Conformance of Macromedia Dreamweaver 4 to W3C's Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0

DATE COMPLETED: February 5, 2001
LAST REVISED: February 5, 2001
EVALUATOR: Jan Richards <>

Introductory Comments and Notes

This evaluation was performed on Macromedia Dreamweaver 4 by Jan Richards between 24 January and February 22, 2001.  Dreamweaver 4 (DW4) is an stand-alone HTML authoring tool for professional Web developers.

This evaluation is a work-in-progress and is currently somewhat limited. In fact, in most cases, only one or two examples are provided to support each compliance judgement. In addition, the completion of this evaluation was undertaken as part of a larger process, the testing of the ATAG guidelines in preparation for revising them to Version 2.0. It is expected that this update will increase the specifity of the requirements in order to minimize the necessity for subjective judgements.

Future revisions will incorporate feedback provided by the general public, members of the Authoring Tool Guidelines Working Group, and the manufacturer of the tool evaluated. This document, therefore, should only be referenced as a work-in-progress.

Overall, Dreamweaver 4 makes some important accessibility advances. However, it does not quite reach Level A compliance.

Conformance Evaluation of Dreamweaver

Guideline 1 (GL1): Support accessible authoring practices

1.1 Ensure that the author can produce accessible content in the markup languages supported by the tool [Priority 1]

Yes. DW4 has an integrated source editing mode. Also, most HTML features are also supported in the WYSIWYG mode or property sheets (but not all - for example longdesc is lacking)

1.2 Ensure that the tool preserves all accessibility content during authoring, transformation, and conversions [Priority 1]

Yes. DW4 appears to preserve accessibility content. For example, when a longdesc attribute was added to an IMG element, it was preserved.

1.3 Ensure that when the tool automatically generates markup it conforms to the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 [Relative Priority]

No. DW4 allows a document to be created by dragging and dropping images and saving without ever prompting for the insertion of an alt attribute (P1 violation). In addition, an automated tool for creating rollover images is included that also does not prompt for alt text. DW4 also automatically generates HTML FONT markup for colors instead of using style sheets (P2 violation).

1.4 Ensure that templates provided by the tool conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 [Relative Priority]

Not Applicable. DW4 does not seem to have any templates included although they can be created later.

Guideline 2 (GL2): Generate Standard Markup

2.1 Use the latest versions of W3C Recommendations when they are available and appropriate for a task [Priority 2]

Yes. DW4 produces HTML 4.0.

2.2: Ensure that the tool automatically generates valid markup [Priority 1]

Yes. DW4 appears to generate valid markup.

2.3 If markup produced by the tool does not conform to W3C specifications, inform the author. [Priority 3]

Yes. DW4 highlights invalid markup in both the WYSIWYG and integrated text editor modes.

GL3: Support the creation of accessible content

3.1 Prompt for the author to provide equivalent alternative information (e.g., captions, auditory descriptions, and collated text transcripts for video). [Relative Priority]

No. Although DW4 does include ahigh priority field for alt text in the properties bar, it does not prompt the user for other required equivalents, such as longdesc or text transcripts. Also, the image properties bar is not displayed when an image is drag and dropped.

3.2 Help the author create structured content and separate information from its presentation.  [Relative Priority]

Yes (Qualified). DW4 does provide support for the proper use headings, style sheets, alt text and other content. However, this answer is qualified since the tool does not usually prompt for alternate equivalents.

3.3 Ensure that prepackaged content conforms to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 [WCAG10]. [Relative Priority]

No. DW4 includes no pre-written alt text for packaged images (P1 violation).

3.4 Do not automatically generate equivalent alternatives. Do not reuse previously authored alternatives without author confirmation, except when the function is known with certainty. [Priority 1]

Yes. DW4 does not automatically generate equivalent alternatives.

3.5 Provide functionality for managing, editing, and reusing alternative equivalents for multimedia objects. [Priority 3]

No. DW4 does not include this facility.

Guideline 4 (GL4): Provide ways of checking and correcting inaccessible content

4.1 Check for and inform the author of accessibility problems [Relative Priority]

No - (Almost P1). Macromedia offers a free extension to DW4 that allows the user to request an automated check of common 15 accessibility problems. In addition, it includes a list of suggested manual checks that encompass most of the Priority 1 checkpoints in WCAG 1.0. Unfortunately, there seem to be no suggested manual check for alternate equivalents besides alt text as required by WCAG 10 (Checkpoint 1.1), such as transcripts for audio, and longdesc for images.

