Jim Byrne Accessible Website Design is celebrating 20 years ensuring equal access for disabled people
Published: April 12, 2023
This year is the 20th birthday of my business, Jim Byrne Accessible Website Design.
Here is the press release I put together with Rebecca Appleton of Dakota Digital. Forgive my hyperbole – but 20 years of helping to ensure equal access for disabled people to digital content is definitely worth celebrating.
Multi Award-Winning Accessible Website Design Business Celebrates 20th Years At The Top
Jim Byrne, a pioneer of equal access to websites and digital content for disabled people, is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his Accessible Website Design & Accessibility Auditing business – and remains as passionate about his mission today as he was on day one.
Jim first realised the importance of digital access for disabled people in the 90s, and that realisation forever changed his career path. In 1996 he founded one of the UK’s first web accessibility consultancies and was a founding member of the Guild of Accessible Web Designers (GAWDS). As the director of GAWDS, he gave feedback on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2) which are now used by governments around the world.
“Equal access to websites and digital content for everyone is still my focus,” Jim says. “Lack of accessibility is a form of discrimination against disabled people. It was unacceptable back when I started and, with so many services and resources almost exclusively available online, it is unacceptable now.”
The importance of digital accessibility has grown since Jim Byrne began his work and UK law has changed to reflect this. Under the Equality Act of 2010, website owners are obliged to ensure that their websites are accessible to all users. To help with this, Jim’s business offers a WCAG 2 accessibility auditing service to check whether websites comply with the law. Additionally, he offers an accessible website design service and accessibility training for website designers.
Ralph Mackenzie, Front-End Website Designer/Developer for the University of Strathclyde, said, “Jim provided us with auditing and training services to help the University’s websites and applications meet new government regulations on digital accessibility. His reports were extremely thorough and have provided an excellent basis for the University to offer better services to students, staff and the public.
“The training offered gave our staff an excellent insight into designing and developing for users with special requirements, and we look forward to providing an accessible digital experience to all users thanks to Jim’s help and expertise.”
Through its two decades of activity, Jim Byrne Accessible Website Design & Accessibility Auditing has received several awards – including the Global Bangemann Award, presented by the King of Sweden himself.
What Can I Do For You? Outlining My Approach to Web Design
Published: September 18, 2017
The following is a text transcript of a video presentation I made in 2017:
“So how can I help you? Now I’m a web designer, web developer, web accessibility specialist mostly working in the third sector.
But I don’t really think of myself as just a web designer. I have a wider view of what my job is. My job is to help your organisation achieve your aims, through your website.
The website you have should not be, it should be a pretty picture but it should not just be a pretty picture. It’s a tool – depending on what type of organisation you are – it’s a tool for your marketing or it’s a tool for you to deliver your services, it’s a tool to provide training, it’s a tool to communicate your message – whatever it is. And you have got some kind of audience that you are try to deliver that service to.
So before I would start any kind of design I would make sure that we discuss all of these kind of things: what your aims are as an organisation, who is your target audience (or target audiences), can you rank those audiences, what are the most important audiences that you are probably funded to serve or service? And looking at those different audiences – what are they after, why would they turn up at your site? What service are you are marketing to them – what are you are trying to do for them, what is the most important thing?
And what is the most important thing they are after? When they arrive at your site. So if we know all these things and you have said: the target audience is this, the most important thing they are thinking about is this and when they arrive at my website they probably want to look for… whatever.
Knowing that of course, knowing all that, impacts the visual design of your site knowing all that, impacts how you organise your content. It’s obviously not going to be any good if your main, if an individual, from your target audience, turns up at your site and the most important thing they are there for is buried somewhere five levels deep and it takes them half an hour to find it.
They have got to instinctively think: I can see they have thought about me. I can see that they are delivering something very quickly in a way that I don’t even have to think about it – because they have already thought about what I’m after.
And doing all of that you putting less stress on the visitor, your credibility as an organisation goes up many notches, because it’s clear that you have thought about your target audience and you are doing a good job as an organisation.
I’m not saying that how your website looks is not important. Of course that’s incredibly important because again your credibility relies on having a professional great looking site.
That’s actually one of the things that a lot of organisations fall down on. They think that maybe: they are small organisation and they’ve not got much of a budget they could maybe just employ a student to build the website or they could even just get somebody in-house to download a WordPress theme – something they particularly like the look of – install that and that’s the organisation website.
It’s a false economy. Not just a false economy, it damages you as an organisation. People might not be tremendously sophisticated when it comes to web design – but they know instinctively when they look at your site – whether you are taking the whole – delivery of your content or your message on the web – seriously or not.
They know there is something quite right- it’s not quite branded like the rest of the your organisation – the content’s not well organised. They don’t know exactly what’s wrong with it but they know it’s not quite right. And that is damaging you as an organisation.
They are less likely to come back and your credibility is going down the pan. So it’s a false economy. It’s got to look professional it ‘s got to look well designed, it’s to got be well organised it’s got to reflect your branding as an organisation. And it’s got to absolutely meet the needs of your audience.
