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Selecting Authoring Tools for Accessible Web Sites

introduction - vendor queries - software guidelines - product reviews


Note: This document is an initial draft [see change log in progress] and should not be referenced or quoted under any circumstances. This document is under development by the Education and Outreach Working Group (EOWG), and will be offered to other W3C groups and the public for review.

As of the last revision of this document, there is not yet one authoring tool that fully supports production of accessible Web sites. However, some authoring tools are improving their support of accessibility. This document explains how to find those tools.

W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG 1.0) defines what makes a Web site accessible. Another set of guidelines, W3C's Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (ATAG 1.0), explains how to make software that supports the production of accessible Web sites, and that is also usable by people with disabilities.

W3C/WAI receives frequent inquiries regarding recommendations on accessible authoring tools. Since the extent of accessibility in competing products is constantly changing, WAI does not recommend specific products. However, WAI does recommend asking vendors questions about their existing and planned support for authoring accessible Web pages, and carefully considering how to work around the limitations in existing authoring tools.

Checklist for Authoring Tool Selection

ATAG: Guidelines for Authoring Tools

ATAG 1.0 advises authoring tool developers to make sure that their products produce standard mark-up; support the creation of accessible content; provide ways of checking and correcting inaccessible content; promote accessibility in help and documentation; and more. ATAG 1.0 addresses all kinds of authoring tools, including WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) tools, save-as-HTML conversion tools such as word processors, database-generation tools, site management tools, etc. ATAG 1.0 has a companion set of techniques to help software developers implement ATAG 1.0 in their products.

ATAG 1.0 became a W3C Recommendation in February 2000. Software developers are gradually implementing features from ATAG 1.0 in their authoring tools. As of the last revision of this document, no single authoring tool meets all requirements of Level A Conformance to ATAG 1.0; however, some are getting close, and in some cases combinations of authoring tools and plug-ins can be used to develop accessible Web sites.

Product Reviews

The Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AUWG) periodically reviews authoring tools to test their conformance with ATAG 1.0. As of the last revision of this document, most reviews available from the AUWG home page are currently not up-to-date and therefore do not represent the most recent improvements that developers may have made with regard to ATAG conformance. The AUWG is working to update these product reviews on a collaborative basis with developers. Assistance with and/or feedback on reviews is always appreciated.

In some cases developers have information on their own sites which describes the degree of accessibility support in their products. WAI maintains links to accessibility pages for many developers. Developers' accessibility pages may also contain links to plug-ins which can enhance the capability of a specific authoring tool to support the production of accessible Web content.

Last updated 9 January 2002 by Judy Brewer ( with assistance from members of EOWG.

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