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UK's first web standard launched

21st December 2010

On 7th December the new “BS 8878 Web Accessibility” code of practice was launched in London. The new code is the new standard from the ‘British Standards Institution’(BSI); the document providing guidance on the process of producing accessible; online content or services.

The new standard isn’t simply a dictat from on high describing a list of technical do’s and don’ts, but instead it describes a required approach to addressing web accessibility. This new approach runs through the development of any online content or service. By “online content or service” the BSI means ‘websites or mobile apps’ – basically any service delivered by a browser. The BSI also mean to see this new code of practice applied right from the commissioning process through to the launch of any web-based service as well as including any future updates.

The main content of the standard has 16 steps categorised in to three different areas:

  1. Doing the right research & thinking before you start
  2. Making strategic choices based on that research
  3. Production, launch and maintenance (lifecycle).

The new code also re-enforces the key reasons for making web accessibility part of your business strategy. Making accessible websites makes good commercial sense to the website design company. If your web products are accessible products then you are making your services available to 11 million people in the UK who are registered with a disability. If that wasn’t enough for you, this new code will also minimise the web design companies risk of prosecution because if your web products are deemed inaccessible, a person with a disability may have a claim to make under the Equality Act 2010.

This new standard replaces the somewhat outdated PAS 78:2006 “Guide to Good Practice in Commissioning Accessible Websites”, and provides a practical view of web accessibility. Surely we as web design companies must not view this new standard just seen as another piece of red tape but embrace it as being about addressing a wider 21st century view of the web and accessibility to all – shouldn’t we?