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Disabled people check out site usability

New guidelines introduced

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A new service has been unveiled today to help firms and organisations ensure their websites can be accessed by people with disabilities.

Last week the British Standards Institution (BSI) published new guidance (PAS 78) to ensure that sites are user-friendly for disabled people.

According to the BSI guidelines, those responsible for websites need to carry out practical tests - preferably with disabled people - to ensure their sites are usable and accessible.

To meet this need, an outfit called the Usability Exchange has been set up to provide practical testing by disabled people. Employing disabled people to check out sites for themselves, the Usability Exchange allows website developers to receive direct feedback regarding the accessibility and usability of their websites. Developers can even watch testers attempt to navigate their website by using remote viewing software.

Said Julie Howell, Digital Policy Development Manager at the RNIB: "PAS 78 reminds website designers to consult disabled people and involve them in testing their designs at every stage of the site development cycle. Research published by the Disability Rights Commission in 2004 showed that testing with disabled users may uncover 45 per cent more accessibility problems than testing with software alone."

Companies and organisations that have already been checked out by the Usability Exchange include the Royal Mail, Orange, Adult Dyslexia Organisation and the Scottish Parliament. Charges for the service start from £299 (exc VAT). ®

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