What Is ATAG?

With the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) rapidly gaining importance all over the world, there is growing awareness among governments and private entities in this space.

However, what about the tools that web developers, designers, writers, and other authors use to create websites? How accessible are they? Do they encourage and support creators towards building accessible sites?

“It’s critical that these tools facilitate the creation of valid, standards-compliant sites rather than merely allowing highly sophisticated users to create such sites with extra effort,” said Jeffrey Zeldman, co-founder of A List Apart Magazine and group leader for The Web Standards Project (WaSP), an organization that promotes the use of web standards.

Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) is a set of guidelines and standards for the authoring tools that web developers, designers, writers, and other authors use to create websites. The objectives of ATAG are to:

  • Make the tools and software used by authors accessible. This will ensure that people with disabilities are able to create accessible websites independently.
  • Help web developers, designers, writers, and other authors create web content that is accessible by default.
  • Provide the necessary support systems and encouragement to authors, so they create accessible content.

Who is ATAG Meant For?

ATAG audiences can include developers of authoring tools, authors, buyers of authoring tools, and policy makers.

What Are the Tools Included as Part of ATAG?

The following types of authoring tools are included as part of ATAG:

  • Software used to create websites
  • Web page authoring tools, such as HTML editors
  • Tools that can export content for use on the Web
  • Software used to create multimedia files
  • Content management systems
  • Learning management systems
  • Websites that empower users to create their own content, such as social media sites, forums, blogs, photo sharing sites, and so on

How did ATAG Evolve?

ATAG 1.0 was first produced by the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines Working Group in 2000. This group is responsible for developing techniques, supporting resources, and guidelines for tools that are used to create web content. This working group comprises experts in accessibility, organizations that develop authoring tools, and researchers.

ATAG 2.0 was implemented in 2015. This included documentation with added explanation, resource, and examples. On September 24, 2015, ATAG 2.0 became a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) recommendation.

The Criticality of Accessible Authoring Tools

Unlike other global standards and guidelines, ATAG 2.0 focuses on the development of authoring tools. It becomes extremely important to ensure that accessible authoring is seamlessly blended along with the other features of the authoring tool. This has a few benefits:

  • Ease of use for the authors through seamless blending of features
  • Capitalizing on the skills of the authors
  • Reduced scope for confusion

 

“Though these authoring tools are used by pros, they’re also used by tens of thousands of people who ‘double’ as their organization’s web developer in addition to doing their real job as a marketing person, secretary, graphic designer, and so on,” said Zeldman.

Vendors of web development software are uniquely positioned to spread awareness about web standards. By designing tools that generate compliant code by default, these product vendors will significantly contribute towards web accessibility.