4.2 Assist authors in correcting accessibility problems. [Relative Priority]

No - (Almost P1). The DW4 accessibility checker provides links to the WCAG document for the Priority 1 WCAG 1.0 checkpoints that it detects automatically or suggests manual checks for. However, as with 4.1, there are some P1 problems that DW4 does not suggest manual checks for or provide a link for.

4.3 Allow the author to preserve markup not recognized by the tool [Priority 2]

Yes. DW4 does preserve unrecognized markup.

4.4 Provide the author with a summary of the document's accessibility status [Priority 3]

Yes. The DW4 checker extension does provide something of a summary of the accessibility status, since the errors are grouped together.

4.5 Allow the author to transform presentation markup that is misused to convey structure into structural markup and to transform presentation markup for style into style sheets. [Priority 3]

Yes. This appears to be possible using a combination of the DW4 "find and replace", "clean up HTML", "clean up Word HTML" and a command recorder.

Guideline 5 (GL5): Integrate accessibility solutions into the overall "look and feel"

5.1 Ensure that functionality related to accessible authoring practices is naturally integrated into the overall look and feel of the tool. [Priority 2]

Yes. The DW4 interface is consistent regardless of whether the functionality is related to accessibility or not. In general accessibility does not appear "tacked on", although the accessibility checker could benefit from tighter integration.

5.2 Ensure that accessible authoring practices supporting WCAG 1.0 Priority 1 checkpoints are among the most obvious and easily initiated by the author. [Priority 2]

No. The default method used by DW4 for coloring uses font rather than CSS.

Guideline 6 (GL6): Promote accessibility in help and documentation

6.1 Document all features that promote the production of accessible content. [Priority 1]

Yes. All these features appear to be documented in DW4.

6.2 Ensure that creating accessible content is a naturally integrated part of the documentation, including examples. [Priority 2]

No. For example, the only use of the term noframes in the DW4 help section is in a single, stand-alone page about how to create noframes content. In addition, the help content for inserting images mentions alt in the image properties, but the only example of the image properties bar in action, shows the align drop down covering the alt field.

6.3 In a dedicated section, document all features of the tool that promote the production of accessible content. [Priority 3]

Yes. The accessibility features of DW4 are posted on the Web at:

Guideline 7 (GL7): Ensure that the Authoring Tool is Accessible to Authors with Disabilities

7.1 Use all applicable operating system and accessibility standards and conventions [Relative Priority]

Not Tested.

7.2 Allow the author to change the presentation editing views without affecting the document markup [Priority 1]

Yes. Using the DW4 preferences menu function, it is possible to change many of the editor presentation settings.

7.3 Allow the author to edit all properties of each element and object in an accessible fashion [Priority 1]

Yes. Many of the properties are modifiable through the DW4 menus. It is also possible to move to floating properties bar using the keyboard and change other properties. Also, it is always possible to go to the code view and edit the source directly.

7.4 Ensure that the editing view allows navigation via the structure of the document in an accessible fashion [Priority 1]

Yes. DW4 provides accessible "Select parent tag" and "Select child" functions. Also specific tags may be searched for. Note: Although it is possible to edit a table element by hand in the code view, there appears to be no way to enter/exit a table in the WYSIWYG with the keys except using PgUp and PgDn which are too imprecise for most purposes.

7.5 Enable editing of the structure of the document [Priority 2]

Yes. DW4 provides powerful structure editing including "Select parent tag" and "Select child" functions.

7.6 Allow the author to search within editing views [Priority 2]

Yes. DW4 provides a powerful searching function that can search the source, the WYSIWYG text, tags, etc.


In my opinion the Macromedia Dreamweaver 4 authoring tool does not quite reach WCAG conformance. However, there are only a small number of features missing for WCAG level single-A compliance. If those were completed, most of the required features for WCAG double-A compliance have also been implemented, so it would only be another small step.

In addition, there are a number of important accessibility-related improvements in this product that I would like to highlight. First, DW4 includes a powerful code view that allows users who are familiar with accessibility to create accessible content without it being disrupted during saving, etc. Second, the inclusion of an accessibility checker greatly increases the visibility of accessibility within the tool. Finally, the automated CSS tools appear well integrated and effective.