Publicly Available Specification 78 (PAS 78): A guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites.
PAS 78 was produced collaboratively by the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) and British Standards Institution (BSI) as a guide to those commissioning websites on conventions and processes to prevent discrimination against disabled users.
The guide re-enforces the widely held view that a fully accessible website has direct benefits beyond conforming to disability discrimination laws.
Benefits described by PAS 78 include:
* Accessibility means exposure to broader audiences, and potentially an extra 80 billion in spending power.
* Websites optimised for accessibility are also more usable for non-disabled users, making it easier for them to become customers.
* Where World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) accessibility guidelines are upheld, sites are more easily viewed on handheld, mobile phone and interactive TV devices.
* Accessible content has a much higher visibility for search engines, which boosts search engine rankings.
PAS 78 strongly supports the guidelines put forward by the W3C, suggesting that only when these guidelines are followed will the internet be truly accessible. It also recommends that government information bodies such as the BBC should give advice on techniques and technologies that aid use of the internet for the disabled.
If you're considering commissioning a website for your organisation, the chances are that many of the technical issues that affect disabled or impaired users are unfamiliar to you. It is often seen as the responsibility of the web designer to ensure that these issues are addressed.
However, PAS 78 puts the emphasis on the website commissioner, ie the owner of the site, to ensure that accessibility has been considered and tested for.
Whilst the document does not call for all those commissioning websites to become experts on website accessibility, it does clearly state that they "should ensure that the website upholds the W3C guidelines and specifications".
The guide is also clear that any updates or changes made to the site in the future should continue to comply with accessibility policy.
Summary of Considerations
The PAS 78 summary of considerations for those commissioning a website includes:
* Consideration of who the site is for and what it should do. A written accessibility policy is recommended.
* Investigate what measures the web designer will take to ensure accessibility.
* Consideration of the methods the site will be built using, eg. Will it be built manually or using a Content Management System (CMS) or an automated web application?
* Consider how accessibility will be tested.
Testing for Accessibility
Significantly PAS 78 calls for thorough independent quality testing to be performed on websites to ensure that accessibility policy is upheld. Section 8 of the report includes the following recommendations:
* All organisations, regardless of size, should ensure that those testing the website are different from those developing it.
* Website developers should develop a test plan and ensure that all testing is documented and reported upon.
* Website commissioners should allocate time and resources within the development plan for any necessary rework to be undertaken.
* How and when the website is tested for accessibility should be documented as part of the overall quality plan.