Requirements for Silver

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The Requirements for Silver document is the next phase in the development of the next major upgrade to accessibility guidelines that will be the successor to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2 series. The Silver Task Force of the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group and the W3C Silver Community group have partnered to incubate the needs, requirements, and structure for the new accessibility guidance. To date, the group has:

  1. Researched accessibility guidance needs
  2. Developed problem statements and opportunities to improve accessibility guidance
  3. Received input from industry leaders for directions to proceed
  4. Drafted these high-level requirements for the next phase of the project, the prototyping and public input.

Status of This Document

This specification was published by the Silver Community Group. It is not a W3C Standard nor is it on the W3C Standards Track. Please note that under the W3C Community Contributor License Agreement (CLA) there is a limited opt-out and other conditions apply. Learn more about W3C Community and Business Groups.

The Requirements for Silver is published as a joint effort of the Silver Task Force of the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group and of the W3C Silver Community Group. It is a work in progress, and comments are welcome as Github Issues or by email.

This is the second phase of the Requirements developed during Q1 2019 after months of protoyping work. We anticipate one additional phase in Q3-Q4 2019 after months of evaluating how well actual content can be developed for Silver.

If you wish to make comments regarding this document, please send them to (subscribe, archives).

1. Introduction

People with disabilities can face problems using online content and applications. Disabilities can be permanent, temporary, or recurring limitations.

We need guidelines to:

The research done in 2017-2018 by the Silver Task Force, the Silver Community Group, and the research partners was used to identify the key problem statements related to the current accessibility guidelines (WCAG 2.x, ATAG 2.0 and UAAG 2.0). See the Silver Research Summary slides for more detailed information. These problem statements were used to identify the opportunities for Silver to address that will improve accessibility guidance.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 were designed to be technology neutral, and has stayed relevant for over 10 years. The Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) 2.0 has been implemented in the open source authoring tool communities (chiefly Wordpress and Drupal) with little known uptake in commercial authoring tools. UAAG 2.0 offers useful guidance to user agent developers and has been implemented on an individual success criterion basis. There is no known user agent that has implemented all of UAAG 2.0.

During the year of Silver research, a recurring theme was the popularity and quality of the guidance in WCAG 2.0. Most of the opportunities identified in the research were improvements in the structure and presentation accessibility guidance to improve usability, to support more disability needs, and to improve maintenance.

1.1 Scope

Silver will have a broader scope than WCAG 2.0 and 2.1. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are scoped to Web and to Content. Silver is being designed to be able to include:

The current project design does not intend to write separate specifications or normative requirements for the technology stack beyond digital content. The goal is to provide information that technology venders can choose to use to improve the accessibility of their products to support the guidelines.

1.2 Comparison to WCAG 2.x Requirements

Silver builds on the WCAG 2.0 Requirements of 2006. The WCAG 2.0 requirements are:

  1. Ensure that requirements may be applied across technologies
  2. Ensure that the conformance requirements are clear
  3. Design deliverables with ease of use in mind
  4. Write to a more diverse audience
  5. Clearly identify who benefits from accessible content
  6. Ensure that the revision is "backwards and forward compatible"

Silver wishes to advance the WCAG 2.0 Requirements of:

  1. applied across technologies
  2. clear conformance
  3. ease of use
  4. diverse audience
  5. identify who benefits

Silver does not want to advance the WCAG 2.0 requirement: "Ensure that the revision is 'backwards and forward compatible'" . The intention is to include WCAG 2.x content, but migrate it to a different structure and conformance model.

The WCAG 2.1 Requirements are very specific to WCAG 2.1 and will not be advanced by Silver. Silver plans to migrate the content of WCAG 2.1 to Silver, but the WCAG 2.1 Requirements document referred to structural requirements which are specific to WCAG 2.x.

The WCAG 2.1 Requirements are:

  1. Define a clear conformance model for WCAG 2.1/dot.x releases
  2. Ensure the conformance structure utilizes the WCAG 2.0 A / AA / AAA model

1.3 Opportunities for Silver

The Problem Statements describe areas identified during the Silver research in 2017-2018 that can be addressed in the new guidelines. Each problem statement also has an opportunity section that is the basis for the Silver Requirements.

