility in help and documentation
Implementation: Whenever missing "alt-text" is flagged (anywhere in
the tool suite) the same quick explanation, extended help, and examples are
[Editors' note: This section will be reviewed by the group, and is expected
to be updated in future drafts]
Interface mechanisms such as dialogs, menus, toolbars, and palettes can be
structured so that markup or elements that are accessible are given as the
first and easiest choice.
Prompts can be used to encourage authors to provide information needed to
make the content accessible (such as alternative textual representations).
Prompts are simple requests for information before a markup structure has been
finalized. For example, an "alt-text" entry field prominently displayed in an
image insertion dialog would constitute a prompt. Prompts are relatively
unintrusive and address a problem before it has been committed. However, once
the user has ignored the prompt, its message is unavailable.
Alerts warn the author that there are problems that need to be addressed.
The art of attracting users' attention is a tricky issue. The way in which
users are alerted, prompted, or warned will influence their view of the tool
as well as their opinion of accessible authoring.
- User Configurable Schedule
A user configurable schedule allows the user to determine the type of prompts
and alerts which are used, including when they are presented. For example, a
user may wish to include multiple images without being prompted for
alternative content, and then provide the alternative content in a batch
process, or may wish to be reminded each time they add an image. If the
prompting is done on a user configurable schedule they will be able to make
that decision themselves. This technique allows a tool to suit the needs a
wide range of authors.
- Interruptive Alerts
Interruptive alerts are informative messages that interrupt the edit process
for the user. For example, interruptive alerts are often presented when a
user's action could cause a loss of data. Interruptive alerts allow problems
to be brought to the user's attention immediately. However, users may resent
the constant delays and forced actions. Many people prefer to finish
expressing an idea before returning to edit its format.
- Unintrusive Alerts
Unintrusive alerts are alerts such as icons, underlines, and gentle sounds
that can be presented to the user without necessitating immediate action. for
example, in some word processors misspelled text is highlighted without
forcing the user to make immediate corrections. These alerts allow users to
continue editing with the knowledge that problems will be easy to identify at
a later time. However, users may become annoyed at the extra formatting or may
choose to ignore the alerts altogether.
Prompts are simple requests for information before a markup structure has been
- Alert Tools
Alert tools allow a batch detection process to address all problems at a given
- Authoring Tool
An Authoring Tool is any application that is specifically designed
to aid users in editing markup and presentation language documents. The
editing processes covered by this definition may range from direct hand coding
(with automated syntax support or other markup specific features) to WYSIWYG
editors that do not present the actual underlying markup to the author for
editing. This definition does not include text editors and word
processors that also allow HTML to be hand produced.
- Conversion Tool
A Conversion Tool is any application or application feature that
allows content in some other format (proprietary or not) to be converted
automatically into a particular markup language. This includes software whose
primary function is to convert documents to a particular markup language as
well as "save as HTML" (or other markup language) features in non-markup
- Generation Tool
A Generation Tool is a program or script that produces automatic
markup "on the fly" by following a template or set of rules. The generation
may be performed on either the server or client side.
- Site Management Tool
A tool that provides an overview of an entire Web site indicating hierarchical
structure. It will facilitate management through functions that may include
automatic index creation, automatic link updating, and broken link checking.
- Publishing Tool
A tool that allows content to be uploaded in an integrated fashion. Sometimes
these tools makes changes such as local hyper-reference modifications.
Although these tools sometimes stand alone, they may also be integrated into
site management tools.
- Image Editor
A graphics program that provides a variety of options for altering images of
- Video Editor
A tool that facilitates the process of manipulating video images. Video
editing includes cutting segments (trimming), re-sequencing clips, and adding
transitions and other special effects.
- Multi-media Authoring Tool
Software that facilitates integration of diverse media elements into an
comprehensive presentation format. May incorporate video, audio, images,
animations, simulations, and other interactive components.
- Automated Markup Insertion Function
Automated markup insertion functions are the features of an authoring tool
that allow the user to produce markup without directly typing it. This
includes a wide range of tools from simple markup insertion aids (such as a
bold button on a toolbar) to markup managers (such as table makers that
include powerful tools such as "split cells" that can make multiple changes)
to high level site building wizards that produce almost complete documents on
the basis of a series of user preferences.
A document is a series of elements that are defined by a language
(e.g., HTML 4.0 or an XML application).
An element is any identifiable object within a document, for example a
character, word, image, paragraph or spreadsheet cell. In HTML and XML an
element refers to a pair of tags and their content, or an "empty" tag - one
which has no closing tag or content.
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 name of the element
(e.g., IMG or DL), the values of its attributes, and information associated by
means of a stylesheet. In a database, properties of a particular element may
include values of the entry, and acceptable data types for that element.
in XML and HTML, an element may have any number of attributes. In the
following example, the attributes of the beverage element are flavour, which
has the value "lots", and colour, which has the value "red": <beverage
flavour="lots" colour="red">my favorite</beverage> Some attributes are
integral to document accessibility (e.g., the "alt", "title", and "longdesc"
attributes in HTML
- Rendered Content
The rendered content is that which an element actually causes to be
rendered by the user agent. This may differ from the element's structural
content. For example, some elements cause external data to be rendered (e.g.,
the IMG element in HTML), and in some cases, browsers may render the value of
an attribute (e.g., "alt", "title") in place of the element's content.
