British Standard 8878 (BS 8878) is the Web Accessibility Code of Practice developed by the British Standards Institution, launched on December 2010.
The standard outlines procedures to help ensure that websites (and other web based services) are accessible to disabled people. In short, it provides guidance on good practice; how to develop your strategy and what practical steps to take to implement that strategy.
One assumption it makes is that accessible website design is a good thing and that it is something every organisation should be working on.
When building your new website:
- You should put someone in charge of ensuring accessibility and clearly outline their remit
- Make website accessibility part of your organisational policy; BS 8878 provides policy templates.
- Document your thoughts and decisions throughout the process of building your website.
- Make reference to the guidelines and standards you are aiming to adhere to.
- Set out how you will ensure the website stays accessible once it is up and running.
What makes it different from WCAG 1 and WCAG 2.0
BS 8878 aims to be more ‘holistic’ than other guidelines such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) which focus much more on technical issues.
Given this wider approach, it covers:
- The law and accessibility.
- Inclusive design.
- Accessibility on devices that are not computers.
- Accessibility for older people.
- How to make accessibility a part of your tendering process.
Do you need to adhere to this standard?
There are positive and negative factors that would influence you in considering whether you should adhere to BS 887.
- If you don’t make your website accessible you risk falling foul of the law: e.g. the Equality Act 2010.
- Making your site accessible increases the audience you will have for your goods and serves; research suggests that you will increase your audience by up to 17% if you make your site accessible. (Nomensa report)
The Importance of The BS 8878 Web Accessibility Code of Practice
In my opinion The BS 8878 is an extremely useful and important document as it recognises that website accessibility is a more complex subject than just applying the right techniques to a web page (i.e adding text labels to images).
It is also about how organisations operate in relation to equality (e.g. policy development), how organisations tender for website developers, how accessibility is tested and who tests it (e.g. disabled people) among other things.
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