Comments needed on new standard on accessible websites

Press release - 24 May 2010

BSI is inviting all interested parties, and in particular website owners, web product managers, web procurement managers, usability and accessibility specialists, marketing professionals and disabled web users, to review and comment on the draft of a new standard on accessible websites, DPC BS 8878 Web accessibility – Code of Practice.

There are three main drivers for organizations to take steps to make their web products more accessible and usable:

1. Commercial reasons, notably opening up web products to a wider audience:

  • More than 11 million people are protected by the UK's disability discrimination law, according to the Department for Work and Pensions. Separate research by the Government's Office for Disability Issues suggests that 15% of disabled people have hearing difficulties and 12% have visual impairments, and many others have physical or cognitive impairments which may impact on their use of web products.
  • Many elderly people, while not legally considered disabled, are also affected by the multiple minor impairments of ageing.
  • There are also many other non-disabled people who could benefit from more accessible web products including, people with a low reading age, and people who momentarily do not have use of one of their senses due to illness or because they need that sense to do something else at the same time.

2. Ethical reasons:

  • The Digital Britain report details the many benefits that modern digital technologies can bring. Many organizations want to ensure that disabled and elderly people are not excluded from these benefits, and are able to use new technologies to increase their ability to live independently, and to be fully engaged members of society.

3. Legal reasons:

  • If an organization's web product is not accessible to a disabled person, that person may have grounds for making a claim against the organization under the Equality Act 2010 or the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

Many web products unwittingly and unlawfully exclude disabled and elderly people; yet in most cases the barriers these web products present can be removed.

This draft British Standard explains how to create organizational policies and production processes to identify and remove such barriers.

DPC BS 8878 was originally issued in December 2008 and attracted an unprecedented amount of interest. After due consideration of the feedback, and taking into account recent changes in legislation and advances in technology, BSI is now able to provide an enhanced draft which is extensively restructured, and contains additional guidance material on topics such as:

  • The Equality Act 2010
  • The relationship between inclusive design and user-personalized approaches to accessibility, including whether to provide additional accessibility provisions
  • Creating accessible web products for computer, mobile and IPTV platforms
  • How to procure accessible web products
  • How to assure a product’s accessibility throughout the production process, including the value and costs of different forms of accessibility testing
  • Dealing with feedback and complaints on accessibility from users.

DPC BS 8878 can be viewed at until 30 June 2010. All comments will be considered by the BSI technical committee responsible for drafting the standard.

Mike Low, Director, BSI Standards commented, "Accessibility is an essential aspect of modern web production. The new UK Equality Act continues the legal imperative for websites to make reasonable steps to include the needs of disabled people. Moreover, Digital Britain initiatives to encourage more elderly people online pose both an opportunity and challenge for site owners in creating sites which are usable by a broader range of people than ever before."

Jonathan Hassell of the BBC and Chair of the committee responsible for drafting DPC BS 8878 commented, "Site owners urgently need an end-to-end guide to help them to ensure their products consider the needs of disabled and elderly people at all stages of the web production process, from initial requirements gathering, through selection of technologies and platforms, testing, launch and maintenance.

"BS 8878 is that guide. It’s designed to be a real-world standard, talking about real-world issues, experienced by real users, wanting to use real up-to-date web 2.0 products. It’s designed for real web product managers and production staff dealing with the real decisions they need to make every day which will affect whether or not their products will include or exclude disabled and elderly people.

"This Draft for Public Comment is a chance for people to tell us whether our drafting committee has got the content and style of the standard right and both give them an idea of the breadth of the parts of their production process that accessibility issues impact, and also demystified accessibility so that they feel confident that they know how to proceed."