DRC: User-friendly websites for all

Wed, 08 Mar 2006

Key guidance on how to develop a website which is user-friendly for disabled people has been launched today. Following an investigation by the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) which revealed 81 per cent of British websites are inaccessible to disabled people, the guidance document, Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 78, was developed by the British Standards Institution (BSI) and sponsored by the DRC.
PAS 78 Guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites is applicable to all organisations and is intended for use by those responsible for commissioning or maintaining public-facing websites and web-based services. The document covers six key areas:

The accessible website process – guidance on building an accessible website from commissioning and developing it, through to publishing and maintaining it. This also includes guidance on contracting web design and accessibility auditing services

Accessibility policy – its importance and how to define this for the website

Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) guidelines – their importance in the context of accessibility issues, what they mean and which ones to follow

  • Involvement of disabled people – in the requirements gathering, conceptual design and testing processes
    Conformance checking – guidance on adhering to it

  • Additional accessibility provisions – elements additional to conformance to the WAI guidelines can be useful but should not be considered essential

There are many benefits to using PAS 78 and some of these include: compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), the creation of accessible websites, wider audience reach, improvement of search engine listings due to accessible content, and the easy transfer of this content to other media such as interactive TV or mobile phones.
In addition, businesses that offer accessible websites are at an advantage as they have the potential to access the spending power of disabled people which is estimated at £80bn per annum.

Since October 1999 website owners have had a legal duty under the DDA to ensure that services provided via the web are accessible to disabled people. Despite this law, some of the 10 million people who have rights under the DDA are being affected by websites that fail to meet basic accessibility requirements.

Bert Massie, Chairman of the DRC said: “We need to ensure more websites can be used by disabled people and this document will play a key part in making that happen.
“Businesses and the web industry have a responsibility to ensure the web is barrier free to disabled people. It also makes good business sense. An accessible website is easier for both disabled and non disabled people to use and is bound to attract more customers.”

Mike Low, Director of BSI British Standards said: “BSI is delighted to have had the opportunity to work with the DRC to develop best practice guidelines for commissioning accessible websites and to help provide disabled people with increased access to information, products and services online.
“This is a win-win situation with the PAS 78 guidance providing benefits for both industry and end-users alike.”
Today’s launch event, aiming to raise awareness and explain the role of PAS 78, has generated great interest from industry and is completely sold out. Leading experts from RNIB, Tesco.com, Legal & General plc and DVLA will be presenting at the seminar.

To read more about the views of Disability Rights Commission (DRC) click here.

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