How BS 8878 web accessibility standards supersede PAS 78

PAS 78 was the first attempt in the UK to provide guidance to non-technical website owners for the whole process of commissioning and producing websites. It was commissioned by the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) and published by the British Standards Institution in 2006.

PAS 78 was created because research in 2005 revealed that UK websites were not yet achieving good levels of accessibility, and that the existing web accessibility guidelines (WCAG 1.0) didn’t make it easy enough for website owners to know how to remedy this, or why that was important for them.

PAS 78 gathered together a set of best practice guidelines for delivering accessible websites, providing website owners with an understanding of how disabled people use websites, and placing technical web accessibility guidelines like WCAG in a wider policy framework of how websites are created, tested and maintained.

PAS 78 was broadly welcomed by UK site owners, was included in the UK government’s guidelines for delivering inclusive websites, and is often still referenced as the guidelines complied with in the accessibility statements of websites, which it advocated.

The links and differences between PAS 78 and BS 8878 web accessibility standards

BS 8878 is the full British Standard that evolved from, and replaced, PAS 78 when it was launched in December 2010.

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, but updates 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. smartphonestabletsIPTV)
  • 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 on why PAS 78 was updated to become BS 8878, see British Accessibility Standards – PAS-78 to BS8878 by Jonathan Hassell – the chair of IST/45 BSI drafting committee.

For more information on BS 8878, see BS 8878 web accessibility and inclusive design standard (supersedes PAS 78) – introduction and news.