Authoring tools, which include HTML editors and site management tools, automate Web building tasks, eliminating the need to hand-code most Web features and functions. The tools, which also can help developers cope with the discrepancies between the various browsers and browser versions, have become a dominant method of Web development among personal and corporate Web sites.
The W3C's guidelines come as the consortium and the Web at large struggle with the issue of how to provide Web content that people with various visual and aural disabilities can access. For this purpose, the W3C maintains a separate division called the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).
Efforts to promote Web accessibility for the disabled have reached the world's largest online service provider, America Online, through the courts. In November, advocates for the blind sued AOL for not providing access to the blind through its software.
The ATAG recommendation provides guidelines on how authoring tools can prompt users to make their sites more accessible. Consisting of 28 "checkpoints," or requirements organized within seven design guidelines, the recommendation also shows how authoring tool distributors can make their own tools useful to disabled people.
Members of the W3C WAI Authoring Tools Guidelines Working Group, which hammered out the recommendation, include the HTML Writers Guild, Microsoft, IBM, Lotus and the University of Toronto.
The W3C released its Web Content Accessibility Guidelines recommendation in May.