- Accessibility Awareness
The term accessibility awareness is used to describe an application that has
been designed to maximize the ease of use of the interface and its products
for people with differing needs, abilities and technologies. In the case of
authoring tools, this means that (1) care has been taken to ensure that the
content produced by user-authors is accessible and (2) that the user interface
has been designed to be usable with a variety of display and control
- Inaccessible Markup, Inaccessible
Element, Inaccessible Attribute, Inaccessible Authoring Practice and Access
All these terms are used in the context of inaccessibility as defined by the
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
- Accessibility Solution,
Accessible Authoring Practice
These terms refer to markup checkpoints than can be used to eliminate or
reduce accessibility problems as they are defined above.
- Alternative Textual Representations
Certain types of content may not be accessible to all users (e.g., images), so
authoring tools must ensure that alternative
textual representations ("Alt-text") of information is available to
the user. Alternative text can come from element content (e.g., the OBJECT
element) or attributes (e.g., "alt" or "title").
- Description Link (D-link)
A description link, or D-Link, is an author-supplied link to
additional information about a piece of content that might otherwise be
difficult to access (image, applet, video, etc.).
A transcript is a line by line record of all dialog and action within a video
or audio clip.
- Video Captions
A video caption is a textual message that is stored in the text track of a
video file. The video caption describes the action and dialog for the scene in
which it is displayed.
- Inserting an element
Inserting an element involves placing that element's markup within
the markup of the file. This applies to all insertions, including, but not
limited to, direct coding in a text editing mode, choosing an automated
insertion from a pull-down menu or tool bar button, "drag-and-drop" style
insertions, or "paste" operations.
- Editing an element
Editing an element involves making changes to one or more of an
element's attributes or properties. This applies to all editing, including,
but not limited to, direct coding in a text editing mode, making changes to a
property dialog or direct User Interface manipulation.
An authoring tool may offer several views of the same document. For
instance, one view may show raw markup, a second may show a structured tree
view, 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
A selection is a set of elements identified for a particular
operation. The user selection identifies a set of elements for certain types
of user interaction (e.g., cut, copy, and paste operations). The user
selection may be established by the user (e.g., by a pointing device or the
keyboard) or via an accessibility Application Programmatic Interface (API). A
view may have several selections, but only one user selection.
- Current User Selection
When several views co-exist, each may have a user selection, but only one is
active, called the current user selection. The selections may be
rendered specially (e.g., visually highlighted).
The focus designates the active element (e.g., link, form control,
element with associated scripts, etc.) in a view that will react when the user
next interacts with the document.
Many thanks to the following people who have contributed through review and
comment: Jim Allan, Kynn Bartlett, Harvey Bingham, Judy Brewer, Carl Brown,
Wendy Chisholm, Rob Cumming, Daniel Dardailler, Mark Day, BK Delong, Jamie
Fox, Sylvain Galineau, Phill Jenkins, William Loughborough, Charles Oppermann,
Dave Pawson, Bruce Roberts, Gregory Rosmaita, Jim Thatcher, Irène
Vatton, Gregg Vanderheiden and Lauren Wood.
If you have contributed to the AU guidelines and your name does not appear
please contact the editors to add your name to the list.
- [Access Aware Authoring Tools]
"The Three-tions of Accessibility-Aware HTML Authoring Tools", J. Richards.
A-prompt tool is a freely available example tool developed by the Adaptive
Technology Resource Center at the University of Toronto, and the TRACE center
at the University of Wisconsin. The source code for the tool is also
"CSS, level 1 Recommendation", B. Bos, H. Wium Lie, eds. The CSS1
Recommendation is available at:
"CSS, level 2 Recommendation", B. Bos, H. Wium Lie, C. Lilley, and I. Jacobs,
eds. The CSS2 Recommendation is available at:
"WAI Resources: CSS2 Accessibility Improvements", I. Jacobs and J. Brewer,
eds. This document, which describes accessibility features in CSS2, is
"HTML 4.0 Recommendation", D. Raggett, A. Le Hors, and I. Jacobs, eds. The
HTML 4.0 Recommendation is available at:
"WAI Resources: HTML 4.0 Accessibility Improvements", I. Jacobs, J. Brewer,
and D. Dardailler, eds. This document, which describes accessibility features
in HTML 4.0, is available at:
"A Comparison of Schemas for Dublin Core-based Video Metadata Representation",
J Hunter. Available at:
"W3C Technical Reports and Publications" The latest versions of W3C
Recomendations are available at:
"User Agent Accessibility Guidelines", J. Gunderson and I. Jacobs, eds. These
guidelines for designing accessible user agents are available at:
"Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0",
W. Chisholm, G. Vanderheiden, and I.
Jacobs, eds. These guidelines for designing accessible documents are available
defined by [WAI-WEBCONTENT].
"Techniques for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines", W. Chisholm, G.
Vanderheiden, and I. Jacobs, eds. These techniques for designing accessible
documents are available at: