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.
Guideline 2.1 is identified by the working group as a specific area for
review in this draft, although comment is sought on the entire guidelines and
This draft is published for review by the WAI Interest Group. Following
working group consideration of that review, this draft will be published as a
public working draft. A log of
changes between successive working drafts is available.
The Techniques given in the linked "Techniques" document are intended to be
informative only. They will not be present in the "normative" version,
although there will still be a link to the Techniques document. This will
enable them to be updated more easily than the Guidelines themselves.
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: email@example.com, archived at http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/w3c-wai-au
A list of the current AU Working
Group members is available.
The various authoring tools used to generate Web content play a critical
role in determining the form and accessibility of the Web. 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. It is imperative that authoring tools
generate content that is accessible, and that they are accessible themselves,
to allow people to be consumers and producers of Web content on an equal
footing, regardless of disability.
The accessibility of authoring tools encompasses some general principles of
software accessibility, and some features that are specific requirements for
authoring. The accessibility of the content produced depends on the ability of
the tool to be used in producing accessible markup, and on the user interface
of the tool enabling, informing, and encouraging the use of accessible markup
authoring practices. These Guidelines refer extensively to the Web Content
Accessibility Guidelines, that details accessibility requirements for markup
itself, and include checkpoints that are basic requirements for the
accessibility of the tool and its output. In addition, there are guidelines
and checkpoints that are uniquely relevant to the role authoring tools play in
guiding the author to produce accessible content.
These guidelines are intended to
be used by developers of all tools used to produce content for the Web. These
Editing tools specifically designed to produce Web content (e.g., WYSIWYG HTML editors, SMIL
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 example of, or further information about implementation of a
checkpoint. A technique answers the question "How might I implement that in an
There are three goals:
The authoring tool is accessible
The authoring tool generates accessible content
The authoring tool encourages the creation of accessible content
Checkpoints are assigned priority according to how important they are to
meeting those goals:
- [Priority 1]
Essential to meeting those goals
- [Priority 2]
Important to meeting those goals
- [Priority 3]
Beneficial to meeting those goals
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 1.0 (working
The guidelines' URI: http://www.w3.org/WAI/AU/WAI-AUTOOLS-19990621
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 1.0 (working draft)", available at http://www.w3.org/WAI/AU/WAI-AUTOOLS-19990621,
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 1.0
(working draft)", together with a stable URI to the W3C Web site for linking
the icons to the W3C explanation of conformance claims.]
The authoring tool is a software program with standard user interface
elements and as such should follow relevant user interface accessibility
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
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.
- 1.1 Use all applicable
operating system and accessibility standards and conventions. [Priority 1]
- 1.2 Allow the author to change the
editing view without changing the
presentational markup defined for the document currently being edited. [Priority 1]
- 1.3 Allow the author to display an
editable equivalent for each element, object, and property that is available
for editing. [Priority 1]
- 1.4 Enable navigation and editing
via the structure of the document. [Priority 1]
- 1.5 Enable editing of the structure of
the document. [Priority 2]
The first step towards producing accessible content is conformance with
standards, which promotes interoperability.
- 2.1 Use applicable W3C Recommendations.
- 2.2 Extensions to W3C
Recommendations must not make content inaccessible. [Priority 1]
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.
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.
- 3.1 Implement all accessible
authoring practices that have been defined for the markup language(s)
supported by the tool. [Priority 1]
- 3.2 Produce content that
conforms to the W3C's Web
Content Accessibility Guidelines [WAI-WEBCONTENT]. [Priority 1 for level-A
conformance, Priority 2 for double-A conformance, Priority 3 for triple-A
- 3.3 Ensure that templates to
be inserted in the document conform to W3C Web Content Accessibility
Guidelines [WAI-WEBCONTENT]. [Priority 1 for level-A conformance, Priority
2 for double-A conformance, Priority 3 for triple-A conformance]
- 3.4 Preserve all accessibility
content during transformations and conversions. [Priority 1]
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
- 4.1 Prompt the author to provide
alternative content (e.g., captions, descriptive video). (Priority 1 for
alternative content that is [Web-Content-Priority-1],
Priority 2 for alternative content that is [Web-Content-Priority-2],
Priority 3 for alternative content that is [Web-Content-Priority-3])
- 4.2 Prompt the author for
all missing structural information (e.g., language changes, table headers).
