The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) (news, site) has been busy making the web a more accessible place. In focus today is a project dubbed the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) -- it aims to help software vendors make better web content authoring and management tools, including WYSIWYG editors, word processors and web content management systems.

Improving the Tools

The Authoring Tool Accessibility Guideline Working Group has released new working drafts of two documents focused on web development tools and accessibility.

The Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) 2.0 provides guidelines for web content tools that can be used more easily by content authors with disabilities. In addition, the guidelines address how to design tools that enable the creation of accessible web content.

Key items included in the guidance document are:

  • Producing accessible output (that is, Web pages) that meets standards and guidelines
  • Prompting the content author (that is, the authoring tool user) for accessibility-related information
  • Providing ways of checking and correcting inaccessible content
  • Integrating accessibility in the overall "look and feel," help, and documentation
  • Making the authoring tool itself accessible to people with disabilities

The group also released a companion to the ATAG 2.0 documents titled “Implementing ATAG 2.0: A Guide to Understanding and Implementing Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 2.0”, which provides supporting information and examples for the tool accessibility criteria described in ATAG 2.0.

Working drafts of both documents are available for public comment until September 15, 2011.

Refining the Clients

The Authoring Tool Accessibility Guideline Working Group isn’t the only team in the W3C focused on accessibility. The User Agent Accessibility Guidelines Working Group has also been busily updating the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) 2.0.

This document describes the criteria for user agents like browsers and media players to support users with disabilities. Like the tools team, the group also published a supporting document, Implementing UAAG 2.0, which provides additional information like success criteria and examples for implementing the UAAG.

These documents are open for public comment until August 19, 2011.

All of these guidelines are a part of the W3C’s larger Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), which is responsible for defining international standards for web accessibility and support materials to help implement the standards.

Many organizations, especially those in education and government, have requirements that content be accessible. The guidelines may also be of interest to organizations without official accessibility requirements, but wish to deliver their message to the widest audience possible.