Feeds

BSI consults on first British Standard for accessible websites

Accessibility AND enjoyment

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

A British Standard will give business owners and marketing managers new guidance for building and maintaining web content that is accessible to disabled people. A draft version of BS 8878 was released for public comment today.

Julie Howell, chair of the cross-industry committee responsible for the draft Standard, said that awareness of the importance of web accessibility is high. "But there is an almost universal failure to create web experiences that can be used by disabled people," she said.

The 46-page draft Standard explains the business case for accessibility, how to allocate responsibilities within an organisation, the impact of the Disability Discrimination Act, how disabled people use websites, how to choose technologies and how to contract with web developers or vendors of content management systems.

The draft also contains text which can be extracted and used in an organisation's accessibility or procurement statement.

Howell was the technical author of BS 8878's predecessor known as PAS 78, Guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites. A PAS is a Publicly Available Specification, a document that is not a full British Standard but developed using a similar process. PAS 78 was downloaded more than 60,000 times.

BS 8878, Web accessibility – Building accessible experiences for disabled people – Code of Practice, is similar to but "better and clearer" than PAS 78, according to Howell. "BS 8878 puts responsibility on the right people," she said.

The draft says that the CEO of a business "should ensure that a department or specified role is responsible for the organization's compliance with BS 8878." That person or department should also understand how disabled people access and use web content, it says.

Howell said that the guide also differs from PAS 78 in talking about enjoyment of web experiences.

"Access, use and enjoy are the three terms we use," she said. "Access is about the ability to reach the content; usability is about the ability to complete a task; and enjoyment is about having an enjoyable user experience and wanting to go back to that site. In the past we thought very functionally about what disabled users wanted."

The draft Standard also addresses the legal issues of making user-generated content accessible, an issue that PAS 78 did not consider.

"For sites that deal with high volumes of user-generated content, it will be impossible to ensure the accessibility of each item of content without excessive cost or a fundamental change to the nature of the service," it says.

But it suggests that it will be appropriate to make such content accessible in some cases.

"For example, an organization might exercise editorial judgement to select and promote the 10 best user-generated videos from a collection of 10,000," it says. "Captioning 10,000 videos is likely to be prohibitively expensive; but it is likely to be reasonable to expect the organization to caption 10 videos."

The draft recommends involving disabled people in the planning, development and testing of a site. It suggests commissioning tests by people with different disability profiles, though Howell said the nature of the testing will depend on an organisation's budget.

"An investment in testing is required," she said. "There are diminishing returns if you do too much testing, but testing with one disabled person is better than testing with nobody at all. You always have choices.

"The language of the Standard is 'should', not 'must'. The Standard is intended to be helpful – it acknowledges that every organisation is different," she said.

Comments are invited until 1st February 2009. The final Standard is expected to be published in summer 2009.

IST/45, the BSI committee responsible for BS 8878, comprised representatives from AbilityNet, the BBC, the British Computer Association of the Blind, the British Dyslexia Association, the Chartered Institute of Marketing, the Employers Forum on Disability, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, IBM, Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG), Lloyds TSB, Mencap, Opera, Pinsent Masons, the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID), the University of Salford, the University of Southampton, the Usability Professionals Association (UPA) and the Web Standards Project (WaSP).

Copyright © 2008, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Amazon says Hachette should lower ebook prices, pay authors more
Oh yeah ... and a 30% cut for Amazon to seal the deal
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
Nintend-OH NO! Sorry, Mario – your profits are in another castle
Red-hatted mascot, red-colored logo, red-stained finance books
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
Chips are down at Broadcom: Thousands of workers laid off
Cellphone baseband device biz shuttered
Feel free to BONK on the TUBE, says Transport for London
Plus: Almost NOBODY uses pay-by-bonk on buses - Visa
Twitch rich as Google flicks $1bn hitch switch, claims snitch
Gameplay streaming biz and search king refuse to deny fresh gobble rumors
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.