(Priority 1 for structural information that is [Web-Content-Priority-1],
Priority 2 for structural information that is [Web-Content-Priority-2],
Priority 3 for structural information that is [Web-Content-Priority-3])
- 4.3 Allow the author to edit all
alternative content and structural information. [Priority 1]
- 4.4 Provide pre-written alternative
content for all multimedia files packaged with the authoring tool. [Priority 2]
- 4.5 Provide a mechanism to manage
alternative content for multimedia objects, that retains and offers for
editing pre-written or previously linked alternative content. [Priority 3]
- 4.6 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. [Priority 1]
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.
- 5.1 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. [Priority 2]
- 5.2 Make generation of accessible
content a naturally integrated part of the authoring process. [Priority 1]
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.
Note that validity is an accessibility requirement, particularly for
- 6.1 Check for and alert the author
to accessibility problems. (Priority 1 for accessibility problems that are [Web-Content-Priority-1],
Priority 2 for accessibility problems that are [Web-Content-Priority-2],
Priority 3 for accessibility problems that are [Web-Content-Priority-3])
- 6.2 Allow users to control both the
nature and timing of accessibility alerts. [Priority 2]
- 6.3 Assist authors in
correcting accessibility problems. (Priority 1 for accessibility problems that
Priority 2 for accessibility problems that are [Web-Content-Priority-2],
Priority 3 for accessibility problems that are [Web-Content-Priority-3])
- 6.4 When removing unrecognized markup,
alert the author (according to a configurable schedule). [Priority 2]
- 6.5 Provide the author with a
summary of the document accessibility status on a configurable schedule. [Priority 3]
- 6.6 Allow the author to perform
tag transformations. [Priority 3]
For example, to transform visually formatted elements to structure elements,
or tables to lists.
The issues surrounding Web accessibility are often unknown to Web authors.
Help and documentation should explain accessibility problems and solutions,
- 7.1 Integrate accessible
authoring practices in all applicable help topics. [Priority 1]
- 7.2 Explain the accessible authoring
practices supported by the authoring tool. [Priority 1]
- 7.3 Do not use inaccessible markup
in examples. [Priority 1]
- 7.4 Emphasize the
universal benefit of accessible design. [Priority 3]
[Editors' note: This section will be reviewed by the group, and is expected
to be updated in future drafts]
- User Configurable Schedule
A user configurable schedule allows the user to determine the type of prompts
and alerts that are used, including when they are presented.
Prompts are requests for user input, either information or a decision. Prompts
require author response.
Alerts notify the author of something, or mark something for the author's
attention. They may or may not require author response.
- Authoring Tool
As used in this document, an Authoring Tool is any software that is
used to generate content for publishing on the Web. See also section 1.3 Scope
of these guidelines.
A process whereby one object is changed, according to a discrete set of rules,
into another, equivalent, object. This includes any application or application
feature that allows content that is marked up in a particular
markup language to be transformed into another markup language, such as
software that allows the author to change the DTD defined for the original
document to another DTD. It also describes the substitution of textual
equivalents for graphical or visually defined elements and objects, and the
conversion from one element type to another within a document.
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
that 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.
- Accessible, Accessibility
Within these guidelines, Accessible and Accessibility are used in the sense of
being accessible to people regardless of disability.
- Accessibility Solution,
Accessible Authoring Practice
These terms refer to Authoring practices that improve the accessibility of
content generated by the tool..
- 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.
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
- Editing view
What is displayed by the authoring tool to the author during the editing
Many thanks to the following people who have contributed through review and
comment: Jim Allan, Denis Anson, Kynn Bartlett, Harvey Bingham, Judy Brewer,
Carl Brown, Dick Brown, Kelly Ford, Wendy Chisholm, Rob Cumming, Daniel
Dardailler, Mark Day, BK Delong, Jamie Fox, Sylvain Galineau, Al Gilman, Eric
Hansen, Phill Jenkins, Len Kasday, Brian Kelly, William Loughborough, Karen
McCall, Charles Oppermann, Dave Pawson, Dave Poehlman, Bruce Roberts, Chris
Ridpath, Gregory Rosmaita, Jim Thatcher, Irène Vatton, Gregg
Vanderheiden, Pawan Vora, Jason White, 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.
"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:
"HTML 4.0 Recommendation", D. Raggett, A. Le Hors, and I. Jacobs, eds. The
HTML 4.0 Recommendation is available at:
"W3C Technical Reports and Publications" The latest versions of W3C
Recomendations are available at:
"Authoring Tool Accessibility Techniques (Working Draft)", J. Treviranus, J.
Richards, I. Jacobs, and C. McCathieNevile eds. The latest working draft of
these techniques is 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
"Techniques for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines", W. Chisholm, G.
Vanderheiden, and I. Jacobs, eds. These techniques for designing accessible
documents are available at:
defined by [WAI-WEBCONTENT].