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WAI: Strategies, guidelines, resources to make the Web accessible to people with disabilities

[DRAFT] How WAI Develops Accessibility Guidelines through the W3C Process:
Milestones and Opportunities to Contribute

The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) develops Web accessibility guidelines, technical reports, and educational resources to help make the Web accessible to people with disabilities. This document introduces how WAI works through a process designed to:

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) develops Web standards such as HTML, XML, CSS, etc. WAI is part of W3C and follows the W3C Process for developing Web standards.

W3C's Web standards are called W3C Recommendations. WAI has developed the following W3C Recommendations:

[WAI Accessibility Guidelines] are [W3C Recommendations] are [Web Standards]

WAI is currently working on advanced versions of guidelines and other technical reports. The milestones that a technical report goes through on its way to becoming a W3C Recommendation are listed below.

  1. 3 documents with light gray empty text blocks and light blue edgesWorking Draft: Working Drafts are published and announced specifically to ask for review and input from the community. Often there are issues that a Working Group would particularly like input on. Usually multiple Working Drafts of a technical report are published; for example, there were several WCAG 2.0 Working Drafts announced before Last Call.
  2. document with medium gray text and medium blue edgeLast Call Working Draft: When a Working Group believes it has addressed all comments and technical requirements, it announces a Last Call and provides the complete document for community review. For example, see the WCAG 2.0 Last Call Announcement and Extention e-mail. After the Last Call comment period, it can take weeks or months for a Working Group to formally address all comments, document the resolutions, and make necessary changes. If there are substantive changes, the Working Group goes through another Last Call Working Draft before moving to the next stage.
  3. document with dark gray text, dark blue edge, and person typing on computerCandidate Recommendation: The main purpose of Candidate Recommendation is to ensure that the technical report can be implemented. W3C encourages developers to use the technical report in their projects. The technical report is stable at this stage; however, it may change based on implementation experience.
  4. document with black text, dark blue edge, and person speaking bubble with a green check markProposed Recommendation: After there are implementations of each feature of the technical report, W3C announces it as a Proposed Recommendation. The purpose of this stage is for W3C to gather endorsements of the stable technical report.
  5. document with black text, dark blue edge, and gold seal with blue ribbonsW3C Recommendation (Web Standard): Once there is significant support for the technical report from the W3C Members, the W3C Director, and the public, it is published as a Recommendation. W3C encourages widespread deployment of its Recommendations.

That was a simplified description of the process. For the definitive version, see the W3C Process Document, Section 7: W3C Technical Report Development Process.

WAI also develops documents that support the guidelines and do not go through the process described above.

WAI's W3C Recommendations, Working Group Notes, and Resources are developed in WAI Working Groups with input from the community. WAI actively encourages broad participation from industry, disability organizations, accessibility researchers, government, and others interested in Web accessibility. Participating in WAI describes ways that you can contribute to WAI's accessibility work, including reviewing and commenting on WAI guidelines and technical reports as they are being developed.

The best time to comment on technical reports is when WAI announces Working Drafts for review. Please send your comments early in the process, when the Working Group can most effectively address them in the developing technical report. Technical comments sent after the Last Call review period have less weight, and a Working Group might not be able to make substantive changes late in the process. The W3C Process Document provides more information on Reviews and Review Responsibilities.

To get WAI announcements, you can subscribe to the following:

The review announcements tell you the review period dates and where to send comments.