1.3.1 Usability

  • Readable: When guidelines are easier to read and understand, users – especially people in the development cycle who are less technical – are more likely to implement accessibility. When all audiences are considered in the language and terminology used in the guidelines, the likelihood increases that they will:
    • reach a larger audience
    • be better understood
    • be easier to translate
    • be interpreted as easier to implement
  • On-ramp for Beginners: When beginning users can develop understanding and mastery of the accessibility guidance, this leads to faster and greater acceptance of accessibility. This also creates the opportunity to convince developers and project managers to include accessibility at the beginning of a project instead of the end.
  • Current and Future Technology Oriented: Eliminating underlying assumptions and structure that are oriented toward the historic static web and improving guidance for modern web applications can increase acceptance by developers and provide greater accessibility of web and native applications.
  • Advocacy Tool: Usability oriented toward a broad audience for Silver can help improve the general advocacy of digital accessibility. Improving the reach of Silver can help improve the awareness of accessibility considerations. Compelling information that is contextually relevant to the standards may also aid in convincing audiences of any type.

1.3.2 Conformance Model

There are several areas for exploration in how conformance can work. These opportunities may or may not be incorporated. Then need to work together, and that interplay will be governed by the design principles

  • Measurable Guidance: Certain accessibility guidance is quite clear and measurable. Others, far less so. There are needs of people with disabilities, especially cognitive and low vision disabilities that are not well served by guidance that can only be measured by pass/fail statement. Multiple means of measurement, in addition to pass/fail statements, allow inclusion of more accessibility guidance.
  • Task-Based Assessment: Moving away from strictly web pages and web sites as a collection of web pages, Silver could set the scope of conformance as a comprehensive set of tasks as defined by the author of the site or application. A properly marked up button doesn't help anything if the user can’t complete the task at hand. Task-based assessment allows flexibility for conformance of complex applications that are not conducive to component/tag assessment or full-page assessment.
  • Accessibility Supported: As the technologies evolve, the interoperability of content, user agents, and assistive technology will continue to blur. Interoperability may be affected by any number of factors outside of the control of the author and publisher of digital content. Silver can include advice to user agents and assistive technology developers. Authors are not responsible for interoperability problems beyond a reasonable effort.

1.3.3 Maintenance

  • Flexibility: A flexible structure enables greater scaling of new methods to meet guidelines. It also allows for the expiration of outdated methods to meet guidelines. A flexible process of updating methods enables the overall guidance to keep pace with technology. Flexible participation – particularly of people with disabilities – empowers a community and enables more inclusive insights.
  • Scaling: We intend Silver to apply to multiple contexts and multiple use cases. Silver intends to be iterative, future-friendly, and user-centric.
  • Evolving Technology: Silver needs a flexible design that can be updated as new technologies emerge, assistive technologies improve, and changing technologies produce new barriers for people with disabilities. Accessibility guidance and all supporting documentation should anticipate common scenarios like new technology and the introduction of new modalities like surface reaction and ultrahaptics. As content technology evolves, it must be re-evaluated against assistive technology for compatibility. Likewise, as assistive technology evolves or emerges, it must be evaluated against the backward compatibility of various content technology.
  • Governance: Utilize tools that allow interested parties to predict when issues important to them are being discussed. Maintain a backlog that reflects issues along with their status.

1.4 Design Principles and Requirements

This document has two sections: a Design Principles section and a Requirements section. Requirements need to be measured or clearly demonstrated. They are used at the W3C phase of Candidate Recommendation, where the Candidate Recommendation Transition Request reports that the requirements were met. Design Principles are important statements that are less measurable, but are used to guide, shape and steer decision-making during the development process of Silver. Both are essential in guiding the development of the Silver project.

2. Design Principles

The Silver Design Principles are based on the requirements of WCAG 2.0 and build on those requirements to meet needs identified in the Silver research.

