PAS 78: UK Accessibility Milestone

Yesterday, 8 March saw the launch of the Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 78 from the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) in collaboration with the British Standards Institute (BSI). This PAS outlines good practice in commissioning websites that are accessible to and usable by disabled people.

Initially written by Julie Howell from the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), contributions were made by the BBC, the UK Cabinet Office, IBM, the University Professionals Association and the PAS is more for people who commission websites rather than the developers coding it. Hopefully this will call out the charlatan web design firms who claim accessible site builds as the specification includes what a commissioner should look out for.

Tesco and Legal and General noted significant return on investment (ROI) as a happy side-effect. For Legal and General (quoted from Bruce Lawson’s report) the side-effects included:

  • A 30% increase in natural search-engine traffic
  • “significant improvement” in Google rankings “for all target keywords”
  • 75% reduction in time for page to load
  • Browser-compatibility (not a single complaint since)
  • Accessible to mobile devices
  • Time to manage content “reduced from average of five days to 0.5 days per job”
  • Savings of £200K annually on site maintenance
  • 95% increase in visitors getting a life insurance quote
  • 90% increase in Life insurance sales online
  • 100% return on investment in less than 12 months.

The specification also highlights:

  • The importance of real user testing, including disabled groups.
  • Not relying on automated testing tools — read my earlier article on the subject.
  • Building accessibility into the design rather than attempting to retrofit a solution.
  • The need for a comprehensive website accessibility policy.
  • The use of web and accessibility standards and the use of proprietary formats such as Flash and PDF (Portable Document Format) files.

It’s a shame that the “Publicly Available” PAS 78 document will set you back £30 because whereas this won’t bother commercial organisations it may dissuade small businesses from learning more and it will limit public discussion by business and developer communities. For those with the budget you can find the order details on the BSI website.

Discussion elsewhere:

PAS78 is now available free of charge from the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) website.

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3 Responses to PAS 78: UK Accessibility Milestone

  1. Julie Howell says:

    Hi Karl,

    Many thanks for drawing attention to PAS 78. I hope its influence will reach beyond the UK and blogging helps.

    I was technical author on the project.

    You raise a question about the price.

    The PAS was commissioned by our Disability Rights Commission, which is another way of saying that DRC paid the British Standards Institution to project manage and produce the guidance, an exercise that took just over a year to complete (it’s a rigorous, consultative process).

    BSI is a business. The PAS had to be paid for somehow. DRC covered most of the cost and BSI very kindly agreed to offer this PAS for sale at a reduced rate of just 30 UK pounds.

    £30 is not prohibitive in my opinion. The PAS is aimed at businesses and businesses of most sizes can afford this. And this is a tiny outlay for the potential return on investment(ROI). In the UK alone the ‘disabled pound’ is estimated to be in the region of £80bn per annum.

    I stress that the PAS contains nothing new if you are already well versed in accessibility and usability principles. The PAS meets an expressed need among UK businesses for a single, authoritative document that sets out a framework for commissioning accessible websites. DRC decided commissioning BSI was the most effective way of achieving this goal.

    I hope this helps. It’s a very fair question, especially when the WAI guidelines (for example) are free and in the public domain.

    Finally, I’m pleased to let you know that the PAS can be ordered for immediate download from the BSI website in accessible PDF format.


  2. Karl Dawson says:

    Thanks for stopping by Julie and explaining the pricing here (and on the Accessify forum yesterday). I’m sure as long as we don’t publish the whole report in HTML the accessibility crowd can discuss it too – you know what we’re like ;)

    I haven’t checked today but I do hope this is getting reported well this week.

    On reviewing what I’d written I see that I was remiss with not thanking yourself and everyone else involved for all the effort that went into this important document… Thank You!

    Regards, Karl

  3. Julie Howell says:

    Thanks Karl. It’s all good.
    I’ve counted 32 media hits today. I’m going to post the references on Accessify Forum shortly.