Ok so, to reiterate your earlier question. what can I do for you. Well I can do all the usual web plumber stuff obviously – which is a beautiful website that is responsive, completely accessible and has all the features that you require. All the back-end development all the content management etc. I can make sure it’s absolutely beautiful because I do believe that’s important. So I will use my colleague Amanda Taylor – who is a graphic designer – she will do the visual design and I will do all the technical aspects. And I will do all of the stuff I was talking about earlier on. To absolutely ensure the focus, which is your aims as an organisations and your aims to meet the needs of your audience.
So if want somebody who is thinking of you first. And is thinking in this wider context, give me a shout.
Actually I forgot to say – just in terms of my credibility – I’ve been doing it for a long time and in that long time we have won a number of awards. Probably the most notable was: the Global Bangemann Challenge which I won – along with my – well for the Making Connections Unit – I won that along with my partner of the time Glasgow City Council. So we went over to Sweden – got that award off the king of Sweden. Won a number of other awards as well but I thought I’d just mention that.”
Web Accessibility Tip: Design For Machines First, People Second!
Published: August 8, 2014
You can’t transmit a website directly into a person’s brain! That’s as silly a statement as I’ve ever heard; however, when you think about it, every web page must first pass through some type of hardware and software (e.g. a computer and a web browser) before you can access its content.
That being the case, the best chance you have of your web page being accessible to this ‘intermediate layer’ is to create your pages using standards based markup.
Visitors won’t be able to access your content if your pages don’t work on the particular browser they are using – be it a refreshable braille reader, WebTV, or the latest PC still running the buggy Internet Explorer 6. The secret to success is to ‘code to standards’.
If you code to standards (e.g. HTML 4.01 or XHTML 1, HTML 5) you have the best chance of your web page working on the ‘dumb’ machines that know nothing other than ‘how to follow the rules’ to render the structure of a page to an output device. If you also follow the rules, you are already well down the road towards an accessible website.
Why choose Jim Byrne Accessible Web Design Glasgow?
Published: June 12, 2013
Web Design Glasgow by Jim Byrne
Research by the Disability Rights Association found that 91% of website developers do not claim to have any real understanding of Web accessibility issues. We are different. We have:
Experience: Jim Byrne has been learning about accessible website design since 1996. He gave feedback on the WCAG 2 guidelines (as part of Guild of Accessible Website Designers), has provided consultancy to the European Union, national and local Government, corporates and the not-for-profit sector.
Un-rivalled technical know-how.
Enthusiasm for creating beautiful easy to use accessible websites.
Jim Byrne is a member of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP).
Web Design Glasgow – Award-winning experience
The Lothian Centre for Inclusive Living (LCL) website – designed by Jim Byrne – won the Breakthrough Award for their website and online help service.
The Making Connections Unit which was developed by Jim Byrne and David Donald won an award in the equal access category of the Global Bangemann Award; a challenge by the City of Stockholm for cities of the world to show their finest information technology projects. The award was presented by the King of Sweden.
Jim Byrne was identified as one of Scotland’s ‘movers and shakers in e-commerce in Scotland’ for work in the area of Web accessibility (NB Magazine, 2001).
Two decades of accessible website design experience sets us apart from the crowd.
When it comes to choosing a web services company you need a partner you can rely on – a partner with the experience and skills to add value to your business or service. Our aim is to be that business partner – the one you will want to continue to work with in the future.
And because all our business comes from recommendations from existing customers, we can’t afford not to do our best on every job.
“One of Jim’s great strengths is in finding out what clients really need and throughout the process testing those aspirations with practical examples.” Clare MacGillivray, Development Coordinator Edinburgh Tenants Federation
Working with non-profits, charities, voluntary and public sector organisations and social enterprises for over 20 years. Jim set up one of the worlds first website accessibility web agencies in the mid 1990s. Get in touch today to take advantage of unrivalled experience and skills in the area of accessible website design and WCAG 2 auditing. A website designer based in Glasgow but with clients all over the UK.
Jim Byrne Accessible Website Design – A winner of many national and international awards including:
Winner – Best Charitable Website Design Specialist 2019
Accessible website design awards
Best Web Design Agency, Scottish Lowlands, Corporate Vision MarTech Awards 2022.
Winner of ‘Best Charitable Website Design Specialist 2019’.
Winner of the Global Bangemann Award in 1999
Breakthrough Award for The Lothian Centre For Independent Living online help service.
Jim provided us with auditing and training services to help the University’s websites and applications meet new government regulations on digital accessibility. His reports were extremely thorough, and have provided an excellent basis for the University to offer better services to students, staff and the public. The training offered gave our staff an excellent insight into designing and developing for users with special requirements, and we look forward to providing an accessible digital experience to all users thanks to Jim’s help and expertise. Ralph Mackenzie, Front-End Website Designer/Developer, University of Strathclyde
Website Accessibility Auditing – WCAG 2 Checks
A website access audit checks that your website is accessible to disabled people (a legal requirement outlined in the Equality Act 2010). Our website auditors are the most experience and skilled in the UK; we will check your site against the WCAG 2.0 guidelines and check that your site is compliant with the BS8878 Web Accessibility Code of Practice. Our audits go way beyond tick box checks; they check that your site is accessible and will be usable to the real people who visit your site.
