British accessibility standard that inspired ISO 30071-1 BS 8878 web accessibility standards (supersedes PAS 78) – all you need to know

Note: On 28th May 2019, BS 8878 was superseded by ISO 30071-1, the international standard that built on BS 8878 and expanded it for international use. More information can be found at ISO 30071-1 digital accessibility standards – All You Need to Know

Quick summary of BS 8878's process in 88 seconds

There are 11 million disabled people in the UK, and the number of elderly people is growing every year.

We use BS 8878 to help us understand how the decisions we make when we create websites and apps impact how easy it is for these people to use them.

We start by defining the purpose of the product and its target audiences.

We research the ways different people use web technologies and summarise them in personas to help remind us.

We work out the things people will use the product for, and separate them into core and non-core goals, so we can prioritise our work.

We decide what level of accessibility we are going to aim for, and whether we’ll include tools for users to personalise the product to better suit their needs.

We ensure the technologies we choose to make our websites and apps will allow us to deliver to that aim.

We use this ‘product accessibility policy’ as a brief for our internal teams, or when contracting external suppliers, so they know what we expect.

We help our designers and developers use the best accessibility guidelines to create the product, and use a range of tests during its creation to check it’s usable by its target audiences.

As it’s not always possible to get everything right first time, we let our users know of any deficiencies in the site’s ‘accessibility statement’ and give them a way of contacting us for feedback.

And we plan to address those deficiencies and uphold accessibility as we maintain the content in our products and iterate them through versions.

Using BS 8878, each member of the team knows what they can do to help make our products appeal to the widest possible audience, to uphold our brand values, and minimise any discrimination risk from the Equality Act.

What is BS 8878?

BS 8878 Web Accessibility Code of Practice is a process-oriented standard enabling organisations to:

  • understand why digital inclusion and accessibility makes good business sense
  • embed inclusion responsibility strategically across key job-roles, and into key policies
  • follow a standard user-centred production process which identifies the key decisions which impact inclusion which are taken in a web product’s lifecycle
  • adopt an informed way of making these decisions
  • adopt a way of documenting these decisions to provide a log which can be used for assessing accessibility risk and proving conformance with BS 8878
  • synchronise these activities with similar processes for the inclusive design of non-digital products.

While other web accessibility standards concentrate on the technical, design or testing elements of accessibility, BS 8878 puts those important activities in a framework to ensure all aspects of an organisation’s activities which impact inclusion are covered. These include: procurement and selection of production tools and CMSes; outsourcing production to third-parties; project management of inclusive production; assessment of accessibility risk and impact on budgets; and governance of inclusion across a programme of web production projects.

Both books side by side.

Read Jonathan Hassell's books on ISO 30071-1: Inclusive Design for Organisations and Products – Including your missing 20% by embedding web and mobile accessibility

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Jennison Asuncion, Founder of Global Accessibility Awareness Day

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