As mentioned in a post entitled “A Grammatical View of Web Accessibility” on Monday I gave a talk on “BS 8878 and the Holistic Approaches to Web Accessibility” at a CETIS Accessibility SIG meeting held at the BSI HQ in London.
My talk described the background to the development of the holistic approach to Web accessibility and how this approach relates to the BS 8878 Code of Practice on Web Accessibility. When I listened to Jonathon Hassell’s talk on “BS 8878 and the Feedback Process” which preceded mine it was clear that BS 8878 provides a very good implementation of the ideas which myself and fellow accessibility researchers and practitioners have developed since 2005.
Our initial concerns (described in more detail in a paper on “Forcing Standardization or Accommodating Diversity? A Framework for Applying the WCAG in the Real World” which is available in PDF, MS Word or HTML formats) were based on a realisation of flaws in the WCAG 1.0 guidelines and a growing awareness of the limitations of the WAI model, which is dependent on full implementation of WCAG, ATAG and UAAG guidelines.
The WAI guidelines (and the WCAG guidelines in particular) should therefore be regarded as a target to aspire towards if they are appropriate to the intended use of the Web service and the target audience and the guidelines can be implemented by taking reasonable measures, which will be dependent on factors such as the scope of the service, your available resources and budgets and the maturity of the technologies you intend to use (don’t, for example, expect that a W3C standard such as SMIL will necessarily provide an accessible solution as support for the standard is low).
The WAI guidelines should therefore be regarded as a set of technological best practices. However such guidelines are useful in helping to make the, sometimes difficult, choices of the technologies to be chosen, the levels of accessibility to be provided and ways in which such accessibility support can be sustained. This is where BS8878 can provide a solution by outlining 16 stages in the process of developing accessible Web services, including the process of deciding which WCAG guidelines may be appropriate and how they should be deployed.
It struck me that the BS 8878 is an example of the saying I heard many years ago: “There isn’t a problem in computer science which can’t be solved by adding a level of redirection“. In this case the areas in which WCAG fail to provide an appropriate solution can be addressed by providing a standard which enables the scope of WCAG’s usage to be defined.
Note that if you still feel that all Web resources must be universally accessible to everyone, please tell me how the many thousands of PDFs containing in institutional repositories will be made accessible? (Perhaps by getting rid of such resources?!)
Finally I should add that a video of my talk is available on YouTube and embedded below.
Note: If you wish to view the video you may find it useful to view the slides which are available on Slideshare and embedded below. This link was added shortly after the post was published.