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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
Note: PAS 78 superseded by BS 8878 in December 2010
In December 2010, PAS 78 was superseded by the full British Standard that evolved from it: BS 8878:2010 Web accessibility Code of Practice.
BS 8878 continues PAS 78’s emphasis on providing guidance to non-technical website owners for the whole process of commissioning, procuring and producing accessible websites, updating it to handle:
- web 2.0’s much wider purposes for websites (e.g. multimedia sites, software as a service sites) and the move from provider-produced content to user-generated content (e.g. blogs, Facebook, YouTube)
- the increasing range of devices on which websites are viewed (e.g. smartphones, tablets, IPTV)
- the increasing use of non-W3C technologies to produce websites
- the increasing use of “off the shelf” website builder tools to create websites rather than bespoke development
- the increasing use of on-site accessibility personalisation tools like CSS style-switchers
- the changing organisational structure of web product teams and key personnel impacting product accessibility, especially the growing role of web product managers
(for more information see British Accessibility Standards – PAS-78 to BS8878 by the chair of IST/45 BSI drafting committee)
A summary of BS 8878 by its lead-author, Jonathan Hassell, including case studies of organisations using BS 8878, detailed blogs on its use by SMEs, tools and training for applying BS 8878, and news on its progress towards becoming an International Standard can be found at BS 8878 web accessibility and inclusive design standard – introduction and news.
BS 8878 can be purchased from the BSi Shop.
Who is PAS 78 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?
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.
- BSI: PAS 78 Guide to Good Practice in Commissioning Accessible Websites
- EHRC: PAS 78 Guide to Good Practice in Commissioning Accessible Websites (free to download in multiple formats; checked 2010/07/13)
- DRC: DRC web investigation finds many public websites 'impossible' for disabled people to use
- UK Disability Discrimination Act, Part III
- Section 508 of the US Rehabilitation Act
- BBC: New standards for website access
- out-law: How to commission an accessible website
- Bruce Lawson: PAS 78: Guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites
- Joe Clark: A critique of PAS 78