Evolving Standards in Accessibility 2011 – Part 1

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Reading Time: 4 minutesBCS LogoOn Wednesday May 25th 2011 I attended the Evolving Standards in Accessibility 2011 event – held the Covent Garden offices of BCS (Chartered Institute for IT).

The event was attended by people from all backgrounds and organisations and consisted of a number of presentations kicked off by a tasty buffet lunch. I found the event very useful and it was a good chance to actually meet some people I’d only communicated with through email.

This post features the first part of my write up from the various presentations. Part 2 will follow soon.

As well as using my own notes I’d like to thank Steve Martin of Northampton University who published his own notes which helped.

BCS Inclusion Policy

Nigel Lewis (CEO of AbilityNet) talked about the BCS Inclusion Policy and how it aimed to raise awareness of accessibility within BCS and others.

There will be a central repository for accessibility information including a programme being launched in June covering basic accessibility checkpoints. Nigel mentioned the eAccess ’11 event that is to be held on June 28th in London. He also mentioned that the UK Government is producing an eAccessibility Action Plan. Hopefully we’ll find out more about that from Ed Vaizey who will be speaking at eAccess.

Introduction to BS8878

Jonathan Hassel (Hassell Inclusion Ltd) spoke about the reasons for the development of BS8878 Web accessibility Code of Practice. He felt that it filled a gap for non-technical organisations and people to guide them through the process of adopting accessibility. It sits alongside WCAG2.0 and the other WAI documentation which has in the past been aimed more at technical people.

BS 8878 Front CoverBS8878 talks about starting with a business case which outlines why accessibility makes sense and it gives advice on how to embed accessibility within an organisation – to make it ‘the way you do things’. It has a process to identify key decisions that affect accessibility and an informed way of taking these decisions and documenting them so they can be justified.

The standard refers to “web products” which includes not just sites but web applications, mobile apps, widgets, tools etc.

Accessibility is in everyone’s hands in an organisation – developers, designers, testers, project managers, product managers, finance, legal, strategy, marketing and senior managers. The standard looks at ways to motivate every group and suggests assigning responsibility from the top so it’s delegated.

An organisation’s standard contracts should have accessibility built in so that all suppliers understand what’s required.

For each web product a series of stages should be followed:

  1. Do the right research and thinking
  2. Define your target audience – you don’t have to do everything for everyone
  3. Analyse needs of those audiences.
  4. Take note of technology or platform preferences – eg intranets may have settings bolted down.
  5. Define relationship the product should have with its audience.
  6. Define the user goals or tasks the product needs to provide – some more important than others.
  7. Consider the user experience the product aims to provide.
  8. Inclusive design
  9. Consider delivery platforms to support.
  10. Choose target browsers/technology etc
  11. Choose how to procure product – specify accessibility to suppliers.
  12. Define web technologies
  13. Use web guidelines
  14. Assure/test product accessibility
  15. Communicate accessibility decisions at launch – eg an accessibility statement that users can understand.
  16. Plan to ensure accessibility in updates.

Jonathan also encouraged us to join his meetup and announced an accessibility workshop for October.

Some slides from one of Jonathan’s previous presentations on this subject.

Practical View of Implementation

Royal Mail LogoRobert Wemyss from Royal Mail outlined the steps that Royal Mail have been taking to make their website easier to use and more accessible.

He had a quote – “Everything starts and finishes with a profitable customer”.

Royal Mail are migrating all their content to Drupal and aim to be the most accessible company in the UK. They have launched a site to record their progress – the Royal Mail Group Disability Equality Programme.

Accessibility Standards Update

W3C LogoShawn Henry from the W3C WAI (World Wide Web Consortium Web Accessibility Initiative – phew) spoke about the use of the accessibility guidelines and the new support content that has been appearing on the WAI site recently.

WCAG Guidelines

She started with a question – “If sites meet WCAG2.0 are they always accessible?” to which the answer of course must be “No” as sites can also have usability issues which impact everyone (see note in Robin Christopherson’s section in Part 2).

Shawn emphasised the importance of not leaving your accessibility testing until the end. She spoke about the different types of impairment that people can suffer with that the accessibility guidelines are designed to help:

  • Auditory
  • Cognitive
  • Neurological
  • Physiological
  • Speech
  • Visual

WAI Support Material

Web Accessibility Initiative LogoShawn encouraged us to have a look at the new resources that have been added recently – including:

Others are linked to from the Finding Your WAI page.


Part 2 contains a summary of the presentations from Clive Holdsworth and Robin Christopherson. Read Part 2 of Evolving Standards in Accessibility 2011

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