Document accessibility compliance (PDF, Doc) It is also a legal requirement that the Word and PDF documents you provide via your website are accessible. Contact us today to take advantage of our unique expertise in this area.
This training is suitable for people who work in the public sector or private sector, e.g., Local councils, education, the voluntary sector organisations, charities and corporates. If you would like to create standards-compliant accessible web pages this is the course for you.
You will learn both the techniques of accessible website design and an entire ‘framework for thinking about the subject’. It will equip you with the skills to understand, identify and fix issues any accessibility issues you come across. Watch the free videos to get a taste of what is on the course.
About Jim Byrne Accessible Website Design Specialist
Published: June 10, 2013
Founder of The Making Connections Unit in 1996: one of the UK’s first web accessibility consultancies.
An award winning web designer. Best Web Design Agency, Scottish Lowlands, Corporate Vision MarTech Awards 2022. Winner of ‘Best Charitable Website Design Specialist 2019’. Winner of the Global Bangemann Award in 1999 and the Breakthrough Award for The Lothian Centre For Independent Living online help service.
An experienced web designer and web applications developer. In addition to many website designs, development projects completed have included a virtual learning environments (VLE’s) for Scottish Accessible Information Forum and an online Portfolio system for The Get Connected Project. Jim has developed online searchable directories for Evenbreak and The British Disabled Angling Association, online membership services and e-commerce systems for numerous organisations.
Author of 6 website development books and numerous online and offline training courses.
A member of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP).
A founding member of the Guild of Accessible Web Designers (GAWDS): a world-wide association of organisations and accessible web designers and developers set up in 2003.
Founder of ‘Accessible Website Design’ in 2003 to exclusively provide accessible website design and development to the third Sector.
Developing a passion for accessible website design
Jim started his working life as a computer programmer in 1979 using ‘miniframe’ computers that had LP (long player record) sized ‘not very floppy disks’. The disks needed to be screwed into a large cabinet that looks like a top-loading washing machine.
He is one of the few people who has been around long enough to have done every task related to web design: installed, configured and managed operating systems (Linux, Apple and Windows), installed a web server and all the required software, (e.g. Apache, Perl, PHP), wrote the required ‘cgi’ scripts, designed the web pages, hand coded the HTML and designed and coded one of the world’s first content management systems.
In 1990 as a ‘mature’ student at Glasgow Caledonian University he was shown Tim Berners Lee’s first website by lecturers David Donald and John Culbert; it didn’t look like much (just text with links) but it did look like the future. He also embarrassed himself by being tongue tied when he met Tim Berners Lee at a conference in London after shouting him over with the words, ‘Hey Tim!’.
Jim is also an experienced trainer and a former Lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University. In the mid 90’s he worked as a Trainer with The Wellbeing Initiative; an organisation set up to help disabled people get back into work. While working with The Wellbeing Initiative Jim became acutely aware of the extent to which disabled people were being discriminated against. This had an impact on the work he has done since. It directly lead to the setting up of one of the UK’s first website accessibility consultants and the setting up of The Guild of Accessible Website Designers.
A Web Developer With an Artistic Sensibility
Apart from technical skills he has an artistic sensibility. In his spare time he is a musician, songwriter and performer. He attended Glasgow School of Art as a teenager so he brings creativity and sense of aesthetics to every project.
Author of 60 Accessible Web Design tips and two other e-books related to accessible web design.
Author of the Guild of Accessible Web Designers accessible web design training course which covers every Priority 1 and 2 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines checkpoints.
Best Web Design Agency, Scottish Lowlands, Corporate Vision MarTech Awards 2022.
Winner Scottish Enterprise Best Charitable Design Specialist 2019. The award aim to showcase and reward the hardworking individuals and firms in Scotland.
Identified as one of Scotland’s ‘movers and shakers in e-commerce in Scotland’ for work in the area of Web accessibility (NB Magazine, 2001).
Developer of the award winning not-for-profit project, The Making Connections Unit (MCU). The MCU won an award in the equal access category of the Global Bangemann Award; a challenge by the City of Stockholm for cities of the world to show their finest information technology projects.The award was presented by the King of Sweden.
Music and song
In his ‘spare time’ he is a songwriter and musician playing folk, country and blues influenced acoustic music. He has co-written songs with Marti Pellow (he co-wrote ‘Lay With Me’ on the Boulevard of Life album) and Jazz singer Carol Kidd and has released three solo albums. A song from his second album was number 1 on the UK Reverbnation Americana Chart. His songs are played regularly on radio and one was added by Mark Lamarr to ‘God’s Jukebox’ on Radio 2.