BS 8878:2010 Web Accessibility. Code of Practice

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BS 8878 Web accessibility. Code of Practice is the first British Standard to address the growing challenge of digital inclusion. It applies to all web products, including websites, web-services and web-based workplace applications (e.g. web-based email interface) that are delivered to users via Internet Protocol, through a web browser.

Image of Cover Page of BS 2010:8878 BS 8878 Web accessibility. Code of Practice is the first British Standard to address the growing challenge of digital inclusion.

It applies to all web products, including websites, web-services and web-based workplace applications (e.g. web-based email interface) that are delivered to users via Internet Protocol, through a web browser.

BS 8878 is also referenced in the UK government’s e-Accessibility Action Plan as the basis of updated advice on developing accessible online services. It includes recommendations for:

  • Involving disabled people in the development process and using automated tools to assist with accessibility testing
  • The management of the guidance and process for upholding existing accessibility guidelines and specifications.

The standard’s publication is especially timely given that the new Equality Act 2010 places an obligation on information providers to ensure their web products are accessible and BS 8878

  • Provides guidance on how to assess the impact different technologies can have on your customers
  • Outlines your legal responsibilities in relation to web accessibility so you can assess what to do to achieve compliance
  • Contains text that organizations can extract and use in their accessibility or procurement statement.

BS 8878 stresses the impact that an organization's choice of technologies can have upon its audience and gives guidance on how to assess this. It also includes guidance for considering the needs of web users according to their specific disability, for example, people with physical impairments or people with learning disabilities. All sectors will benefit from this new standard.

There are three main reasons for organizations and businesses to take steps to make their web products more accessible and usable:

  • Commercial reasons as this standard will allow site owners to reach a wider audience for their products and services, opening up new markets and opportunities
  • Ethical reasons as it will help ensure that disabled and older people are not excluded from the benefits of the digital age, and are able to use new technologies to increase their ability to live independently, and to be fully engaged members of society
  • Legal reasons many web products unwittingly and unlawfully exclude disabled and older people; yet in most cases the barriers these web products present can be removed.

Who is the document intended for?

BS 8878 is intended for anyone responsible for the policies covering web product creation within their organization, and governance against those policies (e.g. Chief Executive Officers, Managing Directors, Headteachers, ICT managers). It would also assist:

  • People responsible for promoting and supporting equality and inclusion initiatives within an organization (e.g. Human Resource (HR) managers or those responsible for Corporate Social Responsibility - CSR).
  • Procurement managers (e.g. those responsible for procuring web products or the tools to create them such as content production systems or virtual learning environments).
  • Web production teams (e.g. product owners, project managers, technical architects and web developers, designers, usability and accessibility engineers, test engineers).
  • People with responsibility for creating or shaping online content (e.g. website editors, marketing managers, web content authors).
  • People who create web production, testing or validation tools.
  • People who write and deliver training courses in web production, design or coding.

Other audiences that might also be interested in this British Standard include:

  • Assistive technology creators, vendors and trainers who need insights into how their technologies impact on the production of accessible web products.
  • Those disabled and older people whose web accessibility needs the Standard aims to support and present.

Special discounted price for UK Charities

For registered charities BS 8878 is available at the reduced price of £50.

To order, contact BSI's Customer Services team quoting your registered charity number

+44 (0)208 996 9001 and

Contents of BS 8878 contain:

  • Scope
  • Normative references
  • Terms, definitions and abbreviations
  • Embedding web accessibility within an organization – Responsibilities and documentation
  • Claims of conformity with BS 8878
  • Setting web accessibility responsibility and policy for the organization
  • Definition of an organizational web accessibility policy
  • Creating accessibility policies and statements for each web product
  • Definition of a web product’s accessibility policy
  • Definition of a web product’s accessibility statement
  • How to make justifiable decisions on accessibility options at each step
  • The process for creating accessible web products
  • Step 1: define the purpose of the web product
  • Step 2: define the target audiences for the web product
  • Step 3: analyse the needs of the target audiences for the web product
  • Step 4: note any platform or technology preferences and restrictions of the web product’s target audiences
  • Step 5: define the relationship the product will have with its target audiences
  • Step 6: define the user goals and tasks the web product needs to provide
  • Step 7: consider the degree of user-experience the web product will aim to provide
  • Step 8: consider inclusive design and user-personalized approaches to accessibility
  • Step 9: choose the delivery platforms to support
  • Step 10: choose the target browsers, operating systems and assistive technologies to support
  • Step 11: choose whether to create or procure the web product in-house or contract out externally
  • Step 12: define the web technologies to be used in the web product
  • Step 13: use web guidelines to direct accessible web production
  • Step 14: assure the web product’s accessibility through production
  • Step 15: communicate the web product’s accessibility decisions at launch
  • Step 16: plan to assure accessibility in all post-launch updates to the product
  • Using web accessibility guidelines to direct the production of accessible web products
  • Inclusive design guidelines
  • Personalization guidelines: for individualized web product adaptability
  • Accessibility guidelines for web products on non computer platforms
  • Guidelines for accessible web design for older people
  • Assuring accessibility throughout a web product’s lifecycle
  • Summary of approach
  • Gathering requirements from disabled users
  • Creating an accessibility test plan
  • Accessibility testing methods
  • Post-launch programme of accessibility testing
  • Terms, definitions and abbreviations
  • Disability and the law
  • Business case for making web products accessible
  • Examples of a web accessibility policy and web accessibility statement
  • Allocation of responsibilities
  • The accessibility challenges of different types of web product
  • How disabled and older people experience web products
  • Examples of web product purposes, audiences, user goals, user tasks and degrees of user-experience for those tasks
  • Measuring user success
  • The user-personalized approach to accessibility
  • Procurement of authoring tools, software, components or web-services
  • A guide to dealing with correspondence and complaints about a web product’s accessibility
  • Suggested user profiles
  • A guide to user testing with disabled and older people
  • List of figures
  • Architecture for user-personalized accessibility
  • Decision process for software selection

BSI Director of Standards Mike Low says: “We all recognize that the digital age promises huge benefits   for organizations and consumers alike. It’s also the case, as noted in the Government’s recent eAccessibility Action Plan, that too many people are excluded from participating fully in these. We’re pleased therefore that BS 8878 is central to the Action Plan’s aim to update current advice on making public and private sector websites more accessible. BS 8878 provides guidance on how to remove the barriers to inclusion and highlights a simple truth: if accessibility is built-in, it’s a win-win for site owners and users.”

Jonathan Hassell, of the BBC, Chair of the committee responsible for developing BS 8878, adds: “BS 8878 is designed to be a real-world standard, talking about real issues that are experienced by users of up-to-date web products on the devices on which they use those products. It provides an end-to-end guide which identifies the key decisions web production teams make which affect whether or not their products will include or exclude disabled and older people. It advises production teams on how they can best consider their options in making and documenting those decisions. And it details ways of embedding such best practices in organizations to assure accessibility of their web products over time.”

BSI is committed to establishing and supporting standards that promote the availability of products and services to all consumers, regardless of their sensory, cognitive or physical abilities.

For World Standards Day, 14 October 2010, BSI produced a documentary on web accessibility.
View it on YouTube.