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Draft Web Access Standard Embraces Personalisation

Personalisation of website accessibility, including customising tools and offering different versions of sites to suit individual needs, should be considered for some specialist websites such as social networking platforms, according to the latest draft of a British standard on web accessibility.

The second draft of BS 8878 ‘Web accessibility – Code of practice’, developed by a sub-committee of the British Standards Institution (BSI), IST/45, suggests that educational establishments, social networking sites, e-learning websites and other sites requiring a member login have an opportunity to provide users with personalisation facilities and “an individualised approach to dealing with their accessibility needs”.

Jonathan Hassell, chair of IST/45 and head of audience experience and usability for future media and technology at the BBC, told E-Access Bulletin’s sister publication E-Government Bulletin that although still in its infancy, the personalisation approach to website accessibility is likely to develop significantly in coming years.

“In some situations, rather than trying to create a website for everybody, maybe the right thing to do is – where people’s needs diverge – to create different versions of a website for different people. We may even want to have tools on a website enabling it to be personalised for the exact user.”

Hassell also said the new draft was a “process map”, intended for those who may not be accessibility specialists, giving them an idea of points to consider when making a website accessible, and taking into account the wide-ranging needs of disabled internet users.

BS 8878 is not intended to replace existing guidance, such as version 2.0 of the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), said Hassell: “We’re not replicating anything you might find in WCAG 2.0. It’s a great standard. If you’re at the point of technical web production, then process-wise and design-wise WCAG 2.0 is the document you should be looking at, and we point to it in BS 8878.”

Other new suggestions in the second draft of the standard include a bigger focus on the accessibility needs of elderly people; accessibility factors to consider when procuring a website from a number of suppliers; and how the advent of internet viewing on new channels such as on mobile devices, tablet computers and television may affect accessibility.

Originally intended for publication in summer of last year, the second draft of BS 8878 was put back due to European intervention, Hassell said. The European Committee for Standardization (CEN) contacted the BSI after the first draft of BS 8878, expressing a desire for a common set of accessibility standards across Europe. However, this was retracted after a realisation that differing accessibility laws across member states would make a common standard extremely difficult to develop.

Feedback on the second draft of BS 8878 is invited before 30 June, with an estimated publication date for the final standard of November. To give feedback, via the BSI website (the feedback mechanism of which has been made more accessible) or email, visit: http://bit.ly/cY8dND . The second draft is available in Rich Text Format, and can be read by a wide range of word processors and screen-readers, after feedback on the first draft suggested that it was not fully accessible to some users.

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