PAS 78

PAS 78: Guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites is a Publicly Available Specification published on March 8, 2006 by the British Standards Institution (BSI) in collaboration with the Disability Rights Commission (DRC). It provides guidance to organisations in how to go about commissioning an accessible website from a design agency. It describes what is expected from websites to comply with the UK Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA), making websites accessible to and usable by disabled people


Who is it for?

The principal audience are businesses within the UK, but it is a relevant document for charity and volunteer organisations, as well as local and central government. Its also a useful document for web design agencies and web developers as a guide to what is expected of them. It is written from a business perspective and describes the web standards and usability testing needed for producing accessible websites.

At the PAS 78 launch the DRC's Legal Operations Director, Nick O'Brien confirmed that PAS 78 would be used in supporting evidence in a court case against businesses that run inaccessible websites. Although the DRC has so far been conciliatory rather than litigious towards businesses running inaccessible websites, that approach could now change with the publication of PAS 78.

Julie Howell, author of PAS 78 says, "PAS 78 reminds website designers to consult disabled people and involve them in testing their designs at every stage of the site development cycle. Research published by the Disability Rights Commission in 2004 showed that testing with disabled users may uncover 45 per cent more accessibility problems than testing with software alone."

Why is it needed?

In April 2004 the DRC (Disability Rights Commission - UK government body) published its findings about the accessibility of 1000 UK websites and found that 81% of websites tested failed to reach basic levels of web accessibility (Level A compliance to the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). To alleviate the confusion within UK businesses about their obligations under the DDA, one of the DRC's recommendations was to establish a best practice in how to commission websites that are accessible. PAS 78 is that set of best practice guidelines.

What's in it?

PAS 78 covers the general principles of building an accessible website, along with a discussion of how disabled people use computers and websites. The heart of the document covers the Web technologies (HTML, CSS, JavaScript), as well as rich media format (such as PDF, Flash, audio and video). The section on testing covers technical testing (page validation) as well as user testing, including testing with disabled people. The last section covers contracting external companies, focusing on choosing a website developer.

The supplementary documentation contains a number of resources including suggested user profiles for building up test cases, success criteria, suggested questions for web design agencies, available accreditation schemes, how to select a content management system and a collection of references including organisations and books about web accessibility.

How does it compare to Section 508?

Section 508 is part of the US Rehabilitation Act which required Federal Agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. It does this by setting out checkpoints that need to be met for a website to be accessible. This is much like the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 1.0.

PAS 78 does not define any new standards or guidelines. It is an umbrella document, or summary document that describes the use of existing web standards and technologies. It currently references the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, as well as promoting the use of structured markup, avoiding presentational attributes, and advises the use of CSS layouts. In essence, PAS 78 advocates the use of existing web standards.

Their approach to PDF and Flash is that it should be used when it is the most appropriate formats for delivering content. It should be used when it benefits the end user, not the content authors.

How to get it?

The PAS 78 document is available from the British Standards Institution. At the launch, the document was priced at £30 (excluding VAT). From June 29, 2006, this is now available for free from the EHRC's website.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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