Accessibility guidelines should:

  1. Support the needs of a wide range of people with disabilities and recognize that people have individual and multiple needs.
  2. Support a measurement and conformance structure that includes guidance for a broad range of disabilities. This includes particular attention to the needs of low vision and cognitive accessibility, whose needs don't tend to fit the true/false statement success criteria of WCAG 2.x.
  3. Be flexible enough to support the needs of people with disabilities and keep up with emerging technologies. The information structure allows guidance to be added or removed.
  4. Be accessible and conform to the Guidelines. Note: This design principle will move to the Requirements section once the Conformance section is completed and we determine a specific measurement of compliance.
  5. Be written in plain language, as easy as possible to understand. We need a definition of plain language that includes the ease of translation. Ideally, it will be a broadly accepted definition internationally.
  6. Improve the ability to support automated testing where appropriate and provide a procedure for repeatable tests when manual testing is appropriate.

The creation process for the guidelines should:

  1. Actively recruit a diverse range of people with disabilities in recognition of the importance of their contributions to accessibility standards and solutions. Review and monitor whether people are included. Continually evaluate inclusive features of available tooling and procedures.
  2. Facilitate global participation and feedback.
  3. Be data-informed and evidence-based where possible. We recognize that research and evidence are influenced by the number of people with a particular disability, by the size of the body of research, and by the difficulty in capturing data regarding some disabilities or combination of disabilities. The intent is to make informed decisions wherever possible to ensure that the needs of all people with disabilities are prioritized, including needs that differ from the majority. In situations where there is no evidence or research, valid data-gathering methods should be used to obtain and evaluate information from advocacy groups, people with lived experience and other subject matter experts.
  4. Be written so the Guideline content is usable in adaptable and customizable ways. For example, Silver content is available to be extracted by users to adapt to itheir needs.

3. Requirements

Previous W3C Accessibility Guidelines described how to make web pages accessible to people with disabilities. These guidelines provided a flexible framework that has kept the guidelines relevant for 10 years. Changing technology and changing needs of people with disabilities has shown areas where they could be improved. The requirements are drawn from the research performed by Silver to improve the guidelines, and the suggestions from the Silver Design Sprint.

The Silver Requirements are high level and will be expanded and refined as Silver members move through the prototyping process.

3.1 Multiple ways to measure

All Silver guidance has tests or procedures so that the results can be verified. In addition to the current true/false success criteria, other ways of measuring (for example, rubrics, sliding scale, task-completion, user research with people with disabilities, and more) can be used where appropriate so that more needs of people with disabilities can be included.

3.2 Flexible maintenance and extensibility

Create a maintenance and extensibility model for guidelines that can better meet the needs of people with disabilities using emerging technologies and interactions. The process of developing the guidance includes experts in the technology.

3.3 Multiple ways to display

Make the guidelines available in different accessible and usable ways or formats so the guidance can be customized by and for different audiences.

3.4 Technology Neutral

Guidance should be expressed in generic terms so that they may apply to more than one platform or technology. The intent of technology-neutral wording is to provide the opportunity to apply the core guidelines to current and emerging technology, even if specific technical advice doesn't yet exist.

3.5 Readability/Usability

The core guidelines are understandable by a non-technical audience. Text and presentation are usable and understandable through the use of plain language, structure, and design.

3.6 Regulatory Environment

The Guidelines provide broad support, including

3.7 Motivation

The Guidelines motivate organizations to go beyond minimal accessibility requirements by providing a scoring system that rewards organizations which demonstrate a greater effort to improve accessibility.

3.8 Scope

The guidelines provide guidance for people and organizations that produce digital assets and technology of varying size and complexity. Our intent is to provide guidance for a diverse group of stakeholders including content creators, browsers, authoring tools, assistive technologies, and more.

A. Change Log

A.1 Changes Prior to First Public Working Draft

Changes Prior to Second Version of Requirements

B. Acknowledgments

B.1 Participants in the Silver Task Force Active in the Development of This Document

B.2 Participants in the Silver Community Group Active in the Development of This Document

B.3 Participants in the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group Active in the Development of This Document

B.4 Participants in the Silver Design Sprint

The following people participated in the Design Sprint of 2018 held in San Diego, California prior to the CSUN AT 2018 conference. We thank them for the generous gift of time that they donated to the Silver project.

B.5 Contributions to the Silver Design Sprint

B.6 Research Partners

These researchers selected a Silver research question, did the research, and graciously allowed us to use the results.