New BSI Standard Makes Web Accessible

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Elderly and disabled people should not be locked out of the web, according to the BSI’s new code of conduct

The British Standards Institution today announced the launch of a new standard to promote web accessibility and help address the challenge of digital inclusion.

BSI’s web accessibility code of practice, known as BS 8878, offers a guide for businesses and organisations to make web products more accessible to disabled and older users. It includes recommendations for involving disabled people in the development process and using automated tools to assist with accessibility testing.

“We all recognise that the digital age promises huge benefits – for organisations and consumers alike. It’s also the case, as noted in the UK government’s recent eAccessibility Action Plan, that too many people are excluded from participating fully in these,” said BSI’s Director of Standards Mike Low.

“We are pleased therefore that BS 8878 is central to the Action Plan’s aim to update current advice on making public and private sector websites more accessible. BS 8878 provides guidance on how to remove barriers to inclusion and highlights a simple truth: if accessibility is built-in, it’s a win-win for site owners and users.”

It’s time to fix the web

According to BSI, the code explains the impact that an organisation’s choice of technologies can have on its audience. It also offers guidance for considering the needs of web users according to their specific disability, for example, people with physical impairments or people with learning disabilities.

“BS 8878 is designed to be a real-world standard, talking about real issues which are experienced by users of up-to-date web products on the devices on which they use those products,” said the BBC’s Jonathan Hassell, chair of the committee responsible for developing BS 8878.

The news follows the launch of Citizens Online’s “Fix the Web” campaign earlier this month, designed to tackle the problem of inaccessible websites on a massive scale. It provides a quick and easy way for people to make complaints – as well as introducing a volunteer-led process for those complaints to be reported back to website owners to get fixed.

“I believe many techies would be horrified to think that the web they love so much is excluding people,” said Dr. Gail Bradbrook of Citizens Online. “I firmly believe that this isn’t a problem disabled people should have to deal with on their own. It’s time a committed group of tech volunteers took charge of the issue and made it their own.”

Meanwhile, legal and political moves are also being made to ensure fair and equal access to online resources. The Equality Act 2010 places an obligation on information providers to ensure their web products are accessible.

The government’s digital champion, Martha Lane Fox, is also working to get the last remaining ten million Brits online, and in October ran a week-long national drive to persuade Internet virgins to try out and use the World Wide Web.

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