British Standard (BS) 8878 is the new Web Accessibility Code of Practice from the British Standards Institution (BSI). It was officially launched on 7th December 2010, at an event held at the Royal College of Medicine in London. BS8878 defines a process for creating and embedding a web accessibility strategy within your organisation. It is written in non technical language, and is aimed at anyone within your organisation who plays a role in web strategy or development. The term “web product” is introduced in BS8878 to describe any web based service. It encompasses websites, web applications, software as a service, cloud based services, and any other service delivered via a browser. Nowadays most organisations with intelligent web strategies acknowledge the importance of accessibility. BS8878 explains exactly how to translate that awareness into a practical and achievable reality. BS8878 begins with the foundations of web accessibility, and then takes you through a step by step process for creating an accessibility strategy. It also re-enforces the key reasons for making accessibility part of your “business as usual”:
- It makes commercial sense. If your web products are accessible, you’re making your information and services available to 11 million people in the UK with a registered disability. That’s a potential market increase of more than 17%.
- It minimises legal risk. If your web products are inaccessible, a person with a disability may have a claim under the Equality Act or Disability Discrimination Act.
BS8878 gives clear guidance on several key topics. These cover the broad themes and requirements of a web accessibility strategy:
- Identifying a person or department with responsibility for accessibility in your organisation, and what should fall within their remit;
- Designing and embedding your organisational accessibility policy;
- Creating accessibility policies and statements for your individual web products;
- Making and documenting justifiable accessibility choices;
- Using and referencing accessibility guidelines and standards;
- Assuring accessibility throughout the lifecycle of your web products.
BS8878 represents a complete end to end solution. It includes guidelines for inclusive design, personalisation, accessibility on non computer platforms, and accessibility for older people. In multiple information rich annexes, BS8878 also provides guidance on accessibility and the law, the business case for accessibility, how disabled and older people experience web products, measuring user success, and building accessibility into your procurement processes. BS8878 even includes templates for your web accessibility policies and statements. Organisations including the BBC, Opera, the British Computer Society, IBM, Nomensa, United Response and the British Computer Association of the Blind contributed to BS8878. It was opened up to public scrutiny through two public consultations, and received input from people across the UK and international web accessibility community including the W3C. Jonathan Hassell, chair of the BSI committee responsible for BS8878, commented about the standard:
It provides an end-to-end guide which identifies the key decisions web production teams make which affect whether or not their products will include or exclude disabled and older people. It advises production teams on how they can best consider their options in making and documenting those decisions.