How W3C checks its specifications for accessibility support: APA review

Author(s) and publish date


The Accessible Platform Architectures (APA) Working Group works to ensure W3C specifications provide support for accessibility to people with disabilities. The group seeks new accessibility and technology experts to help influence a broad set of W3C specifications.

What we do

A primary APA responsibility is the review of W3C Technical Reports for potential benefits or concerns for web accessibility. W3C's wide review process provides opportunity for groups like APA to submit comments to Working Groups developing these documents and work together on ways to better meet accessibility opportunities and mitigate accessibility risks in these technologies.

Many of the specifications that need comments impact the user interface (such as HTML, CSS, and SVG) and may require additional features to ensure content or interaction can be made available to users in alternate forms. While this is the layer where accessibility issues are most often predicted, the APA WG has found a need to review other types of technologies as well. For instance, transmission protocols and interchange APIs need to ensure accessibility-specific information is not omitted from content. Review of requirements and best practices helps to identify ways a technology can benefit accessibility in unexpected ways or to determine the need to perform early engineering of accessibility solutions. Therefore APA looks at every Technical Report that is published.

How we work

About half of the documents we review are quickly determined not to need in-depth review, and about a third of the remainder are found upon review not to need accessibility considerations addressed. The remaining documents go into a more intensive review process which may require developing comments or returning to the specification after the content matures. Sometimes this leads to more extensive projects, which in the past has included creation of joint task forces for media accessibility, web payments accessibility and CSS accessibility which help engineer solutions and have produced documents like Media Accessibility User Requirements. Usually, though, reviews become comments to the developers of specifications. Over the years, APA and other groups have submitted accessibility-related comments on scores of W3C specifications and notes.

Who we need

All of these paths require considerable expertise within the APA WG. Even the half of documents that are only reviewed lightly require people with sufficient understanding of the base technology and of potential accessibility issues to make a determination. The more in-depth reviews can require considerable knowledge of the base technology as well as understanding of potential barriers to people with various types of disabilities, and the ability to work with other groups to engineer solutions. No one person can provide this expertise for the wide range of technologies now under development at W3C, so a quorum of engaged experts is critical to the success of the APA mission.

How to contribute

This is where we say, we need your help. It is a big responsibility to be the first point of contact for accessibility of such a wide-ranging set of specifications that have great impact on so many lives today. Getting involved in this work is a unique opportunity to learn about a wide variety of technologies and to bring your accessibility expertise to bear in creative ways. The APA Working Group brings together a global set of professionals who complement each others' experience to make meaningful impact on the universality of the Web. Participation is open to representatives of W3C Member organizations, and we can invite experts who do not work for those types of organizations. Please consider if you might have a role in ensuring Accessible Platform Architectures for the World Wide Web. See the participation page or contact Janina Sajka for information on how you can get involved, and please come help make the Web accessible!

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